This first series by CHRISTOPHER PAPIALI on the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) which will highlight some key issues surrounding this loan facility introduced by the Marape Government.
In December 2019 the National Executive Council made a decision (NG179/2019) for the establishment of HELP.
This came about after seeing the successive government sponsored scholarship programme not working well.
One of the current scholarship programmes which has existed for a long time is the Tertiary Education Student Assistance Scholarship (TESAS).
This is a national academic scholarship of GoPNG and is awarded in accordance with its terms and conditions.
HELP was created purposely to supplement those who need more additional fees for their studies and to ease the burden of those who were struggling to pay for their studies.
Therefore, HELP and TESAS are GoPNG funded scholarship programmes that are perceived to be running parallel for the students’ benefit.
The underlying view under HELP is you must repay the loan you got from DHERST Office without interest after you have completed your studies.
One of the key requirements to access the loan facility is for a student to be enrolled or attending Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (DHERST) approved Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).
This year (2022) there are 55 technical and higher education institutions, which include 17 institutions under universities, 11 institutions under teachers colleges, eight institutions under nursing colleges, two institutions under business colleges, and five institutions under specialised and private institutions.
Issue 1: Communication link
Access to the loan facility is very critical and this of course is predetermined by efficient communication and awareness. The key officers at the Student Services and Registrar’s office or the Bursar at HEIs must establish up-to-date communication link with the DHERST office.
For the most part, when students enquire HELP at their institutions, those key officers in those institutions sometimes do not provide them with relevant information.
Issue 2: Incomplete online data transmission
As students fill out the online application form, the server generates feedback detailing the stages of progress made on each data entry. Sometimes the online form is not filled properly or that the system locks you out or could be that the server is down.
This is one compelling issue that leads to student frustrations and ignorance.
For issues 1 and 2, HELP is an online loan facility, and the ICT equipment and connectivity is critical.
Some of those tools include desktop computers, mobile phones, laptops, and tablets.
Internet connection must be available for those students.
If the students are using mobile phones, they must have sufficient data with fully charged mobile phone batteries.
Students attending secondary schools in rural areas are faced with the daunting task of accessing HELP because there is no regular power supply and good Samsung mobile phones available. Issue 3: Managing HELP loan repayment
Once a student acquires HELP Loan, a contract is signed between the loan recipient and DHERST.
The loan agreement stipulates when the loan repayment commences, and the expected percentage of student’s income that will go towards loan repayment schedule.
The issues relating to whether the death of the loan recipient is terminated or not ought to be explored further.
What happens when the loan is not paid on those scheduled times? What also happens when the loan recipient finds job overseas?
There are many related questions that can be raised, and we need to ask whether there are adhesive instruments that are made available at the DHERST Office.
In 2019, there were approximately 25,000 students enrolled in registered higher education institutions.
In 2022 with the transfer of various Teachers Colleges and Nursing Colleges from DoE to DHERST, the figures should exceed far beyond the 25,000 figure.
The demand for accessing HELP loan facility becomes more and more challenging.
The DHERST Office is required to formulate coherent accessibility points for students to access HELP.
Meanwhile, two weeks ago (Monday, Sept, 2022), DHERST Office has issued new invitation letters for new secondary schools.
Principals were issued student NOAS invitation letters too.
Students should apply for their tertiary programmes commencing Sept 5, 2022 to Dec 9, 2022.
And by Wednesday, December 21, 2022, will be the launching of 2022 selection for 2023 academic year.
In 2021, there were 26,554 grade 12 students from 206 secondary schools around the country.
And only 9,862 were selected by NOAS and placed them into HEIs and this meant 16, 692 missed out.
The NOAS also placed 6,319 students on waiting list.
This means if any selected student does not turn up for registration for various reasons, then institutions can use this list (known as Quota to Be Filled from National Admissions Pool).
The rest of 10, 372 students missed out completely in finding spaces in the HEIs in 2022.
In my next article, I will discuss with you the pertinent issues relating to NOAS with some overarching legacy problems.
Christopher Papiali has previously worked as First Secretary to the Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology.
Next : Six Primary Schools In Port Moresby To Become Junior High Schools
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