President Peter Mutharika has ordered Treasury to release fresh funds to rescue some 286 students who withdrew from various public universities due to lack of tuition fees and prevent a further 746 students on verge of pulling out of the university system.
The intervention, announced today morning by the Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board in Lilongwe, comes as a huge relief to the students fraternity.
The Weekend Nation reported that at one public university-Lilongwe University for Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), 50 percent of the enrolled students pulled out after failing to source fees.
And addressing the press in Lilongwe today morning, Loans Board Chairperson Geoffrey Chipungu said Mutharika has ordered that needy students be granted stationery and upkeep allowances upon completion of loan applications.
“Similarly, the Loans Board is happy that the State President His Excellency Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika’s government has committed itself to provide additional financial resources through the 2016/17 national budget process so that no student that is needy and deserving is withdrawn from his or her studies in 2015/16 financial year and thereafter,” said Chipungu.
Chipungu said the newly-formed board will be searching for long term solutions to the lack of adequate funds for needy students, including intensifying the loan repayment drive for former students.
“It remains the onus of the former university students who benefitted from the loan scheme to repay what they owe t he university. The Loans Board has been capacitated to facilitate the increased support to needy and deserving students.
“The Loans Board continues to put in place multifaceted mechanisms to support needy and deserving students in the universities in an inclusive manner,” added Chipungu.
The Board’s Executive Director Chris Chisoni said they are still working on logistical issues, including sourcing funding from Treasury.
He also called upon the private sector to support government with financial resources to help needy and deserving students’ access to higher education in Malawi. Citizen Alliance (CA), a civil society platform that previously called for Mutharika’s intervention, has since welcomed the development as huge relief.
“We are pleased with the intervention the president has made to order that no student should withdraw on financial grounds. We are more pleased that students who withdrew will be allowed back and supported to continue with their education,” said CA Chairperson Edward Chileka.
He added: “We know it’s a challenge for government to fund university education as it is expensive. Therefore sustainable means of funding university education need to be put in place for various stakeholders like the private sector to contribute towards the scholarship fund.”
The situation at the public varsities prompted some students and alumni to hold fundraising activities that included dinners to raise fees for the needy students.