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Move gov’t scholarships to loan scheme – MPs

MPs say the current format in which scholarships are awarded favours top performing students who are from well to do families and can afford school fees which leaves out would be beneficiaries from poor families

Muyingo(R) appearing before the committee with other officials from the ministry.

KAMPALA, UGANDA: Members of Parliament have asked the Ministry of Education and Sports to move funds for all government scholarships to the Student Loan Scheme under the Higher Education Financing Board for equal access by all students.

Legislators said the current format in which scholarships are awarded favours top performing students who are from well to do families and can afford school fees. As a result, MPs said this system leaves out would be beneficiaries who are the motivation behind establishment of scholarships.

“When you look at the Makerere University admission lists, students who go on government scholarships are from top schools, and students who want loans are from disadvantaged families that cannot afford top schools” said Nathan Itungo, Kashari South MP.

Itungo said the loan scheme under Higher Education Financing Board which would be able to facilitate poor students is underfunded. He proposed that moving the scholarships to the scheme will benefit more students as proposed to the current arrangement.

“When we met the team from the loan scheme, they said that because universities admit at different times, the money tends to be exhausted by students whose admission is in July and those admitted in February find money exhausted,” said Itungo.

Currently, some higher education scholarships are managed by the Board while others are managed by State House. MPs want all scholarships managed by the board in form of loans and rule out the tendency of favouring students from rich families.

The Shadow Minister for Education and Sports, Brenda Nabukenya recalling the Higher Education Students Financing Act 2014, which prescribes that all scholarships should be managed by the board, faulted the ministry for failing to implement the law.

Section 42 of the act states that, “all scholarships currently offered by Government of Uganda including bilateral scholarships shall be vested in the board”.

Nabukenya asked the ministry to provide lists of students who will benefit from the 2022/2023 scholarships for the committee to assess the fairness in the awarding system.

“We want to know the criteria and how they got scholarships. We don’t want your children alone to benefit from the scholarships; this money can be sent to the Board,” Nabukenya said.

The Minister of State for Higher Education, John Chrysostom Muyingo said that the ministry plans to provide allowances to only 350 students on scholarships which drew the legislators’ ire.

MPs proposed that government increases funding for scholarships to cover more needy students citing girls who have been impregnated during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“We have come from COVID; we have a campaign that everyone should go back to school. There are many disadvantaged people, increase the money for the loan scheme,” Itungo said.

Muyingo said that needy students will be catered for under the loans scheme at both diploma and undergraduate levels.

“We propose to provide loans to 5,599 students from disadvantaged families for the 2022/2023 academic year, with 1,500 new entrants targeting female and males with disabilities,” Muyingo said.

The total budget proposed by the education ministry for 2022/2023 is Shs3.8 billion. The key areas in the proposed budget are renovation of dilapidated government schools, construction of seed schools in local governments and establishment of an e-learning system.

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