Students, parents call for commencement of student loan act amid tuition fee hikes
Students in tertiary institutions in Nigeria, along with parents, have called on the Federal Government to hasten the commencement of the student loan act as tertiary schools continue to hike tuition fees.
Recall that President Bola Tinubu on Monday 12th June 2023 signed into law a bill that provides interest-free loans for Nigerian students to fund their tertiary education. The student loan act allows students installment repayment two years after completion of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme.
Before the President assented to the student loan bill, it was first introduced into the National Assembly in 2016 by the immediate former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila. The student loan act was later reintroduced into the house in 2019, before earning the general acceptance of the lawmakers in November 2022.
Meanwhile, there has been no sign of preparation for the commencement of the student loan, even for the students who have resumed academic sessions already, though the government promised the loan will be available in September 2023. According to the government, the eligibility for the student loan includes all students in government-owned tertiary institutions whose parents earn less than 500,000 Naira.
However, since the announcement of the student loan act, many tertiary institutions have skyrocketed their tuition fees, which raised concerns among Nigerian students. The institutions that reviewed their fees upwards include, but are not limited to, the University of Lagos, University of Ibadan, Bayero University Kano, University of Benin, and Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State.
Even though, following the increased school fees among schools across Nigeria, the Federal Government has publicly refuted rumours that the government has removed subsidies on education, claiming the sector is still enjoying government subsidies.
However, in a series of interviews with The Guardian, students and parents implored the government to hasten the execution of the student loan as many tertiary institutions increased fees in the new academic calendar.
According to Temitayo Teniola, a 200-Level student at the University of Lagos, the hike in school fees will discourage people from furthering tertiary education. She said: “Young adults of nowadays prefer to learn soft skills or handwork instead of going for tertiary education for four years; hence with the hike in school fees, it will encourage people to not take school seriously.”
While appealing to the government on the accessibility of the loan, Teniola said: “They should have started the student loans even before the academic calendar, so it will be convenient for students to access. “Because right now, they can’t access the student loan, and the actual reason for the student loan is not actualized.” She added. The Unilag student confirmed that her tuition fees skyrocketed from 16,000 Naira to 196,000 Naira for the new academic session.
Kawthar Busari, a Bayero University Kano (BUK) student whose fees increased from 33,500 Naira to 100,000 Naira, said she believed the student loan act will increase education standards among tertiary institutions in Nigeria. She also said, “As a result of paying these fees, even in a federal institution, I believe the lecturer could maybe treat us as students, not opportunists; they (lecturers) think we don’t deserve such education or because we’re getting it cheaper.”
Busari, whose academic calendar has started at BUK, said she’s no longer anticipating the student loan, claiming she now lacks interest in the loan. She pleaded with the government to make the loan available for interested people and ensure means of payment are easy for the loan beneficiaries.
On his own part, Idris Abdullahi, a Mechatronics Engineering student of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAB), submitted that the student loan act will encourage more students to pursue tertiary education, but its commencement is getting too late.
According to him, the loan will also improve the standard of tertiary education in the country. He also lamented the unavailability of the loan amid tuition fee hikes. Abdullahi said, “The commencement of the student loan should have started because most students attending public universities are from the middle class or lower class family.” He, however, added that “The student loan act is going to reduce the rate at which students drop out from school due to financial constraints.”
Similarly, Rejoice Eruoghe, a student of Yaba College of Technology, Yabatech, alluded to the student loan as a check against the dropout rate and a mechanism to boost education standards in the country.
To Eruoghe, “The student loan is actually a good initiative, something that in years to come will be of greater good, but it can only encourage students to go into education if the loan is not too high and the payment plan is flexible, something that even the common man can work with.”
Speaking on the accessibility of the loan, he said: “Definitely, it will improve the standard of education and make students want to adopt the idea of getting a loan that will see them through school. But then the government should make it something that can be afforded because you cannot increase school fees and other fees and still make the student loan something difficult to access; that’s too much for the students.
When lamenting the unavailability of the loan after many announcements followed by tuition fee hikes, the Yabatech student said: “I think it should have started before the commencement of the academic year, but nevertheless since it’s an initiative that’s just coming up, it can be implemented, and with time, people will get used to it.”
Additionally, Sheriff Amusa, a 200-Level student at the University of Ilorin, said the zero interest of the loan will encourage the poor to pursue university education. He argued that the loan will have an impact on education standards in the country, claiming the problem of the Nigerian education sector is multifaceted and arises from secondary education.
Amusa, however, hoped that the government will make necessary provisions for the availability of the loan to needy students. He said: “Yes, it ought to have commenced earlier, but I think many things delayed it, including the delays in appointing ministers.
He continued: “Well, I hope the presidency and the national assembly will work on lifting laws that placed stringent conditions on students intending to access the loan. “The loan would serve as succour to many who might have dropped out as a result of not being able to pay the increased school charges.” He said.
To amplify the students’ plea to the government, parents who have children in tertiary institutions also expressed their concerns over the government’s silence on the student loan act while the new academic calendar begins with increased tuition fees.
Responding to questions on the student loan act, Mr Salami Bello, a civil servant whose son studies at the University of Ilorin, said the student loan act has nothing to do with the improvement of the low education system in the country.
He further advocated for the quick commencement of the loan, saying: “My son is in Unilorin, and they were already in session when it was announced, I think it should commence before the start of the next academic session.”
Similarly, Oveh Joseph, a photographer, said the government’s initial plan to give a loan will encourage people who are educationally inclined but lack resources to pursue their dream.
Joseph expressed his optimism for the student loan, according to him, “Right from the initial stage, it was a known fact that if at all the student loan was signed into law. Joseph continued: “Of course, there would be a hike in the school fees of federal institutions, so it’s no news that it’s taking effect already. My anticipation, however, is that starting from the next academic calendar, it should take effect.” “The goal of the government amongst many other things, should be to allow the poor to breathe.” He concluded.
Moreover, Mr Tunde Oba, whose child studies at the University of Lagos, said the government has to be more ready and intentional about adequate database management to make the student loan act effective. The civil servant advised the government to keep adequate data of the students like other foreign countries that provide loans for students.
According to him, speaking on students on programmes that have no access to the loan yet, he said: “This is not rocket science, yet it seems impossible. The government still needs to be serious about student database management to make this work.” Mr Oba said database management will checkmate any defects of successful execution of the student loan act, such as bank loan errors, equal distribution of the loan, repayment feasibility, and matching the loan with individual needs of the students.
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