Zikora Ibeh (right) Achike Chude; Akinbode Oluwafemi and others at the event.
. We reject govt fraud
‘The government should quickly adress issues like the dilapitaded educational infrastructure, poor budgetary allocation to education, and insufficient staff remuneration, which they argued were fundamental problems plaguing higher education in Nigeria that the loan scheme cannot resolve’
By Valentine Amanze
Stakeholders and civil society organizations (CSOs) have decended heavily on the Federal Government of Nigeria for floating N500,000 students loan scheme to reduce students’ financial borden.
The Bola Tinubu administration said that the initiative was to revitalize public higher education in Nigeria.
But at a symposium in Lagos on Friday the stakeholders, who scrutinized the scheme described it as a scam against Nigerians.
They reminded the Federal Government of its obligation of allotting 15 per cent of its annual budget to education, which is yet to be kept, while warning it on the dangers of implementing World Bank and International Monetory Fund (IMF) ideas on the nation’s economy.
Attended by Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, the executive director of Corporate Accountability & Public Participation Africa (CAPPA); Prof Adelaja Odukoya, zonal coordinator, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU); Dr Tunde Akanni of Lagos State University, Ojo; Mojeed Alabi, chairman, Education Writers’ Association of Nigeria (EWAN); Giwa Topnotch, National Public Relations Officer, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS); Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, Deputy National President, National Parents Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN); Achike Chude, the deputy chairman, Joint Action Front (JAF); Gideon Adeyemi, spokesperson, Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and many others, the group advised the government not to implement the loan scheme, describing it as anti-people policy.
They also wondered why President Bola Ahmed Tinubu signed the Students Loans Act, 2023, without the imput of the stakeholders.
The group argued that the policy, on the surface, promises to increase access to public higher education by providing indigent students with intrest-free tuition loans; but in reality, means the contrary.
They pointed out that the loan criteria may paradoxically restrict the very demographic it aims to support.
Akinbode Oluwafemi of CAPPA pointed out: “As it stands, the loan only caters for tuition fees even as prospective loan applicants must provide at least two guarantors – civil servants (minimum grade 12), a lawyer with at least 10 years post-call experience, a judicial officer or a Justice of Peace.
“How many indigent families have access to this sort of network or even the resources to cater to this sundry charges associated with teritiary education amid the economic downtime and sharp falls in living standards?
“We argue among other observations that this guarantor system serves to solidify existing inequalities. It is also worth mentioning here that despite the rich funding streams articulated for managing the loan, its disbursement is suprisignly premised on the whims of fund availability leading us to wonder if indeed this scheme will improve access to public higher education in Nigeria.”
He further said that previous governments in the country had established student loan mechanisms in the past with the goal of improving access to higher education, stressing that such schemes fell short, failing to deliver expected results or even provide accountability for the funds accumulated.
He asked: “What factors make this current initiative stand apart from past efforts?”
He warned the government not to implement the scheme because it risks further marginalizing vulnerable groups, particularly those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, thus reinforcing existing social inequalities in the higher education system.
Besides, the group agreed that intead of “this indirect privatization of the education industry,” the government should quickly adress issues like the dilapitaded educational infrastructure, poor budgetary allocation to education, and insufficient staff remuneration, which they argued were fundamental problems plaguing higher education in Nigeria that the loan scheme cannot resolve.
“These condtions highlight the futility of the loan in the face of deeper systematic problems. We fear that this loan scheme may result in escalated tuition costs, which is already a growing concern, thus further undermining access to affordable and quality education further.
“How can we bridge the gaps between poilicymaking and reality in Nigeria? How can we prioritize accessible, affordable, and equitable education?