17 January 2013

Zambia: Prof Serpell: Offer Students Loans As Opposed to Bursaries

FORMER University of Zambia (UNZA) vice-chancellor Robert Serpell has advised Government to consider establishing a mechanism that will offer loans to students at public universities, as opposed to the current bursary system.

In a submission to the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science and Technology in Lusaka yesterday, Professor Serpell said the costs of bursaries had clearly become unsustainable for the Government.

He said at the moment the country was failing to recover funds spent on thousands of students in form of bursaries.

"The wise thing for the Zambian Government to do is to set aside money upfront for underprivileged students, but also institute measures for recoveries of these funds, when the students graduate and enter the employment sector.

"Bursaries are not as effective as setting up loans that could be used as a revolving fund. This system has worked in other countries such as Kenya and even the United States," he said.

Professor Serpell called on Government to detach itself from the loan scheme and that commercial banks should administer the system because they had effective mechanisms of loan recovery.

He called for the establishment of an independent statutory body that would oversee the repayment of educational loans.

There was need for public universities to be granted the autonomy to raise tuition fees, with a protective net for underprivileged students.

Meanwhile, Chiefs and Traditional Affairs Permanent Secretary Coillard Chibbonta said Government was making headway in upgrading the Zambezi Source National Monument into an international tourist centre.

Mr Chibbonta said the upgrading of the facility was part of ongoing rehabilitation projects of other heritage sites.

He said this when he appeared before a committee on Government Assurances chaired by United Party for National Development (UPND) Itezhi-Tezhi Member of Parliament Greyford Monde.

Mr Chibbonta said in 2005, the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources released funds to the National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC) to construct basic site infrastructure at the Zambezi Source National Monument.

"The commission constructed 1X2 bed roomed staff houses, a visitor information centre, a ticket office, a walk board and sitting shelters," Mr Chibbonta said.

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