Senators have piled pressure on the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) to rethink its decision to publish names and photos of loan defaulters in local newspapers.
In a notice last week, Helb gave loan defaulters 30 days to commit to service their loans or risk being named and shamed and legal action instituted against them.
“Helb wishes to notify the general public and loan defaulters that the HELB student loan is a government debt which should be repaid as per the terms and conditions on which it was advanced,” read the notice.
But Senators Samson Cherarkey (Nandi) and Mutula Kilonzo Junior (Makueni) have dismissed the notice, saying it is a way of embarrassing and ridiculing persons who, for no fault of their own, have been rendered poor and unemployed due to mismanagement of the country by the government.
Further, they want government compelled to write off loans for people who stay at home for over five years if they happen to get employment.
“I have read the Act twice this week and there is no provision anywhere where HELB can publish the names or photographs of defaulters,” said Senator Kilonzo Jr.
According to the Makueni senator, the Hebl Act contemplates that they would check, first, after a period of one year that is provided under the law, whether that person has been employed and the circumstances under which that person has not paid.
The senator insisted there is a more punitive measure where these loanees are paying a fine of Kshs5, 000 on what is due.
On his part, Senator Cherarkey wondered whether HELB has any other better method of recovering loans, because the right to education is a basic right.
If you go anywhere in the world, he observed, the government has always participated in tuition fees and ensured that the youth get proper training.
“We should not see pictures of people being put in the national dailies, and yet, there is no proper reasoning as to why Helb is proposing to use this as a loan recovery strategys” said Mr Cherarkey.
Nominated Senator Alice Milgo said the stress that the youth in the country were being subjected to cannot be overemphasized, especially those that do not have any gainful employment.
“It is not a long time ago when we were told that defaulters should be locked up by policemen. Now, here we are, we want to parade them in the newspapers,” said Dr Milgo.
Wajir Senator Abdullahi Ali asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to write off Helb loans.
The Wajir senator cited the miraa task force that was given Sh1 billion.
“We know that once they finish studies, many students do not get jobs,” said Dr Ali.