Nigeria’s new student loan scheme has faced criticism from officials of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), and other concerned individuals. The scheme, officially known as the Access to Tertiary Education Act or Student Loan Act, aims to provide interest-free loans to Nigerian students pursuing higher education. However, there have been mixed reactions to the Act and its conditions.
One of the contentious conditions set by the Act is that the loan beneficiaries must be children or dependents of parents with an annual income not exceeding N500,000 (less than $1,000). Additionally, the loan is limited to covering tuition fees, which are currently nonexistent in many federal government-owned tertiary institutions.
ASUU and SSANU officials have expressed their opposition to the Act. ASUU’s National Treasurer, Olusiji Sowande, clarified that no federal government-owned university currently charges tuition fees, raising concerns about the possible introduction of tuition fees under the new administration. SSANU’s National Vice President, Abdussobur Salaam, criticized the lack of consultations and highlighted potential burdens and corruption risks associated with the Act.
Defending the Act, Kunle Somoye, a former Special Assistant to the immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, emphasized the rigorous process that led to its creation. He explained that consultations and considerations of existing fees in public tertiary institutions were undertaken to address ongoing strikes and improve the educational system.
However, other panelists, including representatives from the Campaign for Workers’ and Youths’ Alternative (CWA) and the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), raised concerns that the Act could lead to fee increases and shift the responsibility of funding education to students and their parents. They argued that the government should allocate resources to education and public health services instead.
Despite the mixed reactions, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and some social change campaigners expressed support for the student loan program but opposed potential fee increases. NANS called for dialogue with the government to address concerns and ensure the success of the program.
The Nigerian government has announced that the implementation of the student loan scheme will begin in September. As the debate surrounding the Act continues, further discussions and evaluations will likely take place to address the concerns raised and determine the future of the student loan scheme in Nigeria.