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Stakeholders insist education bank will do no harm to public varsities

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Professor Pat Utomi. PHOTO: Youtube


Stakeholders in the education sector yesterday spoke in support of the proposed education bank by the federal government describing it as a good omen for the revitalisation of the sector.

However, their position sharply contradicted that of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which alleged that the proposal was a ploy by government to hike fees in public universities, and invariably deprived indigent students university education.Former vice chancellor, Caleb University, Prof Ayodeji Olukoju, Founder, Centre for Values in Leadership, Prof. Pat Utomi and former Niger State Governor, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu posited that the introduction of an education bank would assist in developing the sector.

Prof Olukoju who described the proposal as ‘long overdue’ said government can introduce the scheme without necessarily increasing fees.He said,” Education is such an expensive enterprise that government on its own cannot fund it; if it must provide quality education that is also affordable; in other words, we need more than government support to adequately fund the sector. Besides, we are doing what I call ‘massification’, we are increasing enrolment but we are not increasing staff strength and facilities in the universities. Putting all these together, there is a big crisis. The idea of an education bank, just like the Bank of Agriculture; and Bank of Industry is long overdue.

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However, the concept must be well thought out and properly implemented. “For example, my idea of an education bank is where for example the private university go to take loan at a reduced percentage, If you want to go to law or medical school and you cannot afford it, you can go there and take a loan, it is done in other countries of the world. Government can provide avenue to fund education without necessarily increasing fees, the former vice chancellor stated.

On his part, Prof Utomi said education bank would do no harm to the sector, as that is what is obtainable in developed climes.According to him, “There is nothing with education banking. In many countries, most students pursue higher education on students loan after which they pay back. So if government is mooting the idea, it is a good one for the education sector.”Aliyu pointed out that establishing it would lead to an improvement in the standard of education and give more impetus to educational infrastructure.
 
But the Director of Press, Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja, Willie Bassey, who wondered why ASUU will criticise the proposal said, “The proposal came out as a communiqué from the National Council on Education’s conference. It has not taken off, they are still working out modalities on how it will function, why will anybody criticise what is yet to take off? He queried.For over a decade, calls for the establishment of Nigerian Education Bank has been on, but not much has happened in this direction despite groups and influential individuals lending their voices to the call.
 
The 1993 Nigerian Education Bank Act mandates establishment of Nigerian Education Bank to approve and disburse loans for educational purposes and for matters connected therewith.Though the bank has long been given legal backing by the Supreme Court, but the legal pronouncement was never implemented.
 
The education bank as proposed would among others meet the financial needs of less privileged teachers and students and enable average Nigerians achieve their educational goals. It will also go a long way in alleviating the suffering of poor Nigerians who cannot afford the services of the conventional banking system.
 
In June 2014, civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), accused the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan of “letting down millions of poor Nigerians by failing to implement court judgments on the right to education, the latest of which ordered the president to establish the Nigerian Education Bank that would enhance access of millions of disadvantaged children to education.”

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SERAP, in a statement, signed by the group’s executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni, in the wake of a Federal High Court judgment, said “Nigeria has the resources and capacity to establish the bank if the government is able to exercise the required political will. If President Jonathan seriously wants to end the phenomenon of Boko Haram, he should move swiftly to establish the Nigerian Education Bank.”
 
“The judgment just delivered by the Hon. Justice M.B. Idris, of the Federal High Court, Lagos ordering President Goodluck Jonathan to establish a Nigerian Education Bank is an important development in the efforts to achieve access to quality education for all Nigerian children. But we fear that the government will ignore this judgment just as it did regarding the ECOWAS Court right to education judgment.”
In the suit number FHC/L/CS/1122/11 dated 22 November 2011, and filed by the Falana and Falana Chambers, Justice Idris, held that, “The duty to establish the bank is mandatory and President Goodluck Jonathan cannot elect not to establish it.”
 
The judge had added that, “The failure by the president to do this is nothing but an act of arbitrariness,” stressing that, “It is apostasy for the government to ignore the provision of the law. Everyone, high or low must be prepared to justify his act by reference to some law, which authorises him to act precisely in the way in which he has acted.”Despite this judgement, the then administration of President Goodluck was unable to establish the education bank.


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