ASUU urges Tinubu to Modify Student Loans Act
ASUU, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, has called on President Bola Tinubu to change the newly assented Students Loans Act to make it a grant for indigent students. The ASUU President, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, made the call yesterday, Sunday, July 18, on Channel Television’s Sunday Politics programme.
“This would have been better if we are giving it to those set of students who are very poor, it should be called a grant, not a loan,” Osodeke said. “It should be called a grant since it is coming from the Federation Account and not that (after) these people have access it and when they are graduating, they have heavy loads behind them and within two years, if they don’t pay, they go to jail.”
The Students Loan Bill was sponsored by Femi Gbajabiamila, who is now Tinubu’s Chief of Staff, and was signed into law on Monday by Tinubu. It provides for interest-free loans to poor Nigerian students. However, Osodeke said the loan is impracticable and “not sustainable”.
“The idea of student loan came in 1972 and it was in a bank established. People who took loans never paid, you can go and investigate,” he said. “In 1994, 1993, the military enacted Decree 50 also set up a Students’ Loan Board. The National Assembly domesticated it in 2004 and within a year, it went off. The money disappeared. We want to see how this one will be different.”
According to him, there are more than one million students in Nigerian public universities and the loan cannot adequately cater for students’ tuition. “We, as a union also did research of countries all over the world, of people who have benefited from this loan, they were committing suicide,” he said. “Recently, (President Joe) Biden is trying to pay back the bank loans of some who borrowed in the US. It is better to look for alternative means of funding education than encumber students whose parents earn N30,000 a month with a loan.”
Osodeke suggests that instead of a loan, the federal government should increase its budget for education to 15% in compliance with the UNESCO standard. He also recommended that the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) should be expanded to cover all public universities and that the government should adopt the Goodluck Jonathan administration’s policy of educational grants rather than loans.
In conclusion, Osodeke emphasized that ASUU is not opposed to policies aimed at improving the quality of education for Nigerian students. However, he stressed the importance of ensuring that such policies reflect Nigeria’s current socio-economic situation.