by on Jan.21, 2014, under Education & Learning

3810136293_e19d3da314_zInclusive, good-quality education is a foundation for dynamic and equitable societies – Desmond Tutu

I must state that without High Education Loans Board (HELB) I may not have had my first degree, it is HELB’s help that paved the way for me into the higher education. That notwithstanding, student loan application process witnessed in August and September of 2013 was a tormenting experience; I wonder whose interest HELB is serving.

I believe that HELB’s ultimate goal is to use all the financial resources available to its disposal to ensure that all the deserving students are funded for higher education. This is a form of affirmative action where only the needy students and not everybody is funded. I believe that HELB’s target audience is the less fortunate lot of the society.

If that is the case I wonder if the application process is accessible to the needy students it is meant to serve, the low of the lowest. In August 2013, I had a conversation with a young man from one of the boarder counties of Kenya about his admission to the university. He was reporting to the university in the first week of September, when I asked him about his loan application to HELB, he asked me, “what is HELB?” I will not treat this as an exceptional case; his schoolmates too did not know about HELB leave alone the loan application and its process. How will such person apply for the student loan?

I have been to some of the remotest parts of this country, where many people who were born and raised there do not know about the existence of internet. In some parts of this country internet is very expensive and very slow. I have paid for internet at 5 shillings per minutes and after 10 minutes my email had not connected, I gave up. The majority of the people in these areas do not only lack internet skills, they do not have connectivity and they are poor. HELB in its own wisdom demands that these young and poor men and women learn internet skills overnight, get the money to pay for the slow internet and feel a complicated form on the websites that is very slow.

The challenges that HELB’s website has during the loan application period can only be compared to the challenges the Obamacare website had at the start of the health insurance registration period in America. I have had cases of many people in Nairobi who had to spend many sleepless nights to fill the HELB form. These are cases in Nairobi where we have fibre optics, excellent internet skills and internet in our homes. Has anybody asked themselves how are the Pastoralist girls and boys in many parts of Turkana filling their forms? If it is a nightmare to fill a form online in Nairobi what do we call the experience of filling a form online in the remotest parts of Homabay?

HELB should quickly provide solutions to this challenge that discriminate against deserving students. HELB should go to the counties; it should go to the slums. In the counties, they should not only remain at the county HQ, they should move to the villages. HELB should provide internet solutions or accept that some students are too poor and do not have internet skills to access online forms hence they provide printed forms. HELB should be more aggressive in marketing itself in all corners of our beautiful country.

HELB and all Kenyans should partner with the government on the laptop project. This is a project that will solve some of the challenges that are posed by poor computer skills and lack of access to computers.

When I was at campus (with HELB’s support) a student leader defined an office as a place where the needs of those it is meant to serve converge. The needs of the low of the lowest are deep down in the villages and some slums, where the internet and internet skills are in limited supply; they are not at Anniversary towers. Kindly go where the needs of your target group are. Do not just pay a visit, but stay there. 


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Atoms of Reason