Stakeholders in the education sector have described the Student Loan Scheme recently signed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu as an unworkable piece of legislation that should be scrapped.
They made the comment at a forum organized by the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) in Lagos, Friday.
Recall that on June 12, less than two weeks after his inauguration as president, Tinubu signed the Student Loan Bill into law, which according to his aide, Dele Alake, would enable Nigerian students to access loans at interest-free rates.
CAPPA then brought parents, students, lecturers, education rights activists and other stakeholders in the sector to brainstorm on the loan scheme. The topic was: “Will student loans increase access to public higher education in Nigeria?”
Earlier, CAPPA Presented its finding of a clause-by-clause analysis of the loan scheme and found several disqualifying factors. One of them is the income cap, which is captured under Section 14(b). The section states that to qualify for the loan, an applicant or family’s income must be less N500, 000 per annum.
The NGO says the provision neglects the economic realities in Nigeria. It says that provision means the exclusion of the least paid employee in the public service who earns N30,000 as the minimum wage.
Also, the loan scheme, as reflected in Section 13, only caters for ‘tuition fees. CAPPA says this provision, therefore, suggests a plan to introduce tuition fees in universities and other tertiary institutions, which would raise the cost of education significantly for other students who do not qualify for the student loan.
The NGO also noted that despite the tuition-free policy, students of government-owned higher institutions pay a series of charges and levies generally called school fees.
The advocacy body says if the student loan is meant to cater for tuition fees alone, how does an indigent student find money to cater for the other fee regime?
Other disqualifying factors, the NGO noted, include the guarantors that an applicant is expected to present.
To qualify for the loan, an applicant is expected to have a public servant of not less than level 12, a lawyer with a post-call experience of 10 years or a justice of the peace as guarantor. CAPPA says economically disadvantageous families are not likely to have people in those classes to stand for them.
Among the speakers at the event are; Akinbode Oluwafemi, executive director at CAPPA, Zikora Ibeh, Policy and Research Officer also at CAPPA, Professor Adelaja Odukoya, zonal coordinator of ASUU, Gideon Adeyeni, spokesman of Education Rights Campaign, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, Deputy National President of National Parents Teachers Association of Nigeria, Juwon Sanyaolu, National Director, Take It Back, and Achike Chude, Executive Director of Joint Action Fronts, and many others.
Akinbode argues that the student loan scheme if allowed to stand, would further marginalize vulnerable groups, particularly those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
In calling for the scrapping of the student loan scheme, Zikora Ibeh recommended higher funding for education and ensuring greater accountability and efficient utilization of TETFUND and other intervention programme of the government.
Professor Odukoya says the poor funding of education is so bad, leading to many lecturers quitting for other high-paying jobs. He said in the University of Lagos, not less than five lecturers quit every week, leaving the university understaffed.
Gideon Adeyeni says the ruling elite have turned education to a commodity that can be sold to the highest bidder. He said that mindset is dangerous. According to him, education is a social service that improves societal standing which the government must fund.
Achike Chude says it is shocking that the government is daily seeking to divest away from governance.
He quoted a permanent secretary in the education ministry suggesting a private-public partnership arrangement for universities. He said if that is allowed to happen, Nigerians would wake up one morning and find that all the universities have been handed to businessmen to run.
Source: The Niche NG