Sad Story of Kenyan Who Sued HELB Over Interest Rates and Won

  • Jacinta Anne Mugure who sued HELB over interest rates
    Jacinta Anne Mugure who sued HELB over interest rates.
    File
  • One of the three petitioners who successfully sued the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) over its exorbitant interest rates opened up about the hardship she endured since graduating from University.

    Armed with a Degree in Political Science since her graduation in 1995, Anne Jacinta Mugure was hopeful of upending the course of her life but the challenges were plenty.

    She was thrown into the job market that was recording a rapid increase in unemployment rate and could not secure a proper job for seven years until 2002.

    When she finally landed the job, she entered into an agreement with her employment to remit Ksh2,000 on her behalf, a promise they never followed through.

    Kenyans waiting for service at Helb offices
    Kenyans waiting for service at Helb offices.
    File

    "We were in the job market but trying to get a job was very hard. I started door to door sales. I remember I started paying the loan at around 2002 after getting a good job.

    "I was paying Ksh2,000 per month and (the employer) was deducting Ksh2,000 per month. I later found out that they were not remitting," she recounted.

    Her world, soon after, turned upside down after she lost her job shortly after delivering. Her life became unbearable forcing her to turn to odd jobs including working as a matatu tout alongside other graduates.

    "I lost that job and I had a small baby. I got calls that I have a loan of half a million because of the penalties and interest," she told NTV.

    Her fury, however, boiled over after she noticed that her employers had not been remitting the money to HELB despite regularly deducting it from her salary.

    When she got the calls from HELB, one of the companies had already shut down making it hard for her to make a follow up.

    "If they had sent me an email telling me that I have not been paying this loan, then I would have gone after these companies because right now one of the companies has gone under," she explained.

    Her lawyer, Benjamin Njeru, took over the case in 2021 shortly after graduating from a Law School following a conversation he held with a colleague over the punitive nature of the interest rate.

    After a year of hearings, the High Court barred HELB from recovering interest exceeding double the amount advanced.

    "A declaration hereby issues that the respondent is not entitled to recover from the petitioners or its loanees an amount exceeding double the amount advanced in contravention of the in duplum rule," read the ruling in part.

    Njeru later explained to Kenyans.co.ke that the rule meant that if a beneficiary borrows Ksh100,000 from HELB, they are only entitled to repay a maximum of Ksh200,000.

    "We did not believe it because we just posted it and it blew up. It came at a very ripe time because you ave seen President Biden waving loans in US and acknowledging that being charged over and above for a degree is not fair," noted Njeru over his decision to sue the board.

    Mugure filed the suit alongside Davis Nguthu and Wangui Wachira challenging the exorbitant interest rate in March 2021 after the board threatened to publish images defaulters in newspapers to compel them to settle the loans.

    File Photo of University Students At the Anniversary Towers in Nairobi
    File Photo of University Students At the Anniversary Towers in Nairobi.
    File