The Students Loan (Access to Higher Education) Act, 2023 has drawn the ire of lecturers, civil societies and other stakeholders, who gathered in Lagos, yesterday, at a symposium to look critically at the law signed by President .
The event, organised by Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), tried to answer the question, ‘Will Student Loan Increase Access to Public Higher Education in Nigeria?’
Participants at the symposium, except the Lagos State Scholarship Board, frowned on the law, urging the Federal Government to find workable alternatives to improve the education sector.
Prof. Tunde Akanni from Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, said: “We are having generational continuum in political offices. The same old people being are recycled; hence, we see changes but not their manifestation.”
He charged the civil society to get down to the grassroots and sensitise them on law which seem obnoxious, as they are entitled to know, too.
Noting that armchair advocacy is not sufficient to effect change, he called on the civil society to collaborate with religious leaders, who command good following, to reach the grassroots. He also advocated commissioning of perceptive study on government policies.
Another don, Prof. Adelaja Odukoya, said it is dangerous to rationalise government’s inadequacies, which the Tinubu government, according to him, was trying to do with the Students Loan Act.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) official from the University of Lagos (UNILAG), described all government’s engagement with the public as huge jokes, saying they were all stage-managed, and most times delegates were either bribed or prevented from talking in sincere terms.
Chairman of Joint Action Front (JAF), Achike Chude, recalled that Nigeria was not forced to commit 15 per cent of its budget to education, in Abuja, years ago. He wondered what impression the government was trying to create by beaming light on education, when it could not honour its 15 per cent commitment.
But the Executive Secretary (ES), Lagos State Scholarship Board, Abdur-Rahman Lekki, said there is need for more engagement with the government on the policy.
Represented by Babatunde Tijani, the Executive Secretary urged the stakeholders to allow implementation of the policy to see its merits and demerits.
According to him, stakeholders’ concerns may be taken care of by more engagement. Aligning with the majority view, the Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said the policy should be rejected outright, as it is unworkable.
He said: “The income cap, stringent and restrictive guarantor requirements and vague suggestion on disbursement could undermine the legislation’s aim to increase access to higher education.”
In her overview of the Act, Policy and Research Officer of CAPPA, Zikora Ibe, described it as war on education.
According to her, the Act is unworkable, as it was hurriedly drafted without considering the present realities.
“We reject the loan and urge the government to discard it. The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) can be modified for a better policy,” she said.