By Chola Mukanga
Without doubt the biggest challenge facing higher education is funding. In many countries it is accepted that higher education delivers benefits beyond the individual and therefore it is susceptible to under-provision if we relied on market forces alone. Until not too long ago for many African nations this meant government shouldering the full cost. Increasingly, we now have other countries following Kenya, Zimbabwe and other countries towards greater role for private funding. The latest comments from Robert Serpell (former UNZA Vice Chancellor) is further evidence that more needs to be done in Zambia to move this issue forward. He is calling on Government to abolish the current bursary system and replace it with a new student loan system :
"The wise thing for the Zambian Government to do is to set aside money upfront for underprivileged students, but also institute measures for recoveries of these funds, when the students graduate and enter the employment sector. Bursaries are not as effective as setting up loans that could be used as a revolving fund. This system has worked in other countries such as Kenya and even the United States..."
Serpell's proposal is for a system run by an independent statutory body, working with the commercial banks. Sadly all of this is not new. We have been here before. In 2004 the Mwanawasa administration proposed to introduce a "Student Loan Scheme" to operate as a revolving fund for students at universities. The new loan scheme was planned to be administered through Finance Bank Zambia Limited. In 2005/6, the Bursaries Committee undertook study tours abroad to learn the implementation of the new student loans scheme in Zambia. Following the study tours, the creation of the Zambia Higher Education Loans Board (ZAHELB) was proposed. The Board was to build on progress made so far in financing higher education in Zambia and perform the following functions:[view whole blog post ]