Several academicians in Uganda are in jubilation mood, over a grand plan by government to expand its students study loan scheme, to also include learners offering liberal arts courses.
The news of extending this educational incentive to arts students has been greeted with optimism and excitement, with several stakeholders in various universities pledging ironclad support and commitment, aimed at ensuring the success of this new government initiative.
The decision by government through the Higher Education Students’ Financing Board (HESFB) underlines a major shift in policy under which only Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) courses have been eligible, since the establishment of this funding mechanism in 2014, causing alarm and unprecedented discontent among arts students.
Mr Bbosa Kizito, the HESFB director for operations, said that the Board decided to consider students offering humanities because some of the courses are “critical” for Uganda’s development, an indicator that students seeking to apply for humanities courses at universities for the academic year 2022/2023 will access government study loans. The online application starts on Friday.
“Tourisms has been listed in the National Development Plan III as one of the supporting programmes that are critical for national development. We are hopeful that more people will be employed in the sector,” announced Bbosa.
It will of course be remembered that even as government last year made attempts to embody arts students in the loan scheme, many were left disatsified as the initiative was ring-fenced to only students with special needs.
According to Mr Michael Wanyama, the executive director of HEFSB, the incentive was to only benefit disabled students who previously failed to apply for several study programs because their abilities are confined outside the science scope, which the government started with.
Further infuriating humanities enthusiasts, only special needs students pursuing Bachelor of Laws, Social Science and Bachelor of Arts in Education were to be considered, automatically leaving out other arts students not offering these programs.
“We have included humanities this time round but only students with disabilities will be taken care of for Law, Social Science and Bachelor of Arts in Education courses alone,” Mr Wanyama said in an interview.
Now, it is a public secret and a ray of hope to liberal subjects lovers, that all humanities students have been granted unprecedented access to this seemingly exciting study loan package, with pretty impressive benefits at various universities in Uganda.
Reacting to this positive development, the Vice Chancellor for Kyambogo University Professor Eli Katunguka said the move by government to extend financial assistance to all students regardless of the nature of their study programs, will help to reduce unhealthy rivaries between humanities and science sections in various institutions of higher learning.
“Science, 70%, arts 30%, and this is from the conclusion made that there are humanities we need in our daily lives as people. We can’t say that all humanities are not essential for instance development studies, it is important for a student to take on development studies such that we clearly understand what development really entails'” Prof. Katunguka contended.
Also commenting on the same development, Professor Umar Kakumba, the assistant Vice Chancellor for Makerere University (academic affairs) said this new arrangement will make it possible for education loving, but financially crippled arts students to join universities, and other institutions of higher learning.
“Promoting science is very good but also humanities students need not to be sidelined,” Prof. Kakumba said.
Besides, the Vice Chancellor for Gulu University Professor George Ladaar Openjuru also welcomed the news with unprecedented optimism, saying this new development will help the nation to see to it that job opportunities created by scientists will have competent people to execute them, and that humanities will help graduands to efficiently run their businesses.
“You cannot just say it is only science that can promote development in the nation, and that those who know management cannot institute any innovations. We have had machinery for years in the country, you have heard all this scientific knowledge in agriculture which are written in the books, but we are failing to implement them because we do not have the management capability, we do not have the morals, we do not have the commitment, we have this digital technology, what has it done?” remarked Prof. Openjuru.
The Vice Chancellor of Muteesa 1 Royal University Professor Vincent Kakembo asserted that the new initiative will aid humanities students to immensely benefit from such government study programs and incentives.
Adding weight to these positive assertions, Mr Julius Ssekatawa, the spokesperson for Kampala University said the move will drastically reduce the number of senior six leavers who miserably fail to further their studies, due to financial hiccups.
The new initiative by government to grant access to study loans for all students, regardless of their programs is likely to see a hike in the rates of senior six leavers joining universities and other institutions of higher learning.
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