Underage students risk missing out on varsity scholarships, loans

Geoffrey Monari, the Universities Fund chief executive officer.

Geoffrey Monari, the Universities Fund chief executive officer. 

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Some 2,000 candidates who sat the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination last year and qualified for higher education are likely to miss out on loans for being underage.

Only students enrolling in tertiary institutions with IDs are eligible for scholarships. Applications for university government scholarships and loans are open until August 27.

The Universities Fund and Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) will thereafter process applications to ensure timely disbursements for beneficiaries to commence studies in September.

The National Parents Association is pushing for a review of qualifications to allow the underage students to access loans using their parents’ IDs, birth notifications and chief's recommendations. The association’s chairperson Silas Obuhatsa said it is unfair to deny the students loans due to being underage.

He said once the minors reach 18 years, they will get IDs and continue getting loans using their personal identities. He added that many students applied for IDs but they are not yet ready.

“Many parents in Kenya are struggling with life challenges, including that of taking their children to universities,” said Mr Obuhatsa.

“Furnish our children with IDs to allow them to apply for Helb and other government loans. It will be a big loss to the government if the underage students fail to join university considering that many of them have been supported by government capitation to complete school,” he added.

Mr Obuhatsa urged Helb chief executive Charles Ringera to consider the poor parents and help their children access the loans.

Early marriages

“Failing to have these huge numbers of poor students join university due to lack of financial support means that in the near future we shall end up having many early marriages and unwanted pregnancies for girls while the boy child may end up in drug abuse,” said Mr Obuhatsa.

He said education is an equaliser and can be used to end generational poverty in communities.

Separately, Kenyans will be able to authenticate certificates from institutions of higher learning digitally if MPs pass the Universities (Amendment) Bill 2023 sponsored by Mandera South MP Abdul Haro.

In the Bill, Mr Haro wants the government to facilitate verification of certificates from universities digitally. The MP wants section 20 of the Universities Act amended to provide for a digital database that will allow a user to ascertain the authenticity of the academic papers acquired from a university.

Digitally ascertain

“The principal object of the Bill is to amend the Universities Act to provide a database in every college or university that will allow members of the general public to digitally ascertain the authenticity of papers acquired from the institutions,” reads a gazette notice on the Bill.

Mr Haro says the Bill will save Kenyans the inconvenience of physically going to universities to have their certificates verified.

“The online digital certificates will come in handy during frequent university strikes, elections and epidemics,” the Bill states.