The Federal Government on Wednesday insisted that its Student Loan Scheme is still on track to commence this month.
This was as it said students who apply through its soon-to-be-completed website can access the facility within 30 days.
“January is a reality. Already the website is almost done. Application for beneficiaries is going to be online…and you can access your loan within 30 days,” said the Minister of State for Education, Dr Yusuf Sununu, who briefed State House Correspondents after the first Federal Executive Council meeting for 2024.
On June 12, 2023, President Bola Tinubu signed the Student Loan Bill into law.
The move was in “fulfilment of one of his campaign promises to liberalise funding of education,” a member of the then Presidential Strategy Team, Dele Alake, told journalists.
The law enables indigent students to access loans at interest-free rates.
Declaring the 29th session of the annual Nigeria Economic Summit in Abuja open on October 23, 2023, the President said, “By January 2024, the new Students Loan Programme must commence. To the future of our children and students, we’re saying no more strikes!”
However, with less than two weeks to the end of January, concerns continued to grow on the reality of the scheme.
Fielding questions on the issue on Wednesday, Sununu said the scheme was on course and would commence this month as promised.
He said,“The criteria for you is to get your admission, to be in Nigeria, and find yourself in a public school. If you are qualified, you have to apply online, which will be processed in a timely manner, and you can access your loan within 30 days.
“Fund has been set aside in the 2024 budget and the supplementary budget 2023. The essence is to increase and ease access to students who want to procure their higher education in Nigeria. And it’s also mainly for tertiary institutions.”
Earlier, Sununu disclosed that the Ministry of Education presented a note to the council, prepared by the ministry and the National Universities Commission, on the guidelines for implementing transnational education in Nigeria.
He explained that the scheme would allow foreign degree-awarding institutions the room to set base in Nigeria, employ local talent, admit local students and lessen the pressure on existing higher institutions of learning.
Explaining the rationale for this, he cited Nigeria as a member of the World Trade Organisation since 1995 and a signatory to the General Agreement of Trade in Services, which was signed in 1995. He argued that such trade services included documented education that was exportable across borders.
“We are all aware of the effort of Mr. President to increase access to education with a greater number of graduates and secondary school leavers seeking to be graduates or undergraduates in our tertiary institutions.
“Placement is becoming a serious issue and therefore, the ministry came up with a transnational education policy. What it means is cross-fertilisation of ideas, so that progressive education can be done across borders,” said Sununu.
He added, “The documents provide a guideline whereby foreign institutions can collaborate with local institutions within the country or establish a campus within the country.
“Economically, transnational education would decrease the pressure on the naira as it exchanges with the dollar. This is the justification presented to the council, and the council graciously noted the presentation of the document so that it can be implemented to increase access to tertiary education in Nigeria.”
He said the scheme comes with no monetary cost to the FG. Instead, it will “attract funds to government.”
“So if you have a campus in Nigeria, you will get the certificate of that same institution. And the quality in terms of education and service delivery will be as standardised as that obtained in the parent institution.
“So to curb the issue of fake certification that we have been battling with, that is why we have sat down and come up with a policy document for you to establish a campus within the country; you must agree and be able to satisfy 100 per cent the provision of the guidelines, as rightly noted by the FEC,” he added.