Students planning to study humanities at universities and other higher education institutions will be able, from the 2022/23 academic year, to apply for government student loans. Online applications begin Friday.
The decision by the Higher Education Student Funding Board (HESFB) underscores a major reversal of a policy under which only Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses had been eligible since inception. of this funding mechanism in 2014.
Mr. Bbosa Kizito, Chief Operating Officer of HESFB, said the board decided to take in humanities students as some of the courses are “essential” for Uganda’s development.
“Tourism has been listed in the National Development Plan III as one of the key support programs for national development. We hope more people will be employed in the sector,” he said.
The Uganda Tourism Board, in a 2020 Statistical and Economic Analysis note, said the country garnered about 1.5 trillion shillings from tourism exports in 2019, 9.4% more than revenue seven years earlier.
The main driver was the increase in the influx of African tourists, mainly for leisure, where average expenditure per capita brought in $1,000 (Shs 3.7 million).
Gorilla tracking permits have brought in substantial revenue, in addition to national parks and hiking fees as well as travel costs to cultural sites and villages, among others.
However, the nearly two years of Covid-induced lockdown, during part of which international skies were closed to air traffic, wiped out those gains.
In April 2020, UTB statistics show that revenue in “accommodation and food services had fallen by 70% compared to 2019, and 77% of establishments had made staff redundant”.
The sector, thanks to high vaccinations and the opening of international borders, is recovering and the government has promised to inject more cash to accelerate its renewal as the main generator of foreign exchange and creator of jobs. in the value chain.
In an interview yesterday, Mr. Bob Nuwagira, the HESFB spokesperson, said the board is integrating eligible humanities courses on an individual basis to ensure that those essential to national development are prioritized.
“There has been an outcry over why we only sponsor science students. It is in this context that we have integrated agriculture and now have tourism. Others will follow accordingly,” he said.
The change of heart is in line with the heated public rhetoric of science versus the arts that gripped the country after the government, led by President Museveni, moved to raise salaries for scientists, leaving their counterparts arts with a significantly lower salary.
The disparity which experts and critics say should be best redressed by harmonizing the salaries of all civil servants through a pay review commission, which they want the government to establish, has sparked a three-week industrial action by secondary arts teachers and all teachers in the public sector. primary schools.
Organized under the aegis of the Uganda National Teachers’ Union, or Unatu, the strike crippled learning in primary schools across the country, but President Museveni managed to dissuade teachers from industrial action as She was entering her fourth week this month.
He argued, as in the past, that his government is committed to improving the compensation of all its employees, but that it started with the scientists because of a limited resource envelope and that the scientists are the needed to accelerate Uganda’s socio-economic transformation, as envisioned under the National Development Plan (PND) III.
The integration of tourism has increased the number of courses eligible for study loans to 16. The main programs funded under the program so far have been health and medical related courses, educational sciences and engineering.
The good news for arts students came with a bang for all. The council said its 38.4 billion shillings budget to sponsor 3,000 students, alongside the 1,600 continuing counterparts, had been cut by 10 billion shillings.
As a result, student loan applications will drop by 2,000 and only 500-1,000 new students will be offered money.
Mr Nuwagira said they plan to start fundraising so that more gifted but less fortunate students can benefit.
He proposed that private sponsors convert their offers into loans for recipients to repay for the benefit of new applicants, in line with similar proposals by some lawmakers that government scholarships at universities should be abolished altogether and replaced with government loans. ‘studies.
The appeal follows findings that students from wealthy families who study at expensive schools are the ones who get the government scholarship, but their parents can afford a university education.
Some sources, who preferred anonymity, told this newspaper that the Council had arrears of Shs14.5b for previous semesters.