Make Helb loan a grant

Helb offices in Nairobi

The Higher Education Loans Board offices in Nairobi.  

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Education, then, beyond all other divides of human origin, is a great equaliser of conditions of men—the balance wheel of social machinery. There goes a famous quote by Horace Mann, a selfless value icon who pioneered American public schools in the 19th Century.

True, any country that desires development must give top-notch quality education to the citizenry. Proper education can catapult one out of poverty to wealth and liberty; it enhances mobility across social stratification, gives hope to the hopeless and creates opportunities for those without them.

It is, a mockery to the value of education to witness the stalemate pitting university students against the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb). It’s an indicator of a country not keen on improving access to education or solving higher education issues.

Those who have been or are in a Kenyan public university know how the effects of a Helb loan disbursement delay are far-reaching and dire. It spells disaster, especially to students whose parents cannot fully sponsor their learning for lack of funds.

Mental health issues, a spike in crime, deferrals over fee balances and lack of proper accommodation are some of the predicaments the students face.

Graduation rate

There is a correlation between Helb loans and the graduation rate. There is a worrying disquiet about the state of our education and the trajectory the sector is taking. The government must come out with workable solutions. Officials must be pro-people servants who humble themselves at the opportunity to serve the country and make decisions for the public good. This is their fiduciary duty and the expectation of voters who propelled them to power.

The government must decide between turning education into a wedge that widens the gap between the haves and have-nots or making it free and accessible to increase opportunities for all. It is prudent to make Helb loan a government grant or the state fully pay for education at all levels. But only if we eradicate corruption and embezzlement of public funds.

The government must make education a top priority, lest we live in peril and blatant inequality.

Mr Mwirichia is a high school teacher. [email protected].