ASUU, NANS Disagree Over FG’s Students’ Loan Scheme

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has lampooned the Federal Government’s proposed student loan scheme.

According to the union, it as a tactic to trap beneficiaries in perpetual debt post-graduation.

It contends that the scheme, championed by international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, would not only deprive public universities of crucial funds but would also be susceptible to corruption in Nigeria.

Information Nigeria had reported that Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, urged the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) to support the Students’ Loan Fund policy, asserting its goal of ensuring equitable access to quality education for all students, regardless of their financial backgrounds.

During the union’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting at the Niger Delta University on Friday, the lecturers reiterated their rejection of the scheme, citing concerns over fee hikes across campuses without input from affected students.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the NEC of ASUU reiterated its rejection of the Students Loan Scheme which is being promoted by international money lending agencies such as IMF and World Bank.

“Nigerians should be aware that the scheme is a way of starving public universities of funding and a ploy to divert public funds into private universities owned by politically exposed individuals and their friends.

“NEC further observed that the students’ loan scheme will mortgage the entire university system and keep our promising students in perpetual indebtedness.

“If the scheme could fail in some better-managed economies, there is no guarantee that it will succeed in Nigeria where unbridled corruption, nepotism, and other unsavoury tendencies conspired to kill the Education Bank project after over five years of its existence,” the union said.

ASUU’s President Emmanuel Osodeke, speaking via a communique, also expressed disappointment with the perceived failure of the Tinubu-led administration to address longstanding issues, which had led to a nationwide strike from February to October 2022.

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“NEC condemns in its entirety the wave of fee hike without inputs of the victims across our campuses.

“Daily scandalous reports of stupendous funds diverted from government treasuries at state and Federal levels reinforce our belief that resources available to the country could support government-funded university education –without excessive pressures on parents as currently done,” Osodeke said.

Meanwhile, NANS called on ASUU to reconsider its opposition to the student loan scheme.

NANS’ Senate President, Akinteye Afeez Babatunde, urged ASUU to halt its resistance and refrain from speaking on behalf of students without their consent.

Babatunde said: “It is disheartening to witness ASUU, an organization purportedly dedicated to the welfare of students, opposing a program that could provide much-needed relief to countless individuals. This begs the question: does ASUU truly represent the interests of students, or do they have ulterior motives?

”We are dismayed by ASUU’s hypocrisy in this matter. If ASUU members were to benefit from the Student Loan Program, would they still be opposed to it? It is time for ASUU to come clean and clarify any hidden agenda they may have regarding the student loan. Students demand transparency and honesty from ASUU regarding their stance on this crucial issue.

He added, “Furthermore, ASUU’s attempts to speak on behalf of students regarding the Student Loan Program are unwarranted and unacceptable. Students are perfectly capable of voicing their own opinions and advocating for their interests. ASUU should not presume to speak for students without consulting them directly.

”Today, students across the nation are calling on ASUU to refrain from interfering in matters concerning the Student Loan Program. Contrary to ASUU’s assertions, students are not only supportive of the program but are actively advocating for its implementation. The Student Loan Program represents hope for many Nigerian students, especially those facing financial hardship. It offers an opportunity for sons and daughters of ‘nobodies’ to access higher education, thereby levelling the playing field and fostering equal opportunities for all.”

The rift between ASUU and the federal government over the student loan scheme underscores ongoing tensions regarding funding and access to quality education within the education sector.