Helb must be more creative on funds
Education is a basic right. According to Benjamin Franklin, an investment in knowledge pays the best returns.
These two statements cannot be gainsaid. It is, therefore, shocking that up to 95,000 college students risk having their studies interrupted because of lack of funding.
The Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) has announced that from the next academic year it will not fund thousands of university and Technical and Vocational Education and Training students owing to a funding deficit.
Those lucky to get money will have their amounts slashed from Sh45,000 currently to Sh38,000.
Coming in a pandemic year, where more students will be seeking financial help to further their education, it is a bitter pill to swallow.
Many parents, and students too, lost sources of revenue to the Covid-19 disease and the little that is left goes to cater for basic necessities such as food and shelter.
The funding deficit did not come as a surprise to those managing the fund. Indeed, on different occasions and since its formulation, the board has come out to decry poor funding and that has resulted in delayed disbursements and in this case locking out tens of thousands of needy students.
Necessity is the mother of invention and time is ripe for the board to come up with innovative ways to raise money to fund higher education.
The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) was in perpetual excuse mode for not meeting its tax targets until it moved from the comfort zones and widening its tax bracket.
With more than Sh100 billion loaned out to over one million beneficiaries and an annual budget of Sh15 billion, a little more imagination would go a long way in ensuring it supplements its traditional revenue streams.
Making taxpayers embrace paying levies reaped fruits for KRA. Expanding the tax bracket generated more income while tightening the noose on defaulters ensured the taxman collected as much as possible.
Helb needs to move out of the dependence culture that whatever it gets from Treasury and whoever pays back their loan will be the year’s revenue.
This has failed and repeating the same while expecting different results will border on foolishness. The process is painstaking but the investment pays the best reward.
No student should be locked out of class because the board has failed to cater for their financial needs, more so in these tough times when majority are struggling. It is time Helb started thinking outside the box.