The students loan Act of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration has continued to generate divergent reactions from students who are the primary beneficiaries as well as other stakeholders in the education sector. Two weeks after the signing of the Act, also known as the Access higher education act 2023, several people are still confused on
The students loan Act of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration has continued to generate divergent reactions from students who are the primary beneficiaries as well as other stakeholders in the education sector. Two weeks after the signing of the Act, also known as the Access higher education act 2023, several people are still confused on its workability.
The Student Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act, grants interest-free loans to students enrolled in public tertiary institutions now and those who will be admitted to the nation’s higher citadels of learning in the future. The bill, sponsored by the immediate past speaker of the House of Representatives, and now the Chief Of Staff to the President, Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, “repeals the Nigerian Education Bank Act Cap. N104, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and enact the Students Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act, 2023 to provide easy access to higher education for indigent Nigerians through interest-free loans from the Nigerian Education Loan Fund established in this Act with a view to providing education for all Nigerians; and for related matters”
However, the condition to obtain the loan has stirred a lot of debate in the public, as many Nigerians have asserted that the conditions attached to the loan will restrict average citizens from being able to acquire the loan.
Initially introduced in 2016, the bill could not see daylight then, it was reintroduced in 2019 and later gained traction in 2022 when it passed the first and second readings before the House. The modality of the loans and its application process are also indicated in the act which was signed by the president.
However, the Act continues to generate different expressions, one of which is the condition to obtain the loan which has stirred a lot of debate in the public space, as many Nigerians have perceive conditions attached to the loan as stringent and may restrict the average citizen which it intends to protect.
In addition to the terms of student loans, which have drawn criticism from many, there have been reports across the nation that some higher education institutions are attempting to increase their tuition fees at their respective centres of learning. Going by this development, civil society organisations and student bodies have aired their opinions about the education intervention programme.
The students’ loan act has been denounced by Concerned Students Against Tuition Fees, a group fighting for educational rights, who claimed that the federal government was attempting to stop funding Nigeria’s educational system.
In an interview with NDR, Aduwo Ayodele, the national coordinator of the non-governmental civil society organization, said that the government is expected to actively fund education in accordance with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s recommendation that each nation devotes 26% of its budget to this purpose.
He further stated that the attempt to replace education funding with student loans is against poor parents and students who do have the resources to meet the modalities set for loan acquisition. He added that the government should reduce the cost of governance and corruption in the government to fund education.
He therefore called on the students, parents and relevant stakeholders to unite their voices against the introduction of the student loan which could lead to an increment in tuition fees in the country. “On this background, we strongly believe that student loans are not a substitute for adequate funding for University education. As a matter of fact, the increasing propaganda around student loans has shown that it is a dubious plan by the FG to lure students to accept the introduction of the devilish tuition fee and fully commercialise public education.
“The so-called students’ loan will end up mortgaging the future of Nigerian youths, especially when it is obvious that the loan in question will only be procured and spent by the Federal Government on behalf of each student, who will be expected to pay back within 39 years in a country where gainful employment opportunities are not guaranteed, as 35 years is the maximum period that can be spent in the civil service.
“It is in the light of all these that we align ourselves with the struggle for adequate funding by universities and radical unions like the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT). This to us is the best way to respond to the current crisis of poor funding bedeviling the country’s public universities”, he said.
In another interview with NDR, Usman Barambu, the national president of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), stated that the introduction of student loans is welcomed by the student body nationwide and that it will assist impoverished students who cannot afford basic fees in accessing tertiary education.
But he further explained that the student leaders have met with the president for review and amendments of the law for fairness and accessibility, adding that the modality set for the loan application is strenuous for an average Nigerian student who could not afford school fees in the first place.
“Our reaction is that it is a welcome development, but we have some corrections that we tabled before the president that they should amend something inside it that will suit the interest of the Nigerian students. That is number one, and number two is that we also told the president that we are not expecting a hike in school fees due to this development. And there are some reviews that need to be done to the Student loans Act to make it more holistically acceptable to the student body. We also told the president to add some of the former student leaders or student people person on that body the decision-making board for the disbursement of the loan.
Speaking on the recent increase of school fees by some higher institutions across the country, the national public relations officer of NANS, Giwa Tope condemned the decision to increase tuition fees in some schools adding that the students association has already communicssated with Nigerian presidents and the vice chancellors of the school to
Those of the Nigerian institutions that are already increasing their school fees already are the federal schools, and that is why we appealed to the president, who is the head of the federal schools to help us talk to the vice-chancellors of those schools that if they want to increase any school fees, they should also consult the students union of their schools, they should be on the board and be aware so that they will just go and be increasing school fees arbitrarily. If they can carry out the students leaders, they will understand the reasons for the increment of the school fees and why it should be increased. Because if they dont do, we will go out and protest.
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC), an education activism and non-governmental organization, has condemned the student loan act, demanding the total eradication of the scheme and proper funding of education in Nigeria.
The non-governmental organization made this known in its press conference attended by students representatives and relevant stakeholders in the educational sectors in Lagos on Wednesday, claiming that the federal government is subtly restricting the majority of Nigerians’ access to tertiary education instead of increasing their chances to get an affordable and qualitative education.
In a press statement issued by Ogunjinmi Isaac, the ERC deputy national coordinator and Adaramoye Michael Lenin, the National Mobilisation Officer, the education rights movement argued that “the Students Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act 2023 is a fraudulent contrivance by elements who have no interest of the poor and indigent at heart and whose only real achievements would be an increase in the cost of education through the introduction of tuition fee and subjection of loan beneficiaries to lifelong indebtedness and misery”.
The ERC asserted that the federal government is trying to raise the cost of education in the nation and that this policy will eventually prevent poor students from receiving an affordable education.
“We in the ERC believe that the Students Loan Act is a smokescreen to legislate into existence tuition fees in Nigeria’s public universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, thereby fully commercializing higher education to the detriment of poor working people. Ironically, most of these so-called leaders pushing this policy of education commercialization benefitted from free education in the 1970s and 1980s. As we have earlier opined, Nigeria operates a tuition-fee higher education system.
“ But by virtue of this Act which predicates the disbursement of the student’s loan on the payment of tuition fee, it is only a matter of time before tuition fees are officially introduced and the government fully absolves itself of any responsibility towards the funding of public higher education. Tinubu in his manifesto actually reveals that the objective of students loan is to “give institutions the ability to charge more cost-reflective tuition fees”. This means that we will likely see a further reduction of budgetary allocation to public higher institutions and granting a so-called financial autonomy to the management of higher education institutions to seek new revenue sources, including tuition fees, to pay staff salaries and allowances.
“When this is done, the total fees payable by students of government-owned tertiary institutions will increase astronomically. At the moment, sundry fees payable in some public Universities are already as high as N150,000, aside cost of hostel accommodation and living costs. By the time tuition fee is added, this will take cost of education beyond the reach of the working people and poor Nigerians”.
The organization, however, demanded that the federal government increase funding for education in the nation by phasing out student loans and replacing them with full grants to cover living expenses at government-owned higher education institutions.