Higher Education Minister Dr. Ibrahim Hassan said on Wednesday that he believes it will be fairer to grant access to student loans by island, rather than by electoral district, as has been introduced under a new category for the student loan scheme.
Speaking during a meeting with the Parliament’s National Development and Heritage Committee, Dr. Ibrahim Hassan said that while Maldives has 87 electoral districts, students had applied from only 47 electoral districts in the most recent opening for the student loan scheme.
Students who applied from 37 electoral districts failed to qualify, and the loans were therefore granted to only 10 students.
In response to a question from Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Saleem regarding ways to grant greater access to students from the atolls under the student loan scheme, Dr. Ibrahim Hassan said that the recent loan scheme for electoral districts had not been well received.
“I think it will be better to reserve a slot for each island in Maldives, rather than granting loans for electoral districts. Your districts may have three islands, or two islands. Therefore, it will be better to reserve a slot for each island, rather than just one slot for an electoral district which has four islands. This is something we are currently considering,” he said.
Dr. Ibrahim Hassan said that the very reason for introducing a new category for electoral districts under the student loan scheme was to decentralize access to higher education and ensure students from outer lying atolls have access to student loans.
“Otherwise, by the end of this five-year team, a student from Thulusdhoo may not have received a loan, or a student from Dhiggaru district may not have received a loan,” he said.
Dr. Ibrahim Hassan said that the Higher Education Ministry had considered the question of whether students who receive loans under the category for electoral districts will serve their electoral districts once they complete their education, and wanted to grant loans to students who are surer to serve their districts.
“We discussed that chances of students who complete their secondary education in their electoral districts returning to their districts to provide their services will be higher. That the chances of, for example, a student from Holhudhoo who completed their secondary education in Holhudhoo returning to their island for work will be higher than the chances of a student from Holhudhoo who lived and went to school in Male’ since childhood returning to Holhudhoo to work. We therefore set it as a requirement,” he said.
Dr. Ibrahim Hassan stressed the need to ensure that students who receive education opportunities under schemes such as the student loan scheme return to their home districts after they complete their education, in order to develop the human resources necessary to develop the different districts of Maldives and strengthen the decentralization system.
He said that while students were required to provide their services under a bond under the previous law, the new law introduced in 2008 brought the program to a halt.