I write to you with a deeply seated yet unaired frustration in the hearts of countless beneficiaries of your scheme. A frustration with enough flames to burn down the hopes and prospects of many beneficiaries which your vision statement does not only seeks to inspire but unleash.
October is "dead" yet beneficiaries are yet to hear any news about disbursements for the 2018/2019 academic year. Hmmmmm! When school resumed about two months ago, students were hopeful of getting disbursements to enable them to pay for their fees and register for their semester courses as has always been the case but this was not forthcoming. I still remember one of your goals; loan disbursements in two weeks! Or it has suddenly been changed to loan disbursement in two months?
Worried ones including myself made enquiries at the appropriate quarters to settle our uncertainty. To my surprise, I was told your outfit now operates with a new regulation which requires students to register for their semester courses to show they are still students before they can be paid.
This means students would have to find money somewhere (an alternative they didn't have and so ascribed to your scheme) to pay their fees so they can register for the semester courses before they can access the loan.
Permit me to ask a number of questions:
1.If the student had that alternative source of getting money to pay for his or her fees why will he ascribe to the loan in the first place?
2. Have we forgotten that majority of these less privileged students who are on the students' loan mostly solely depend on that to finance their education?
3. If it's now required that students have to pay their fees, register before they can access the loan, what happens to the chunk of beneficiaries who have no other source of funding and for that reason ascribed to the scheme?
Let me put on hold, for now, my endless questions.
But come to think of it, the reason behind this whole new policy I was told from the National Headquarters when I called for further clarifications was to curb the situation where some students who probably might have stopped schooling but still get paid. For once I felt that was a genuine reason. At least beneficiaries should still be students. But after giving it another thought I realized it was not as I initially thought.
Let me ask my second batch of questions on the reason for the new regulation:
1.Why do students require a guarantor before they can be given the loan? Is it not for purposes of repayment if the beneficiary fails to pay back? Let me quote Section 23 paragraph 2 of the Students Loan Trust Fund Act 2011 Act 820 which states "where the borrower fails to pay the loan granted by the Board, the guarantor of the loan is liable to pay the loan and the Board shall issue a certificate of payment for the guarantor on full payment."
So what is the problem again?
2.On the main reason for this new regulation (thus dropped out students getting paid) let me once again quote Section 23 paragraph 1 of the same Act which says "a borrower who withdraws from an accredited tertiary programme or is dismissed from an institution, is liable to pay the loan granted for the studies in that institution." Has this been reviewed? Or it's not a sufficient mechanism?
3.How many are even these students who stop school but are still paid by the scheme? Are they not just a tiny fraction of students when compared to the total number of beneficiaries?
4.So why will a policy be drawn which hurts many because of a tiny number of people? A good regulation is one the benefits the majority!
I got more heartbroken when I decided to read your mission statement. Honestly speaking your new policy is in sharp contradiction with what is supposed to guide your policy regulations.
Your mission has remained; to provide TIMELY financial SERVICES to eligible Ghanaian tertiary students. Just maybe your outfit has a different definition for the word timely but if it is what we all know then I do not think two months after students have been in school but yet to receive any disbursements is anything to call timely. Almost all universities have closed registration of courses for the semester. What is the fate of those students who are on campus but are still struggling to raise any money to pay their fees?
I do not know the level of trauma some students in other universities went through and how it was handled. At the University of Cape Coast where I school, if not for the kind intervention of the SRC and the Local NUGS office, at least 300 students loan beneficiaries would have had their education painfully curtailed. They had absolutely nothing on them to pay their fees and only looked up to your scheme but to no avail. They were all in good academic standing too. The SRC had to plead with management to allow beneficiaries who had no other alternative raising any money for their fees to register for their courses without making any deposit just so they can meet your new regulation of "pay your fees and register before you can get paid".
You have swayed from your goals. Your new policy regulation will no longer get students the funds they need for their tuition and hostel fees as you have in your goals.
The hard truth is that your new regulation has put beneficiaries in a more difficult position. The very struggle they faced and sought cover from your outfit is the same struggle your new regulation is sending them back to.
Let's look at this scenario in case you still don't understand the new regulation. This is what the new regulation looks like, I need money to buy something and because I don't have money I have come to apply for a loan from you. You have agreed to give me the loan after I met all your requirements. Now you are telling me that before I can get the loan, I have to buy the 'something' before you can give me the loan. Isn't it just a funny thing to do?
What it means is that if this year only 100 beneficiaries out of say a total of 500 beneficiaries in a school can afford to pay their fees from other sources available to them and register before they get the loan disbursement, the rest of the 400 would have no option than to either defer their program of study or withdraw from the school. I don't think this is what we want as a country and as a scheme.
I think out of frustration I am writing too long. I have said enough. I am not sure the scheme would be serving its purpose if we hold onto the new regulation. We need a revision of that new regulation now.
The level of frustration has reached its apogee!
Latif Lawrence Jorhowie
Level 400 Bachelor of Education Accounting Student
University of Cape Coast
Ministry of Education
National Council for Tertiary Education
All other relevant stakeholders
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