About 38 foundation year students at the College of Medicine (CoM) could be forced to withdraw this year for either failing to pay K550 000 tuition fees or balance of the same.
Last week, needy studentswho received partial loans from Higher Education Students Loans and Grants Board (HESL&GB) were not allowed to sit for the second mid-semester examinations though later they were allowed to sit the examinations.
One of the needy students, Moses White, who is studying towards attaining a bachelor of science in pharmacy, said he has a balance of K400 000 which he does not know where it will come from.
He said he was not considered for a loan despite applying, adding that a well-wisher from his church, Kanjedza Seventh Day Adventist (SDA), paid K150 000 in the first semester.
“This money only allowed me to register for the first semester, but come second semester, my parents could not afford to raise the balance. We are already struggling to source funds for accommodation, stationery and meal allowances,” said White.
CoM dean of students Associate Professor Fanuel Lampiao, while not giving the exact figure of the needy students, confirmed that there are students who, since the onset of the 2016/17 academic calendar, have not paid anything to the college while others only managed to pay K200 000 which was given to them by the Loans and Grants Board.
Said Lampiao: “Most of the needy students have been allowed to sit for examinations. Those who have not been allowed are those who have not paid even a single tambala. So, we have given them up to the end of March because our academic year is coming to an end this May.
“These students are encouraged to apply for government loan and we will also assist them to find well-wishers to support them. If we are able to find scholarships, we are going to secure for them.
“By the end of the academic year, they are required to finish paying the whole tuition and there is the option that if they are not able to pay their tuition, they can reserve their space and come back the following academic year. School is not for free, students are supposed to contribute something or if they cannot, they are advised to look for a loan.”
Lampiao indicated that about 220 students from the college were given loans by the loans board and this includes foundation year and continuing students.
He said the tuition issue has not affected foundation year students only, adding that they were disadvantaged as they were new in the system.
In an interview, HESL&GB executive director Chris Chisoni said while there is nothing they can do in this situation, the board gives loans per status of individuals identified through screening of the loan application forms.
He said there are several factors that are considered when granting loans.
“From 2015/16, we were given K1.5 billion which later increased by 100 percent to K3 billion in 2016/17, but then the number of needy students has also gone up, thereby constraining the available funds. Usually the loans granted range from 35 percent to 80 percent. In very rare cases, we go to 100 percent and you should know that in the 2016/17 academic year, we have prioritised more of the tuition fees.