In a post-independent Kenya, for many growing up the thoughts of a higher education were more of a dream than a reality as tuition costs continued to sky rocket. However, as this continued, it saw under the Moi regime the establishment of the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) by an Act of Parliament (Cap213A), 1995 with a mandate to disburse loans, bursaries and scholarship to students pursuing higher education.
And if anything is to go by, it has seen a considerable number of students go through tertiary education without much of a burden. In the perils and pains that goes in acquiring financial assistance from the government, it is not to be forgotten that it is not a grant. But a loan. With which the beneficiary is supposed to pay afterwards.
Even though one is to pay for the HELB loan, announcement by the Education Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Amina Mohammed on having to partner with the Police to track and arrest defaulters is not a welcomed thought. This announcement has caused much of a discomfort than solace. Why is the Education CS treading that route? What is the connection between defaulting an education loan and being handed a prison sentence?
If so, this does not amount to the level of economic crimes that has seen Kenya lose annually close to Ksh. 600 billion is corrupt proceeds. The said 74,000 defaulters have a debt of over Ksh. 7.2 billion. Why is the government, if this is a government directive, hell bent on using force on its citizens?
This may not be the best of examples in terms of the GDP and strength of the economy, 44 million US citizen have a debt and continually bet on themselves to pay it early.
Student loan debt in the United States has been growing rapidly since 2006, rising to nearly $1.4 trillion (Ksh. 140 trillion) by late 2016, roughly 7.5% GDP.
But in the American context, the economy is growing with unemployment numbers hitting single digits since the 2008 Recession. Ours isn’t yet the government is following this trajectory. This loans do not cause a burden to the Kenyan economy in the same breathe as the billions of shillings lost to individual pockets in instances such as
the NYS I and II, Kenya Pipeline and NCPB scandals but just to mention a few.
It would hurt for the same ministry to write them off, would it? A call for restraint is needed even as and enable create an environment that will allow for the growth of the economy.