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Students’ Loan: ASUU, SSANU, NANS-D Speak On Students’ Loan


Students’ Loan: ASUU, SSANU, NANS-D Speak On Students’ Loan

Daily Independent

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s recent approval of the Access to Ter­tiary Education Act, oth­erwise known as the Stu­dent Loan Act, may turn out to be a booby-trap for many young Nigerians as­piring to acquire tertiary education, stakeholders in the education sector have warned.

They argue that the signing of the bill into law was hasty, lacked proper deliberations, and ran contrary to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that speci­fied that all public institutions in Nigeria are tuition-free.

Recall the Nigerian govern­ment has earlier explained that the Act is aimed at providing interest-free loans to Nigerians seeking higher education.

Part of the conditions set out in the Act limits beneficiaries to children or wards of parents whose annual income is not more than N500,000 (less than $1,000).

Another condition also re­stricts the loan to payment of tuition fees which, as of now, is non-existent across many ter­tiary institutions owned by the federal government.

Also, it stated that the loan, proposed to take off in Septem­ber, is expected to be repaid two years after completion of the National Youth Service.

In his reaction to the Act, the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Uni­versities (ASUU), Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, described the introduction of the Student Loan Act as an action that could put on hold the aspirations of many young Nigerians that are dependent on public institutions to acquire tertiary education.

Acknowledging that the union is yet to have access to the accurate copy of the law signed by President Tinubu, the ASUU President, in a press interview, said it could be a ploy to intro­duce tuition that is non-existent in public federal universities as the government might come up with another Act that will formally introduce tuition fee, saying the move is not new as the union had raised strong objection to it when it was in­troduced by former President Muhammad Buhari.

He said: “A country where more than 133 million are living below the poverty line and you want to introduce tuition fees? It will be counterproductive.

“Every Nigerian should know what is going to happen next and there may likely be an­other bill waiting for signatures that will introduce tuition fees.

“If the bill indicated that the loan is to pay tuition fees and there are no tuition fees in Nige­rian universities, then what is your next approach?”

Corroborating the position of ASUU on the Act, Olusiji Sowan­de, the National Treasurer of the Academic Staff Union of Univer­sities (ASUU), who spoke during a panelist discussion, affirmed the position of the union on the matter, noting that if it is wel­comed by Nigerians the union would wait for its consequences.

While educating Nigerians on what many considered as tuition paid in public schools, Sowande reiterated that no public univer­sity in Nigeria pays tuition, and that what students pay are sun­dry charges such as medical fees, identification card charge, hostel accommodation fees where it is available, and so on.

The umbrella body of stu­dents of tertiary institutions at home and abroad, the National Association Of Nigerian Stu­dents-Diaspora (NANSD) has been full of commendations to the administration of President Ahmed Tinubu for fulfilling his promise to students.

NANS-D in a reaction sent to Sunday Independent lauded the gesture of the administration in a statement titled: “NANS Diaspora Appreciate President Tinubu Over Students Friendly Policy”.

It said: “The leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students -Diaspora (NANS-D), led by Comrade Ab­dulrazak Abdulrahman Abuba­kar, deeply appreciates Mr. Pres­ident, His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for your commitment towards the Nige­rian Students Community. The signing of the student loan bill marks the beginning of a new dawn for Nigerian students.”

Abubakar appealed to the President to extend the loan facility to Nigerian students in Diaspora, saying they are not living in paradise.

His words: “Mr. President, the Nigerian students in the Diaspo­ra hope that the new educational system would also cover the Ni­gerian students in the Diaspora because, in the real sense, the Nigerian Students in Diaspora are not living in paradise.

“For instance, one of the chal­lenges that we are confronted with is the challenge of tuition funds remittance through form A.

“Form A is a medium through which foreign students access foreign exchange at the of­ficial rate rather than sourcing extra finances in other to get the same from the parallel market on order to settle all their academic bills and expenses.

“The unbearable hiccups, therefore, remain the challenge of responsiveness and delay from the Nigerian banks in re­mitting the funds to the student’s respective institutions and ac­counts.

“It is because of these that we join forces with our sister associ­ation in Nigeria NANS to suggest Form M as an alternative solu­tion to solve the Form A issues as a viable solution to the chal­lenge of funds remittance to the student’s international accounts and institutions.

“With this stride, our hope is renewed that we have a govern­ment that cares for Nigerian Stu­dents. Once again, we say thank you, Mr. President.”

In the same vein, Akinteye Babatunde, the National Vice President, External Affairs, of the National Association of Nige­rian Students (NANS) applauded the bill but raised objections to the likelihood of the introduc­tion of tuition or current fees paid by students.

Admitting that the Act, if committedly implemented, would benefit “many students in this country that are strug­gling because of fees,” Akinteye warned that the student body would not accept any move by the government to increase ex­isting fees in universities.

Unions Envisage Commercialisa­tion Of Education

In his opposition to the gov­ernment-imposed Act, Abdus­sobur Salaam, the National Vice President of the Senior Staff As­sociation of Nigerian Universi­ties (SSANU), expressed worries that the Student Loan Act was being forced on Nigerians with­out “due consultations”, adding that it may lead to additional burden on students and parents and open fresh opportunities for corruption.

He said the requirements to access the loans, as highlighted in the Act, would make it difficult for Nigerians to benefit and that those who may benefit are also threatened to begin payment two years after graduation.

“We need to review this Act before accepting it with open arms. But as far as I am con­cerned, it is a recipe for disaster,” Salaam said.

Sponsor Defends Bill

Kunle Somoye, former Spe­cial Assistant to the immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabi­amila (sponsor of the bill), in his presentation on a Twitter panel, said the law was a product of a demanding process that he noted involved the convocation of an education summit by the parlia­ment.

He said apart from the sum­mit and the public hearing con­ducted ahead of the passage of the bill, the lawmaker also en­sured that fees currently charged by various public tertiary insti­tutions across the country were considered and the average mea­sured before setting the rules.

He said: “We moved around the country and prepared mem­os on fees obtainable across the country in various schools. We didn’t stop at that; consultations were made.

“All these efforts were geared towards ending the perennial strikes by workers in our tertiary institutions.

“It is common knowledge that the former speaker and now the Chief of Staff to President Bola Tinubu is a lover of education and has always been at the fore­front of any efforts towards ame­liorating the pains of students and their parents.

“So, I strongly believe that the law can be improved, but you can agree with me that the intent and purpose behind it are noble.”

Reacting to the Act, National Coordinator of Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Hassan Sowe­to, who was opposed to what he called ‘Greek Gift’ assured Nige­rians that the rights group would convene a public briefing on the development in the coming days.

“Proponents of this law argue that Nigeria doesn’t have enough resources to fund education, so they introduced the loan. Ni­geria has the resources to fund education; we only need to stop the waste by the political class,” he said.

A concerned parent with two children in the university, Mr. Ajani Popoola, frowned at the placement of additional burdens on parents and guardians and ap­pealed to the federal government not to use the Act as a ploy to re­move subsidies on education in the country.

He said: “We are still strug­gling with the removal of sub­sidy on petrol, increasing cost of living, an astronomical rise in food prices and accommoda­tion, high cost of transportation and vehicle maintenance and the impending commercialization of the education sector.

“We cannot afford private university education. If the Loan Act is well-intentioned so be it.

“Otherwise, the government should allow the status quo to remain without using the Act as a sledgehammer that will take education away from the masses.”

He added that the commer­cialization of tertiary education will not augur well for the coun­try and appealed to the govern­ment to go beyond the good work of TETFund by voting more money for the sector

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