Earlier this month, Kenya’s President William Ruto promised to abolish the Higher Education Loans Board commonly known as HELB.
The Head of State instead proposed to establish a national skills and funding council in order to provide a credit transfer framework and support academic progression.
“To bridge the current higher education funding gap of up to 45 percent, the government will establish the National Skill and Funding Council that amalgamates HELB, TVET, and University Funding Board,” the president said.
Whereas the funding of students in private institutions, or ‘parallel’ students, could be an alternative to providing the much-needed injection of cash into public universities, the president’s announcement has since crashed the hearts of many Kenyans.
For instance, Embakasi East MP Babu Owino sharply criticized the President for attempting to scrap away
“(President) Ruto, HELB wachana nayo Kabisa. Comrades are poor and only Education will save them from the Yoke of poverty for we live in an hour of change and challenge, a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases the greater our ignorance unfolds,” Babu Owino said.
Babu’s comments were supported by university students who on Thursday, January 19, warned the Head of State against scrapping of HELB loan.
The students led by Tharaka Nithi university leaders instead told the First in Command to instead channel the hustler’s fund to Helb if the Kenya Kwanza government has no enough funds to fund higher education.
The students said the President is issuing billions to Kenyans inform of hustler loans, the money they said Ruto is not sure if it will be repaid or not unlike HELB which will be repaid back.
“It is not actually fair to scrap off HELB. There are so many vulnerable comrades and there is no other place they will source for their school fees,
“We are urging President William Ruto to not only stay away but to also increase the allocation because we believe the government has enough money,” the students said.
The HELB loan is the reason that so many Kenyans have been able to attain higher education, without it a majority of Kenyans would have never gone to university.
The existence of the HELB loan proved to Kenyans that the final equalizer in life is education, it did not matter if you were rich or poor you still had a shot at succeeding in life.
The existence of the HELB loan motivated even those in rural areas to work hard since they knew their efforts had a good chance of bearing fruit later on in the future.