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MBABANE – Despite a new formula being introduced, beneficiaries of government study loans can heave a sigh of relief as the rule to repay only half of the money has changed.

This was said by the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Thulani Mkhaliphi, yesterday.
The only money that the beneficiaries would pay in full is the one which they would have been granted for their own personal upkeep.

Starting this year, the ministry will award scholarships by following the Study Loan and Scholarship Agreement Order of 1977, which is the principal legislation governing the resultant contract between successful applicants and provides for two streams of financial support that can be provided to qualifying applicants.

The first stream is the Student Study Loan (SSL) which is the primary financial support granted to applicants for tuition and related academic imperatives, such as book and internships, where successful applicants are upon obtaining the loan, sign a Study Loan Agreement with explicit terms and conditions. The second stream is the Student Assistance Finance (SAF), which is secondary financial support granted to students who already have study loan agreements but need special support for personal upkeep.

Once the student’s special need has been determined and confirmed to be true, the student will, subject to availability of funds, sign a Student Assistance Finance (SAF) Agreement with explicit terms and conditions.
It has always been known that beneficiaries were expected to repay only 50 per cent of the amount that they had been loaned by government and Mkhaliphi said for now there would be no changes.

“Maybe it will change at some point but for now beneficiaries sign agreements that they will pay half of the scholarship that government grants them. However, for the secondary financial support the beneficiaries have to repay all of it,” he said. Most beneficiaries of government study loans have for years not been complying in terms of repaying the loans, and this led to a decision to assign a consultant to recover the money.
As the consultant conducted workshops, some beneficiaries raised a concern that they were not aware that they were expected to repay the money.

On another note, Mkhaliphi stated that the Scholarship Selection Board had already begun its job of interviewing candidates who had applied for scholarships this year.
He explained that for the primary financial support applications (SSN), there was no problem with applicants attending alone for the interviews. Successful loan applicants must be EmaSwati, not above 30 years and intending to take up study in any of the current government priority programmes in recognised training institutions.

The PTES loan does not fund post-graduate programmes.
Students who wish to be considered for the Student Assistance Finance (SAF) facility will have to make a separate specific application from the original SSL application to board established for this purpose.
An objective assessment criteria will be used to determine students’ qualification for the study loan.

Reasons would be provided for all unsuccessful students.
Students may make applications for study loan support throughout the academic cycle as their personal circumstances change from time to time.  On another note, Mkhaliphi emphasised that there would be vigilance in terms of determining the backgrounds of study loan applicants. He was responding to a question on how his office would deal with situations where applicants would submit wrong information on the income levels of their parents.

Under the new procedure, parents who earn more than E25 000 monthly, would have to fend for their children’s accommodation and food costs, as government would now only award them the study loans for their tuition fees.
“All those applying for the SAF will have a form to fill and all the information will be scrutinised and re-checked, so anyone who provides wrong details will be caught. We have a proper plan on how we will deal with such situations,” he said.

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