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Govt's Student Loan Scheme Slammed

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By Lynette Manzini

Harare, February 16, 2017 – A top female student representative group says government’s student loan scheme is bound to fail as there were clear signs most of its intended beneficiaries could fail to reimburse the funds due to unemployment uncertainties brought by the prevailing economic situation.

In attempts to assist university students complete their education with little financial strain, the government recently announced the introduction a student loan scheme.

With the assistance of the central bank, a micro finance institution that will be issuing the loans has been identified.

The arrangement has however been slammed by the Female Student Network Trust (FSNT) which feels government should instead fund the initiative from its own coffers.

FSNT executive director Evernice Munando said assistance of students should be government priority which cannot be left to other parties.

“Government has got it wrong by involving micro finance institutions in education,” she said, “What they should do is to set aside money to assist students from the national budget.”

Munando said government should brace itself for high rate of defaulters owing to massive unemployment in the country, among a host of militating factors.

"No one will be able to pay back the loan because parents are not working and students are not guaranteed employment after graduating," Munando added.

According to Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo, the loan will be accessible to students from all local universities who show capability of repaying the funds once employed or have parents who can pay on their behalf.

"The scheme should cover students in both public and private universities who demonstrate capacity to repay when they start working,” Moyo told MPs this week.

"If you are studying divinity and so forth, you have to be careful that your church will employ you as a pastor so that you can repay.”

Munando expressed concern on the criteria government will use to identify the students capable of repaying.

"We are wondering about the criteria they will use; will this not be done on partisan basis again?

"How are they going to identify these students and selecting students on merit is discriminatory as far as we are concerned,” she said.

Youth groups have complained about perceived preferential treatment given to Zanu PF youths in government administered programmes such as the Kurera–Ukondla Youth Fund that ended up benefiting youths from the ruling party only.

This development comes at a time the country's industry continues to shut down due to viability problems, contributing to the high unemployment rate which has affected parents and lowered their capacity to pay fees, let alone access loans to pay for their children's education.

Nyasha Jambo, a 2016 Arts A’ level student who came out of her examinations with nine points and is currently looking for a job, says the government should be more sympathetic to the less fortunate.

"Instead of going to university with my peers, I am in search for any kind of job because my parents cannot afford to take me further.

"Besides the loans, I hope government can assist the students from poor families like me," said Jambo.

The student loan scheme will replace the cadetship program that saw government meeting students’ university financial obligations and in turn bond students depending on the number of years they received the support.

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