Students’ Loan Scheme – A Viewpoint

By: Ochi, Maduabuchi

A year ago, precisely in June 2023, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu proposed the student loan bill. The bill was a piece of legislation aimed at addressing financial constraints that hinder many students from gaining higher education. The bill was supposed to make education accessible to all students. A noble vision that seems good, but was by means a betrayal.

The first thing that needs to be pointed out is to highlight who the main beneficiaries of the scheme are. People who already have the money and have no interest in taking up the loan. This leaves the bulk of the idea of the loan to those who potentially cannot repay. They take on this debt to fund an education that is supposed to provide a job that will in turn make refunding possible.

But it is no secret that getting a degree in this day, or age does not guarantee a job. These debts would be taken up with no prospects of repayment. And with a minimum wage of just 30,000, even if the person does manage to get a job, it would still take several months to repay it, and that’s if they don’t spend anything from their newly gotten salary.

That, however, is impossible. People need to live. Most of the money would be spent on accommodation, feeding, and whatever other expenses may crop up. Meaning that it would be more realistic to think that repaying the loan would take years.

But a light needs to be shown on the very premise of the idea. If the goal is to make education accessible to all, why then were steps not taken to make education free? Each year the government consistently invests below what is recommended in the Education sector, and whatever does get invested often gets “lost in transit” leaving our universities with little.

And this student loan plan is the government attempting to avoid its duty of ensuring that the rights of its citizens are protected. Education is a right that every citizen is entitled to. They should not have to take on debt to have access to it. Just like how we do not take on debt to protect our right to freedom of speech.

This act does not have the interest of the citizens at heart. It places the people who are most in danger in a more precarious position and does little to protect them. And with the precedent they have already set in how they deal with funds, it makes little sense to expect much better in how this is handled.

It is an act that seems to be pulled out of the same playbook as the removal of fuel subsidies. They do not benefit the people as it was intended, but instead worsen the condition of the common man, endangering the poor who already can’t afford to survive.

It is not the first time such antipeople policies have been implemented in Nigeria. Looking back to 1985, during the reign of Babaginda the IMF-induced SAP program caused a similar devaluing of our currency and worsening of the lives of Nigerians. All these policies do share a common DNA, a strain of capitalistic policies that only care about making money, and have little concern about taking care of the people. History has shown us that debt has always served as an excuse for policies that defraud the people of their social safety net and rights. First with the removal of fuel subsidies, and now with the implementation of student loans.

But what is needed is for the government to sit up and see to it that education is made free and accessible to all regardless of income level and without putting the citizens into debt.

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