There is a new lease of life for students under the Higher Education Students’ Financing Board (HESFB) after Parliament guided the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development, Hon. Matia Kasaija, on how to plug the funding gaps affecting the operations of the loan scheme. Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa, guided the Minister to take advantage of the three percent supplementary budget to cover the shortfall of Shs13 billion. He gave the guidance while chairing the plenary sitting on Tuesday, October 10, 2023.
In his statement, Kasaija said that out of the Shs44.9 billion required to finance the HESFB in the 2023/2024 financial year, only Shs31 billion is available. HESFB implements the student loan scheme. “To address the issue of funding shortfalls, we are organizing a supplementary budget to be submitted to this House at an appropriate time,” Kasaija said.
Tayebwa, however, pointed out that while the government is looking for resources, students are being sent away from institutions of learning for defaulting. “The students are being chased from school, and the new ones are not being admitted. Have you reached out to these institutions to say, do not chase our students, we are going to give you the money?” Tayebwa asked. He emphasized the need to prioritize the loan scheme, saying that it has benefited students from as far as the Karamoja region. “This is the only opportunity where students from Karamoja will go for medicine,” he said.
Hon. Remigio Achia (NRM, Pian County) called for affirmative action on the loan scheme, arguing that it has enabled several young people across the country to access quality education. Kumi District Woman Member of Parliament, Hon. Christine Apolot, urged the ministry to provide all the funds required for the students to study. “Education is the foundation and the backbone of the development of Uganda; this should be a priority. All this Shs44 billion should be provided to finance this scheme,” she said.
Kasaija agreed to the guidance, stating that the ministry will provide the finances under the three percent as per the law. HESFB is intended to provide loans and scholarships to Ugandan students who have qualified to pursue accredited courses of study or programs in the recognized higher education institutions in Uganda but are unable to support themselves financially. According to Kasaija, HESFB provided loans and scholarships to 625 students in the Financial Year 2022/2023.