The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has urged the Federal Government to covert the 50 billion naira budgeted for student loan scheme to grants.
President of ASUU, Emmanuel Osodeke, who was a guest on Channels Television’s Hard Copy on Friday, cited the burden of paying back the loan in a country where jobs are not guaranteed after graduation as the reason for the Union’s suggestion.
The ASUU president suggested that allocating the 50 billion naira as grants would have had more impact and be a humane investment in the education of Nigerian students.
“If the issue is just N50 billion, why can’t we convert that N50 billion as a country like Nigeria to grants for the children of the very poor? Let’s give to those who cannot afford it, not give them as a loan that becomes a liability for them before they even graduate and not sure of getting a job,” ASUU President, Osodeke, said.
“We are thinking of the Nigerian people, those who cannot afford it, those children who are in the villages whose parents earn less than N30,000 a month. If it is just about 50 billion, the Nigerian government should give that 50 billion as grants to the students rather than giving it as a loan that will encumbrance them in the future and could make them start going to crime, in order to pay for this loan.”
Reflecting on past attempts to introduce a student loan, Osodeke questioned its success, pointing out that such initiatives had failed twice before.
Osodeke added that the conditions attached to the loan would not be accessible to students in rural areas.
“In such a country where you easily have access to job after graduation cannot pay it back and they are suffering, or people committing suicide. Is it in Nigeria where the children are sure that even in 10 years, you might not get the employment that they can pay back the loan?” he said.
“Look at the conditionality, which level 12 officer will sign for the children of the poor in the village to get access to the loan? How much was budgeted this year? — 50 billion…how many people will 50 billion go to as loan?”
Recall that President Bola Tinubu signed the student loan bill into law on June 12.
The law is to provide easy access to higher education for indigent Nigerians through interest-free loans from the Nigerian Education Loan Fund.
Tinubu in October announced that the scheme would commence in January 2024, with the Federal Government voting N50bn for the programme in the 2024 budget.