Capability of Students from the Low-socio-economic Backgrounds: Exploring Student Loans in Tanzania

Faustina M. Msigwa


Higher education (HE) is expanding internationally driven by governments’ dual concern to develop human capital that will contribute to economic growth and individuals’ desire to expand their capabilities. However, as participation in HE expands, national governments are no longer able or willing to meet the costs but rather they prefer to use student loans strategy.This study explores how student loans decisions in Tanzania constrain or enhance capability of students from low-socio-economic backgrounds. The study is guided by Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach (CA). Loan policy implementations are explored from the perspective of twelve students from low-socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds studying in the Universities of Dar-es salaam and Tumaini University Dar es Salaam. Through one to one in-depth interviews, they were invited to share their stories of applying for and distribution of loans. Findings show a discrepancy between the purposes of the financial assistance policy and the practice of loans distribution. The financial assistance policy, Higher Education Student Loans Board (HESLB) Act and HESLB regulations guarantee loans for poor students but in practice the proclaimed opportunity is unreliable. For instance, in 2017/2018 academic year loans were distributed based on clusters of academic programmes. The loans were guaranteed to students who are registered for education, Engineering, physical sciences and mathematics programmes only, grouped as cluster I and II. Chance to access loans for students who are registered for Humanities, Law, languages and other social science programmes, grouped as cluster III, is uncertain. This study recommends that, HESLB revise its criteria for issuance of loans in order to enhance capability of students from low- SES backgrounds of choosing to pursue their preferred occupations.

Keywords: Capability; Higher Education; Loans accessibility; Student loans; Student from low SES backgrounds.

DOI: 10.7176/JEP/10-3-07

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