News Column

SFAR to Get Tough On Student Loan Defaulters

June 25, 2014

Ostine Arinaitwe Gashugi



The Student Financing Agency of Rwanda (SFAR) is worried about the increasing number of people who are not paying back student loans and plans tough measures to recover the money.

Over 50,000 beneficiaries of students' loans have not yet paid back, something the agency wants to resolve to avoid situations where some needy students will not get a loan to study at university according to Louise Karamaga, deputy director of Rwanda Education Board.

"The major problem is people's mindset. Some don't realize that by paying back, it will facilitate young Rwandans to also benefit like they did," Karamaga says.

She adds that they now plan to enlist the help of bodies like the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB). CRB normally collects borrower's credit history from financial institutions, which is then used as a point of reference for lenders to decide whether one qualifies for a loan. It helps to check non-performing loans in commercial banks.

A bad loan affects the credibility of the borrower. This implies that beneficiaries of education loans will find it difficult to acquire a loan once they are blacklisted on list of people with non-performing loans.

SFAR has so far recovered over Frw 7 billion but this is very little according to the body which wants to be self-sustaining in 9 years so as to relive the government of funding students' education.

"Some don't realize that by paying back, it will facilitate young Rwandans to also benefit like they did."

"We hope that in 9 years, we can wean off government funding so that government can use that money to set up education Infrastructure, TVET programs and also enabling that the 12-year basic education prospers," Karamaga adds.

SFAR was established in July 2003 as a semi-autonomous agency with overall responsibility for implementing and managing all student financing schemes. The agency was given two mandates which were to give loans and also recover money from loans that were given out.

Challenges:

One of the challenges that the agency is facing according to Karamaga is locating all the beneficiaries of the students' loan schemes.

"There are over 50,719 people that have to pay but it is a huge number to trace, so it is difficult to know whether they are currently working, their area of residence, if some are dead or whether they are currently incapacitated," Karamaga says.

When the Rwanda Education Board embarked on a campaign to recover the money, about six years ago, prominent personalities, including the Ombudsman and former Chief Justice Aloysia Cyanzaire, Education minister Vincent Biruta, Senate president Jean DamascÈne Ntawukuriryayo and then Prime Minister Bernard Makuza, were recognized at the launch of the campaign for repaying their scholarships.

Some people who benefited from the loan scheme however say that it is not fair to make them pay because they never signed a contract with the state committing themselves to pay back. One person who did not wish to give his name says that SFAR should only target future beneficiaries and not those that benefited before the law was established.

Yet Karamaga disagrees with that notion adding that people didn't challenge the law when it was set u.

"The law has been in place for some time and it was never challenged. People should be patriotic and realize that there are many young poor students who need such schemes," she says.


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Source: AllAfrica


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