ERC: WE CONDEMN THE NEWLY SIGNED STUDENT LOAN ACT!
WE CONDEMN THE PLAN TO INTRODUCE TUITION FEES IN TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS
STUDENTS AND EDUCATION WORKERS MUST BE READY TO STRUGGLE AGAINST THIS ANTI-POOR POLICY
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) strongly condemns the newly-signed students’ act by the Bola Tinubu led administration. It is nothing but an attempt to send students of poor background into generational indebtedness while transferring the responsibility of funding public education to students. We, therefore, call on Nigerian students, education workers’ unions, the labour movement, and the generality of Nigerians to reject the students’ loan act.
It should be recalled that the federal government has declared its intention to introduce tuition fees across tertiary institutions, something which means a planned increase in payable school fees. So, the loan scheme is to create an impression that it has taken care of students who cannot afford the obnoxious school fees. We call on students and working people not fall for this deceit.
The fact is that the vast majority of students will not be eligible for the loan or able to fulfill the condition for it. This is because by the act only students whose parents’ income totals N500,000 or less annually are qualified for the loan. This means that any student whose parental monthly income is N42,000 or above is not eligible for the loan. By the current high cost of living, high inflation and devaluation of naira, the national minimum wage must be much higher than N42,000 at the moment. This means that children of workers on what should be the minimum wage are not eligible for the loan. In any case, by the prevailing economic reality how is a family surviving on less than even N100,000 not within the poverty line? Yet they are not qualified for the loan!
Moreover, the fact is that there is no guarantee that even the students who collect the loan will be able to get employment after graduation to be able to pay repay the loan. This means that it will be difficult for even the eligible students to get a lawyer or civil servant to serve as a guarantor for the loan and thereby not being able to meet requirements for the loan.
Even, if the Student Loan Act is reviewed such that the encumbrance to eligibility we noted above is removed, the scheme should still be rejected.
At the moment, the unemployment rate for university graduates in Nigeria is at 25% according to the World Bank. This is as a result of the failure of the successive capitalist governments with their structural adjustment program or neo-liberal capitalist agenda of the last three decades.
Therefore, without any guarantee of employment after graduation, a majority of students that take the loan may find themselves burdened by a massive debt but without a good-paying job to easily pay back thereby leading to a situation where every little income that comes to them goes into servicing a usurious loan whose interest will continue to increase, thereby locking people in a permanent debt-trap. This is not the kind of future Nigeria’s youth deserve!
Practical examples from all over the world show the failure of such students’ debt schemes. Presently, the USA which is popular for such schemes is coming to the end of a student loan repayment freeze introduced in early 2020 because a lot of people could not afford to get gainfully employed or pay their debts. This means that, for the Nigerian government, the only gain from this bill is the increment of school fees, while students and workers stand to gain nothing especially in times of crisis.
Moreover, the fact that the government is planning to use the revenue from the fees to run public schools means that the school fees will be not be affordable for students from the working class families. This must be resisted.
Therefore, we again call on students, working people, education workers and the labour movement to reject the loan scheme and be prepared to resist the planned increase in school fees at public higher institutions which are already bedeviled with deepening commercialisation. Rather, we call on them to demand and fight for adequate funding of public education at all levels. For instance, funds meant for the planned Education Bank should be redirected at providing infrastructures and facilities needed to guarantee to quality public education. However, in order to ensure judicious use of the allocation and finances of public tertiary institutions we call for democratic management involving elected representatives of education workers and students who can be recalled by their electors.
Deputy National Coordinator.
Adaramoye Michael Lenin,
National Mobilization Officer.