Kampala - Students in Uganda face up to six months in jail if they fail to repay student loans, President Yoweri Museveni has warned, according to reports Friday.

Museveni, speaking on Thursday at the launch of a government loan programme to encourage poorer students to go to higher education, warned that those who fail to repay face a fine of some 400 dollars (290 euros), or jail for half a year, according to the Daily Monitor newspaper.

“You have to pay back when you finish and get a job,” Museveni told students, the newspaper reported.

“Otherwise, we shall have to come to where you are working and arrest you for defaulting - and also for being a bad Christian, a bad Muslim or even a bad pagan,” Museveni said.

University enrolment has grown six-fold in the past two decades but large numbers of students fail to repay university fees on time, according the World Bank.

The new fund is some 2.5 million dollars, but replaces a far larger presidential scholarship programme of some 12 million dollars.

“Many of the parents are having problems in paying money for students who don't get government sponsorship, that is why we said, 'let us have a student loan,'“ Museveni added.