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Nigeria’s Proposed Student Loan Scheme Designed to Enrich Private Varsity Owners, ASUU Claims

“We believe that with discipline, the Nigerian state can fund education adequately.”

The Academic Staff Union of Universities on Saturday described the student loan set up by Nigeria’s federal government as a plan to enrich a few individuals who own private universities in the country.
The National President of ASUU, Emmanuel Osodeke, who was represented by his deputy, Christopher Piwuna, stated this while speaking to journalists in Bauchi on the sidelines of the award of scholarship to undergraduate students in Bauchi Zone of the union held at the ATBU, Yelwa Campus.
He said if the government was sincere in its intentions, the proposed student loan should be made a grant instead of a loan.

He said: “Right from the start, we believe that the Nigerian state is capable of funding education in Nigeria. All these issues that have led to the introduction of the loan, the issues of charges in our universities, are as a result of poor funding. So, this particular effort by the government is supposed to meet that funding gap in the universities.
“We believe that with discipline, the Nigerian state can fund education adequately. From recent happenings in the country, where, for instance, one member of the National Assembly can take just a part of his allowances would include a N160 million, is a clear sign that if the Nigerian atate is serious, it can fund education.

“The leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan, I think, tried to demonstrate that, when his administration agreed to release N200 billion in 2013 as part of the NEEDS Assessment and till this day, 10 years after the release of that money, we still see what that money is doing in this system.
“Just imagine if the government takes this funding seriously. So, we are against the student loan as a form of funding education, we think the loan will go back into the coffers of private individuals who are in government today who own private universities. If the government is serious, they should make grants to institutions and students.”
Speaking earlier in his speech during the scholarship award presentation to 19 indigent students in Bauchi Zone, the ASUU National President said, “We just want to show the government that we believe that the resources are available to take care of education.
“Parents are failing in their responsibilities and their responsibility is to join us to ensure that this system is better but you fold your hands to watch us. But we want you to be part of this struggle, tell other parents. We don’t expect anything from you, All we want is for you to join hands with us to ensure that the system is better for the future.”

Speaking to the awardees, he said: “From today, you have become ASUU Ambassadors, we expect that, on your campuses, you’ll do what ASUU does and what ASUU does is: One, we protect our members, their interests and everything that concerns them. Their relationship with their employers, their relationship within the campus and anything that will advance their welfare is what ASUU does.
“Another thing that ASUU does is to protect the interest of Nigerians. Let it be on record that, we have no interest whatsoever, to please any government. Our goal is not to please any government, our goal is not to play to the interest of the government.

 “And so we want to reassure Nigerians particularly Nigerian students that as your parents, as your mentors, as those who guide you, we will continue to look after you and this scholarship today is one of the many things that we will continue to do.
“Our constitution in ASUU stipulates that we will continue to have interest in socioeconomic and cultural policies of the government and how it affects Nigerians. That is one responsibility we have no plans whatsoever under whatever condition to let go. We will continue to fight for Nigeria, we will continue to fight for the educational system in this country.”
The Zonal Coordinator of ASUU, Lazarus Maigoro, who said that for 2023, the Bauchi zone of the union is giving 19 indigent students a scholarship apart from the 12 already awarded by the national body in the six universities that constitute the zone.

He said the union decided to initiate this yearly scholarship award because of the predicament of the indigent students who are sometimes prevented from writing examinations on the basis of not being able to pay their school fees/charges as the case may be thereby truncating their future.
“It is worthy to note that many students have dropped out of school due to the inability of their parents to pay their school fees or charges. This indigent student’s scholarship funded solely by ASUU either at the national level or branch level has continued to support students towards the attainment of their educational objectives.
“I can authoritatively say without mincing words that as we teach these students in the classroom, we notice quite a number who are distressed due to the very harsh economic realities of our country.

“It is for this reason that ASUU totally rejects the idea of the student’s loan but students grant instead of loan which should not be paid back. The question is, who will pay the loan? What is the fate of those who cannot access it? The psychological trauma the students will be subjected to due to the loan while still on studies will affect their performance negatively.
“The thought that they will graduate with a loan of 4 million naira and above without the capacity to pay back is another psychological torture on them. Furthermore, those who cannot access the loan due to the stringent conditions attached virtually means dropping out of school.

“Currently, in view of the hike in school fees or charges in public universities all over the country, many students have not been able to resume. ASUU Bauchi zone is working on getting theqqx xqstatistics of students who may likely drop out of school at the end of the current session with the hope of making government review its decision on the issue of the loan and replace it with grants.

“In the case of federal universities, the Government seem to have abandoned its constitutional responsibility of funding universities and left it at the discretion of the various governing councils of the universities to review it at will thereby making some students drop out of school.

The ATBU Branch Chairperson, Inuwa Ibrahim, reiterated ASUU’s dedication to advocating for quality tertiary education and pledged the continuation of the annual scholarship program adding that the award which is a yearly event will always seek out brilliant but indigent students for recognition and award.

Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi

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