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A new loan mechanism provides affordable loans to health professional students in Kenya who need financial assistance to continue their education.
The Afya Elimu Fund is a joint venture between IntraHealth International’s FUNZOKenya project, the Higher Education Loans Board, and the Kenya Healthcare Federation. Other partners include the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Planning and Devolution, as well as local private-sector contributors.
Many of Kenya’s health professional students are unable to pay their annual tuition fees—approximately 70,000 Kenyan Shillings ($767) for most public middle-level colleges that offer certificate and diploma programs—leading to a high drop-out rate. The loans are intended to ensure students continue their education without disruption, graduate, and are deployed to meet the country’s health needs.
Kenya has a serious shortage of health workers, with only 1 doctor, nurse, or midwife for every 1,000 people. This is significantly lower than the World Health Organization’s minimum recommendation of 2.3 doctors, nurses, and midwives for the same amount of people. Kenya’s growing population puts a further strain on the health workforce.
In order for the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to address current staffing shortages and plan for the future, the country must significantly increase the number of graduates from its health professional schools. And unless there is a sufficient pool of qualified, well-trained health professionals, universal access to health care will not be realized as envisioned in the Kenyan constitution.
Afya Elimu Fund loans are offered to students enrolled in accredited nursing, clinical medicine, laboratory sciences, nutrition, and health records information programs. Students apply for the loan to cover their tuition fees, and can receive a maximum of 70,000 Kenya Shillings ($767) a year.
The first loans were given to 2,050 students in September 2013. Most were third-year students expected to graduate in May 2015.
The interest rate for the loans is 4%, compared to 12.5% for other loans in Kenya, and interest does not accrue while students remain in school. After they complete their studies, students receive a one-year grace period before they must make payments, which revolve back into the fund will be used to provide loans to additional health professional students. Applications and disbursements are managed through the Higher Education Loans Board’s established structures to ensure high levels of accountability, transparency, and recovery.
Because of the expected repayments, the program is designed to be self-sustaining unlike scholarship programs which require ongoing funding.
“Access to training fees has been a major hindrance to training for students, especially those from the marginalized areas,” says Alloyce Musuya, principal of the Kenya Medical Training College in Kisumu. “Our policy is designed to ensure equitable distribution of admission spaces across the country. Unfortunately a number of students from poor backgrounds have at times been unable to raise the required training fees. This in turn has a negative effect on the distribution of health workers across the country.
“The Afya Elimu Fund has provided a reliable source of funding for students. Those who received the funds have had remarkable peace of mind since it covered most of their tuition fees. For most needy students, once their tuition is paid they do everything to stay in class.”
Approximately 10,000 students are expected to receive loans in the first five years of the program.
IntraHealth's FUNZOKenya project is funded by the US Agency for International Development.