Students planning to study humanities at universities and other higher institutions of learning will, starting the 2022/23 academic year, be eligible to apply for government study loans. The online applications start on Friday.
The decision by the Higher Education Students Financing Board (HESFB) underlines a major reversal of a policy under which only Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) courses have been eligible since the establishment of this funding mechanism in 2014.
Mr Bbosa Kizito, the HESFB director for operations, said that the Board decided to onboard students offering humanities because some of the courses are “critical” for Uganda’s development.
“Tourisms has been listed in the National Development Plan III as one of the supporting programmes that are critical for national development. We are hopeful that more people will be employed in the sector,” he said.
Uganda Tourism Board in a 2020 statistics and economic analysis brief, reported that the country raked in about Shs1.5 trillion from tourism exports in 2019, which was 9.4 percent higher than earnings seven years earlier.
The bigger driver was increased inflow of African tourists, mainly for leisure, where average premium per-capita spend grossed $1,000 (Shs3.7m).
Permits for gorilla tracking brought in substantial revenues, adding to national parks and hiking fees as well as a charges for trips to cultural sites and villages, among others.
However, the nearly two years of Covid-induced lockdown, during part of which the international skies were closed to air traffic, wiped out these gains.
By April 2020, UTB statistics shows that earning in “accommodation and food services had dropped by 70 percent compared to 2019, and 77 percent of establishments had laid off staff”.
The sector, thanks to high immunisations and opening of international borders, is flickering to health and the government has promised to inject more cash to fast-track its renewal as a leading forex earner and value-chain job creator.
In an interview yesterday, Mr Bob Nuwagira, the spokesperson of HESFB, said the board is onboarding eligible humanities’ courses on one-on-one basis to ensure that those critical for national development are prioritised.
“There has been an outcry on why we are sponsoring only science students. It is upon this background that we brought agriculture on board and now we have tourism. Others will follow accordingly,” he said.