By Alagie Manneh
The minister of higher education has disclosed that the much-anticipated tertiary student loan scheme bill designed to provide loans to the country’s needy and bright students to pursue high education, will soon be sent to cabinet for perusal and possible approval.
The loan scheme generated a lot of interest and was widely expected to be rolled out this year. However, according to Minister Pierre Gomez, government now plans to bring it into effect in early January.
Each year, hundreds of underprivileged students who graduate from senior schools in the country struggle to gain admission into tertiary institutions or even to secure government scholarships to advance themselves.
It is hoped that the loan scheme will address some of these issues.
“We have just received the bill from the justice ministry and will now in the coming weeks send it to cabinet and after that, if it is approved, it will go to the National Assembly,” Minister Gomez stated.
He disclosed that there are in fact two bills, the tertiary and higher education trust fund bill and the research and innovation bill.
Regarding the students’ loan scheme bill, Minister Gomez explained: “This bill if passed will help students who are really needy and who would want to pursue their education in this country and don’t have the means. They will be given the opportunity to access this loan so that they continue to study without being disturbed and when they finish, maybe they will be given one year of service to the state depending on what the Cabinet and National Assembly decide”. He said one year after their graduation, the students will start paying, but in small amounts, so that others too can get the same facility.
Minister Gomez, a professor of comparative literature, said the loan scheme is important because it is going to help the students who do not have the means. “The current government scholarships cater for only half of the student population at the UTG. We want to have a greater number of people who will have access to higher education without any major difficulties and to ensure that they are not disturbed by financial challenges,” he concluded.