Students offering Arts courses at University and other tertiary institutions will not benefit from the new student loans scheme which begins in the coming financial year.
The government had since 2008 promised a loan scheme for privately-sponsored students but Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka says only students offering sciences will access the loans. Kiwanuka during the budget speech on Thursday announced that she had provided five billion shillings for the commencement of the scheme.
Under the plan originally announced by former Education Minister Geraldine Namirembe Bitamazire, government had suggested that the needy university students would access the loans to finance their education. The students would begin repayment of the loans on being employed.
Staff at Public Universities would also access the loans to further their studies. The loan scheme was to be run by a secretariat under the Ministry of Education.
Education Minister Jessica Alupo in an interview said the science students have been given priority because of the need to enhance science-based skills in line with national priorities. She said the scheme could be expanded in future to include Arts students.
Some Members of Parliament have however expressed concern that the new scheme has left out majority of the students that mainly offer Arts subjects. Some have questioned the manner in which it will be run to ensure that all local governments benefit.
Kalungu West MP Joseph Sewungu says the scheme is likely to be hijacked by few individuals with better connections in government circles.
Koboko Woman MP Beatrice Babadiri, however, said she was excited the scheme is finally taking off after several years of promises. She says she will be happy if the loans scheme is equitably distributed across the country.
Babadiri says some districts that normally don’t have Science students will miss out of the loans.
Meanwhile, Alupo says enough research has been done to study how the loans have been implemented in other countries in Africa. Neighboring Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania are among over fifty countries world over with Student loan schemes.
The government has also provided five billion shillings to begin teachers’ Savings Credit schemes. Teachers have in the past been demanding for pay rises.
Minister Kiwanuka presented the 2013/2014 budget to Parliament with road and education sectors taking up the bulk of the allocations suggested for the next financial year.
Kiwanuka allocated close to 2.4 trillion shillings to roads and transport sector, while 1.8 trillion shillings goes to education. The two sectors also took the biggest chunk of the budget last year.
Out of the total budget of 13.16 trillion shillings, at least 10.5 trillion or 81.1% will be internally financed. The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) will collect taxes amounting to 8.48 trillion, while 275 billion shillings will come from Non-Tax Revenues. The other local sources include issuing of Government securities worth 1.04 trillion shillings among others.
Some of the local sources for URA include new taxes on gambling, international calls, mobile money, domestic water, wheat flour and hotel accommodation among others. The minister also introduced new levies on motorcycle registration, vehicle registration, petrol and diesel as well as kerosene.
The total external financing of the Budget, according to Minister Kiwanuka, will amount to 2.6 trillion shillings or 20 percent of the total projections.