The National Assembly Member for Kiang West, Lamin Ceesay, has maintained that there was no loan ratification, grant, or budget at the higher education ministry to set the ball rolling for a students’ loan scheme in January of next year.
Reacting to the pronouncement by the higher education Minister Prof. Pierre Gomez that the student loan scheme is expected to be rolled out in January of 2023, the Kiang West NAM told The Voice: “Loans and grants are all ratified by Parliament. There is no ratification of a loan or a grant from an international partner or a component of the budget in the Ministry of Higher Education’s budget for the Parliament to approve with respect to the student loan scheme for university students. For that to happen, there should be a plan that has to factor in the budget, bring it to Parliament, and Parliament has to approve it and that has not happened yet.”
He explained that if the Ministry of Higher Education wants to have a piece of legislation to guide them as to how the loan scheme should be executed, the Ministry of Justice should be involved as is the case with any legislation.
“You have to go to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to do certain work. From MoJ to Cabinet…the Cabinet has to review and approve before taking it to Parliament for ratification, which is another process,” NAM Ceesay pointed out.
“I know there are numerous bills sitting at MoJ but they cannot come here (Parliament). So, if there is a piece of legislation that has not yet been taken to the Ministry of Justice, I don’t know how faster it will be than those other bills that have been there for so long,” Ceesay queried.
The Kiang West NAM pointed out that the loan scheme was not factored in the 2023 budget, saying the Ministry of Higher Education does not have this component in the 2023 budget.
“There is no component for the student loan scheme for the students of the University of The Gambia in the 2023 budget. Therefore, in September 2023, you will not have any funds to give out loans. All you can do is to wait until the 2024 budget session, which comes inDecember 2023. So, after the budget session when you have that component in the 2024 budget, you can start executing it in 2024 January,” Ceesay emphasized.
He said the Minister made the pronouncement for the loan scheme but contended that the scheme cannot be realized without a plan and allocations. “And,allocations are not going to fall from the sky,” Ceesay added.
He explained that the loan scheme could be realized through grants and loans from international partners orlocally generated revenue from the consolidated fund.
According to him, the student loan scheme would be a huge scheme because it would be sponsoring hundreds of students.
“That is going to cost a lot. So, it requires that the ministry must plan. The minister must have a piece of legislation or regulations that would guide the recovery of these loans, which needs a whole lot of planning,” lawmaker Ceesay explained.
He stressed that the loan scheme requires thoroughness to ensure it is feasible and sustainable