The funds set aside for lending to students of higher learning institutions have been exhausted, the board operating the account announced in Dar es Salaam yesterday.
George Nyatega who is the Higher Education Students Loans Board Managing Director, said: “Our bank account which we use for paying student loans is currently reading ‘zero’....nothing in the account.”
He was speaking to a section of higher learning students who thronged his office yesterday, pressing him to pay their food, accommodation and research allowances.
“Because of this shortfall, we have failed to continue providing this service (issuing loans to students),” he insisted.
Higher learning students who visited the HESLB director’s office came from Mwalimu Nyerere Memorial Academy, College of Business Education (CBE) and St. John's University - Dar es Salaam Branch.
According to Nyatega, his office had already prepared all payments for the students in various universities, but did not prepare a cheque because there was nothing in the bank.
"My friends, the Treasury has not deposited money in the student loan account...how could we pay you...we have nothing in the account,” said Nyatega.
He said the board had already informed the Treasury on the financial crisis facing HESLB, and that the former had promised to disburse the money any day within this week, asking the students to be patient.
Nyatega said that colleges and universities which had been paid so far included University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Ardhi University (ARU) and Institute of Finance Management (IFM).
The explanation apparently did not satisfy the students who continued to press for their allowances, saying: “We are not leaving this place...we believe that the board has money, which is being eaten by some people. We will stay here until we get our allowances,” said one of the students.
After prolonged exchange between the students and the board officials, the board management called in security officials who dispersed the students using tear gas. There were no reports of injuries in the commotion.
Speaking shortly before the arrival of armed police officers, St. John's student, Nuru Karua, said they were sure to pay back the money, but wondered why the government was dilly-dallying in paying them.
"This money is our right...we are denied our rights. Why is the board reluctant to pay our money,” asked one student.
Some students from St John's University claimed that they had never received allowances without using threats.
Kinondoni Regional Police Commander, Charles Kenyela admitted to have received reports of the crisis, asking the reporter to give him time to study the situation. “I was attending a day-long meeting, I cannot respond now before I get proper briefing,” said Kenyela.