All students with C+ should get Helb funds

Ezekiel Machogu

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu. CS Machogu should continue with what was started in 2016. All students who scored C+ have the right to join university and get Helb.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo I Nation Media Group

Another crisis looms with the Ministry of Education planning to raise the cut-off points for university admission. This comes after the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) announced that it needs extra money to sponsor last year’s KCSE candidates who have qualified for university. 

The cut-off was lowered to C+ in 2016 from 56 points (B-) for girls and 57 points (B-) for boys the previous year. This was after Dr Fred Matiang’i took over as the Cabinet secretary. Out of the 577,253 candidates, only 88,929 had attained C+ and above.

In 2017, the number of students who qualified for university fell to 70,073 from 88,929 in 2016 as only about 11.5 per cent scored C+ and above. More than half of the 2017 cohort scored less than D+, missing out on most courses.

When, in 2018, Dr Amina Mohammed took over as the CS, 90,377 candidates scored C+ and above with As increasing to 315. Although a significant jump from 2017, there was no hint of raising the cut-off point.

Of last year’s 679,222 KCSE candidates, 125,746 scored C+ and above. Hence, some of those who qualified to advance were unlikely to get space in public universities, which always admit less than 100,000 students annually.

In January, Helb said more than 113,953 eligible students would miss out on student loans in the remainder of the current academic year after it failed to have past beneficiaries pay up. Some 125,746 students were affected.

The latest announcement that Helb can only sponsor 70,000 students threatens the students waiting to join the university.

Should the cut-off be raised, the 46,139 candidates who scored C+ will be the majority of those affected. The remainder, 79,607, is what Helb can accommodate, based on previous statistics. That means many of those who scored C+ will miss Helb funds.

Even before the strict examination rules in 2016, a mean grade of C+ was eligible to pursue a degree programme, though as a self-sponsored student (parallel programme). Since Dr Matiang’i’s tenure, all students who score C+ are sponsored by the government.

That should not just be stopped abruptly. That should have been announced before releasing the exam results so that the students would know their fate early and seek alternatives such as repeating Form Four.

Helb sponsors students with C and C- to pursue courses in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions. That means students with C+ can no longer join such institutions as they are overqualified. But even if they all join, where will the current occupants go? 

The C+ students might be left hanging if at all the cut-off point is raised, which will reduce the pace that was set by Dr Matiang’i.

Education CS Ezekiel Machogu should continue with what was started in 2016. All students who scored C+ have the right to join university and get Helb.

Queenter Otieno, Kisumu