Mr Chronicles Alvan Kinyua, CGP is a beneficiary of a HELB loan.
Actually, without that loan, I am not sure my education would have been possible. You never know the importance of a HELB loan until you are the son of an ordinary Kenyan who finds himself at the University of Nairobi, right in the middle of the city’s CBD, where the cost of life is astronomical and you have no one to turn to.
That loan not only helped some of us meet our basic needs but also made us feel like campus students. It helped weed out the villageness in us.
I still remember with nolstagia that fateful Friday when HELB would be released to our bank accounts. Campus would be lit. There would be life. I used to withdraw mine at Equity Bank, Four Ways Branch; and my life would instantly change, albeit for a few days.
Those were the good old days of Nakumatt Lifestyle.
Throngs of students would immediately head to the liquor store of the now dead supermarket chain.
HELB made campus to be campus. In fact, the only other time when campus life would rival the HELB day was when my brother, then chairman, Babu Owino would release SONU allowances; but that came later when I was in Third Year.
Fast forward 2019; I am now a HELB creditor.
And though I am able to repay my loan, I would fight anyone who says unemployed graduates must pay their loans.
Most students don’t pick that loan because they like it. It is the circumstances they find themselves in; sons of poor peasants, thirsty for education, full of hope for a better tomorrow, but with no one to turn to.
Sadly, even after accruing the HELB debt, the biggest number of Kenyan graduates find themselves jobless.
The story of the average Kenyan graduate, with no godfather, connections or some God sent luck to turn to, like some of us, is a sad one.
I thank God that today, after the struggle, at least I have a job from which I can meet my basic needs and still pay my loan. A big number of campus classmates can’t, despite their excellent qualifications. I have met a good number of them who, five years down the line, don’t know what next. Others disappeared into the villages when town became untenable.
A fortnight ago, when I was in Coast, I met a former campus classmate in Mtwapa. Good guy studied Economics. He comes from Nyanza but he was down there trying to scout for something after not getting anything in Nairobi and Kisumu. And even there, he was teaching a local school, earning something less than 10, 000 shillings! That guy appeared beaten and withdrawn.
Actually, I was angry with our nation when I saw him, wondering why we subject such brilliant brains to such circumstances.
Therefore, when we talk about forcing unemployed graduates to pay loans, I wonder who came up with such an idea.
How do you force a person who can’t even feed himself to pay a 200k loan? Do you even understand the depression that guy is going through considering the fact that he might have been the only hope of their village?
In fact, if I was to be asked, we need to do a waiver of all those loans given to graduates who have not secured employment within their first five years after leaving campus.
Or else, create jobs for our young people and then claim loan repayment.
Otherwise, we are simply adding salt to injury. Claiming loan repayment from unemployed graduates is like trying to pickpocket a naked man. It’s insanity!