Once in a while the Ministry of Education announces the HELB waiver for all HELB beneficiaries in Kenya. This announcement is yet to be made in 2020. This announcement comes with a sigh of relief for many yet in real terms is not beneficial to many as expected.
First, for the sake of clarity, a waiver is a voluntary removal of a certain charge or money owned. The HELB loan waiver is meant to reduce the amount of money required to be paid by a HELB beneficiary. At least that’s what most expect.
Annually the Minister of Education would announce a waiver on HELB loans. It comes in different percentages for instance 80% or 100% waiver that CS Amina gave in 2018. This waiver however usually applies to penalties only and not the entire loan amount.
Also, you are given the condition to repay your entire loan in a lump sum over about 3 months to enjoy the HELB penalty waiver. Well, this doesn’t seem fair!
The idea behind the waiver is to make it easier for HELB beneficiaries to repay their loans from the income they are making. How then can you ask a loanee to pay the entire loan which amounts to hundreds of thousands over such a short period?
If this approach is meant to be helpful to Kenyans most of whom are unemployed, then they need to extend the waiver to the interest accrued besides the penalty and extend the time for payment to 6 – 12 months.
Last year, HELB came under huge criticism for its attempt to publish names and photos of loan payment defaulters in an attempt to shame and coerce them into the payment of the loans. This move was considered absurd and a lazy way of its fund recovery strategy from a depressed young economy.
I don’t think the problem is beneficiaries’ unwillingness in paying the loans. The problem is a result of several systemic factors that have to be considered to remedy the situation.
Most fundamental of all factors is unemployment. Kenya’s government has been promising to create hundreds of thousands of jobs annually since I-can’t-remember-when, a promise they have always fallen short of.
This happens while hundreds of thousands of students graduate every year and join the job market. Besides, companies have been laying off thousands of workers monthly which signifies the inevitable change in the workforce in the future.
Secondly, the cost of Higher education is rising rapidly while its quality falls across most of the intuitions in the country. This comes as a result of the influx of students in certain professions resulting in exceeding of resources available for quality education.
I think if we are to solve these issues we need to change the education system into a multidimensional program that enables students to learn how to apply acquired knowledge to create jobs, use their talents to earn a living, understand how to use the internet to make money and learn how to manage money.