Reintroduction Of Student Loan, Credit Economy And Future Of Tertiary Education In Nigeria | Akinyemi Akinlabi

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    Around March 23rd, 2022, my article titled ASUU Strike and the need for tertiary education funding reform in Nigeria was published in many online journals in Nigeria some of which were: Insideoyo and Oyo Insight, In the said article, I elucidated the need for the then administration of President Muhammad Buhari to introduce interest free student loan as a panacea to the incessant annual ASUU strike, dwindling standard and industrial unrest in all our tertiary educational institutions in Nigeria.

    As a patriot and lover of education, I was glad when our new President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu signed the bill introducing the student loan into law on June 12, 2023. As a matter of truth, I didn’t know that there was a bill on this subject when I wrote the article. Neither did I know that there was student loan system in Nigeria in the 1970s. I just wrote based on what I saw and benefited from in the USA for my post graduate study. But ironically, the same act signed into law is being been criticized by some people. Most especially, institutions and bodies that will benefit most from it like Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP). The criticisms are possibly due to fear of the unknown as this concerns the breakdown of its potential and/or lack of knowledge and adequate information on how it’s going to work. Hence, the purpose of this write up which is to allay the likely fears and highlight most of the benefits derivable from the student loan system when fully in operation.

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    Speaking on Channels television last Sunday, the President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke stated that the student loan initiative was not sustainable because it was introduced in 1972 and it failed. Prof Osodeke was also of the opinion that it would lead to heavy loan burden on fresh graduates which might culminate in mass arrest and imprisonment of defaulters. He argued further that suicide would become an option for young beneficiaries who might have found it difficult to pay back as agreed. Just like the ASUU President, another speaker on the television condemned the loan processing system as well as the repayment plan as he understood it. In all of this, it is clear that there are more to the position of those opposing this initiative than meet the ordinary eye.

    Perhaps one of the greatest justification for the loud criticisms of this initiative is the bad attitude of most Nigerians which bothers on non-commitment to loan repayment. Apart from this, some religious beliefs is against taking any type of loans. As a matter of fact one writer came up with a photocopy of advertisement of loan defaulter list published in a newspaper in 1980. The writer submitted that this would be the plight of new federal government gesture student loan system. Answers to these are easy to come.by. Anyone whose religion is against student loan or credit taking may not apply for it. It is not mandatory to apply or request for it. Again, there is no country people don’t default on loans. People default students loan in UK, USA and Canada as well. However, with the introduction and adoption of digital profile of Nigerians with the National Identification Number (NIN) and Biodata Verification Number (BBN), the population of likely defaulters can be controlled and minimized. Needless to say that such digital profiling was not available in the 1970 and 1980s.

    The main fear of the academic unions ASUU and ASUP is based on the expected and inevitable reduction or stoppage of annual subvention being paid to the higher institutions by the various governments immediately the students loan system is put in place. This has been made clear by Andrew David Adejo, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education on Wednesday June 14th, 2023. Reason behind this is that tuitions will be paid directly to the higher institutions by the student’s loan board. This will be part of loans to be granted to the students. This means that the citadels of learning will be compelled to be frugal, disciplined and prudent in their financial management. By inference, it will grant full autonomy and independence to our higher institutions.

    In the real sense of it; government, students and their parents have a lot to gain from this new policy. The merits of this policy are too enormous to mention but the following seven will be elucidated. The ability and capability of the system to increase students’ performance cannot be overemphasized since the loan will not only pay their tuition, it will cover accommodation, books, transport, accommodation and feeding. Hence, students will be able to commit more time to reading, studying and research.

    The parents will obviously be free from looking for school fees and other needs of their adult students in higher institutions once such loans have been approved. However, parents who are able and capable of paying for their wards may not apply for the loan.
    The system will free students from sexual harassment and exploitation of their lecturers as its currently being reported all across our institutions. Apart from this, female students who depend on ‘Aristo and runs’ to survive and cope with academic life will have a credible and decent alternative to wayward life.style.

    Similar to the above are male students who engage in internet fraud and other vices in order to finance their education and life style. A student loan system will go a long way in reducing this social ill.
    Many people will not like to hear that tertiary education is extremely cheap in Nigeria. Yet, graduates of Nigeria University compete with their colleagues very well in performance internationally. However, the standard of education is gradually declining due to low morale of lecturers, lack of research materials, obsolete and outdated books among several other factors. Adequate funding of these institutions will lift the standard up above what it is currently.

    As mentioned in my article of last year, it will stop the perennial industrial action of the academic institutions permanently. All institutions will not have to go cap in hand to the various tiers of government for funding. Economic rate of tuitions will be collected and the management of such institutions will now base their spending mainly on tuitions collected in addition to occasional receipts of grants. The potential of the loan to over one million students in tertiary institutions in expanding consumption and boost investment in the economy cannot be emphasized enough. Again, the consumption expansion will also have multiplier effect on our national economy.

    Finally, it will make our students to imbibe credit policy which expands money in the economy and make life more comfortable and blissful to live. Such spirit of credit system will assist a lot in life when they become employed or become employers of labour searching for business loans. However, the success or failure of this policy will depend mostly on the government policy and those put in place to implement it. Success of applications should be based on merit not national character. Applications should be computer based and red tappism should be avoided. Most importantly, more information about this new policy should be made available to all stakeholders.

    Akinyemi Akinlabi
    Igboora, Oyo State
    Yemak01@aol.com

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