By: Juliana Vandy
Strategic Communications Unit,
Ministry of Information and Communications
The National Coordinator for the Students Loan Committee, Paul J. Amara, on Thursday, 11th March 2021, disclosed at the weekly government press briefing at the Ministry of Information and Communications that His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio has fulfilled his Manifesto Commitment of providing loan to students to enable them complete their tertiary education.
Giving a background to the scheme, Mr. Amara said in July last year the Student Loan Scheme was jointly put together by the Ministries of Technical and Higher Education and Finance to actualize the vision of President Bio to ensure quality education in the country.
For decades now, Mr. Amara furthered, many Sierra Leoneans have been denied the opportunity to acquire quality tertiary education due to lack of access to funding.
He stated that government intends to pilot as a first phase of the Student Loan Scheme five hundred Post Graduate, Masters and PhD candidates for the 2020/2021 academic year.
According to him, the Student Loan Scheme is a new initiative which is why they are thinking it through properly.
Mr. Amara said that the recent spate of strike actions and violence in public universities happen because students and lecturers are not provided the conducive environment to operate which, among other reasons, precipitated the rollout of the Student Loan Scheme.
He said it had been clear to government that Sierra Leonean students were willing to acquire higher education at any cost.
"As a government there is need to provide the necessary support to enhance their dream which has been done by President Julius Maada Bio."
He underscored that the Student Loan Scheme, among other things, is one way to provide funding to students to access higher education.
Many times, he went on, students are being removed from examination halls for failure to pay fees while many other Sierra Leoneans are burdened with the need to help someone who does not have the means to pay fees, the reason why His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio under the New Direction government has introduced the Student Loan Scheme with a view to addressing the aforementioned issues.
He noted that all around the world there is no country that provides free quality tertiary education. "They can provide free quality basic education but the acquisition of quality tertiary education needs funds."
While stating that government is not oblivious of the fact that the rollout that target Post Graduate, Masters and PhD candidates might create mistrust and disappointment from the larger population of undergraduate students that are waiting for similar opportunity, he assured that the rollout will be done with full commitment and eventually the loan scheme will be open to the entire student body, both undergraduate and post graduate.
"This pilot phase gives every Sierra Leonean an opportunity to assess the impact of the scheme and properly evaluate the activities to ensure public trust is gained," he said.
In conclusion, Mr. Amara announced that their secretariat will be based at the Milton Margai College, Brookfield’s Campus, saying the form for the loan scheme has been designed and presented to the minister for his action after which it will be uploaded via a portal from which students will be able to access it.