The Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) has responded to the promise made by Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader, Raila Odinga, to university students concerning the loan.
The former Prime Minister, while addressing Meru University of Science and Technology students earlier in the week, noted that university students will not pay back the education loans when he ascends to power in 2022.
However, HELB has warned against the move. Their fund’s Chief Executive Officer, Charles Ringera, said the government is already running a Ksh43 billion grant through the Universities Fund (UF).
“This is money (grant) is paid to students in universities through the Differentiated Unit Cost (DUC) and they do not pay it back,” Ringera noted.
He added that the HELB loan is a lifesaver especially to millions of Kenyans who lack funds to access higher learning. He noted that HELB already runs a Ksh237 million bursary which takes care of desperate cases.
“We allocate Ksh8,000 per student as bursaries and this translates to Ksh137 million for university students and Ksh100 million for TVETs every year,” Ringera stated.
Ringera argues that the HELB loan component should remain to finance more students.
Raila, amid cheers from the university students, assured them that HELB loans will be converted into grants.
“I said that when we take over the government, we will convert HELB into a grant,” said Raila.
Justifying his pledge, the opposition leader explained that every child born in the country, irrespective of the socio-economic status of their parents, will get equal opportunities from the nursery, primary to university education.
“That’s why I am saying today when I get to power, HELB will be a grant, not a loan,” Raila told the students.
This is a setback for Raila and his team who have embarked on campaign trials with the aim of urging different groups of Kenyans to support his presidential bid.
Under his Azimio La Umoja tag, Raila has been making various promises and HELB was one of them. Initially, he was pushing for the idea of HELB through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) which suffered a setback in the Court of Appeal.
He had just renewed it through his economic model aimed at cushioning the students.