Underage learners to miss Helb loans

By: ALICE NDUTA

Students below 18 years of age will not get university loans after Kiharu MP Irungu Kang’ata said he would not make changes to a Bill that the President refused to sign.

Mr Kang’ata said he would not pursue a Bill that would have offered the loans to underage students because it would be difficult to raise the two-thirds majority required to override the President.

“I agree with President Uhuru Kenyatta. I have done my best and students should also take up the matter,” the lawmaker said in an interview with the Daily Nation on Wednesday.

The Bill proposed that two students sit on the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb). It also said that all underage students who join universities should get government loans.

Under the Bill, the board would be required to give reasons when it denies a loan to a new student.

Students who fail to get a loan would also be free to appeal.

“They should not just be dismissed. These students have serious financial problems and that is why they apply for loans,” he said.

President Kenyatta declined to sign the Higher Education Loans Board Bill and sent it back to the House.

He said the proposed law would require massive finance from the National Treasury to sustain it.

The President also sought the removal of a clause that allowed Helb-funded graduates who fail to secure employment within a year of completing their studies to notify the board to avoid penalties for defaulting on their loans.

Mr Kang’ata said he would introduce an amendment after six months allowing those under 18 to qualify for loans.

“It is unfair to discriminate on the basis of age,” he said.

The Treasury has increased Helb’s budget by Sh1.8 billion for the current financial year. The government set aside Sh7.5 billion for the 2015/16 financial year to sponsor students in universities, up from Sh5.7 billion.

Helb recently said it needed more than Sh10 billion to fund students.

The Bill also proposed to oblige the board to notify applicants upon processing of their loan requests and to allow appeals for additional funds where necessary.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION