The recent fees hike in public universities has heavily affected Soko Fund’s efforts to support needy female students with tution fees and upkeep allowances.
Co-founder and administrator of the fund, Lindsay Graham, who in 1999 taught in secondary schools in Malawi, said she is touched that a number of brilliant girls failed to pursue tertiary education because of financial challenges.
The Soko Fund started supporting two students at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima) in 2004 with fees and upkeep allowances.
The fund, which targets needy girls who are bright in class but face financial challenges, was later extended to other Unima constituent colleges, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) and Mzuzu University (Mzuni).
Speaking in an interview after presenting upkeep allowances to 11 students at Mzuni, Graham said the fund is currently supporting 50 students in the three public universities while 60 already graduated from the institutions.
The students are supported with fees and K100 000 allowance each to ensure that they stay in school, graduate and secure jobs to help others.
However, Graham said the fees increase in public universities has heavily affected the fund’s potential to take more students on board.
“With the fees hike in Malawi, it is becoming much more challenging to raise funds in the UK. We are very pleased that although there was a fee hike, we have maintained and indeed added to the scholarships from last year,” said Graham
Elizabeth Chiumia, one of the 11 Mzuni students currently benefiting from the fund, said her life would have been wasted if it were not for the fund.
Mzuni deputy vice-chancellor Loveness Kaunda said the fund is a big relief to the needy students, especially that a number of them do not have access to public loans. n