Education stakeholders accros some states, mainly in Kogi, Nasarawa and Niger, have expressed divergent views on the Federal Government’s proposed students loan scheme, with some hailing it while others dismissed it as a gimmick.
The Federal Government says the scheme will take off by January 2024.
Dr Ibrahim Nasiru, a Lecturer with the Department of Political Science, Prince Abubakar Audu University, Anyigba, Kogi, praised the government for the initiative.
Nasiru, while speaking with NAN, frowned at the level of enlightenment campaign on the scheme, which he noted was generally poor in Kogi.
He also pointed out that it might probably be because it had not been properly coordinated at the Federal Government level.
On the modalities and the beneficiaries, the don said, “When the programme will take off, the students will have to fill all the necessary documents online.
“Those that are qualified will also be screened online and then they will be able to access the funds electronically.
“But as it is, there is no clear cut modality on the project because of the fact that some of the conditionalities are being opposed by some stakeholders.
” This is because the issue of guarantor requires a process which is not reachable to the beneficiaries.
“I think those are some of the modalities the government is trying to fine tune before it starts proper.”
On accessibility of the loan, Nasiru said that the loan was for every admitted student with an identity card.
According to him, the scheme is workable and sustainable.
Nasiru said, “It’s workable because financial provision has been made for it by the government. It’s part of the palliatives the government intended to give out to the citizens.
“But the matter of sustainability depends on the way the programme starts and how it’s being worked on.
“This is because sometimes government policies do summer sault. But if the scheme is properly packaged, it will surely work and be sustained.”
Dr Timothy Silas, Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Federal University Lokoja (FUL) chapter, described the scheme as a laudable programme.
Silas noted that enlightenment campaign on the scheme was very low in Kogi in particular.
He asked, “How sincere is that scheme? And who are actually qualified? To be frank, ASUU is not in support of the scheme.
“This is because most of the apostles of the scheme enjoyed free education with allowances yet hid under the loan scheme to hike students school fees.
“One question that demands an urgent answer is whether a child that is gifted and talented, whose parents are poor should not have access to education?
“We are supposed to let the system be as it was before in that we go for the best no matter who he/she is or where he/she comes from and be sponsored.
” That was why we used to have very good brains, irrespective of where he/she is coming from in this country.”
According to Silas, the loan scheme is just a ‘gimmick”, adding, “this is simply because the government is not sincere.
Wait and see, the “same people who are claiming they want to give out loans to students will be the same people who will corner it.
“The targeted students will not see the money, they will not get it at the end of the day.
“The problem we have in this country is that what is legally yours, they wouldn’t want to give you; talk more of saying they want to give you something.
“So, I am not sure they will release that money, if they do, they will corner it or divert it to other uses at the end of the day.
“Shamelessly, they still come out and tell you they have spent so so billions on so so and so. Stories only.”
The Kogi Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr Patrick Edogbamaya, said that they had not been contacted or funded to carry out any enlightenment or sensitisation to the students loan scheme in the state.
“We are always ready to do our work as expected but when we have not been directed, we can do anything on our own more so that such campaigns demand funds, ” he said.
Similarly, Prof. Samuel Alu, Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Nasarawa State University Keffi (NSUK) Branch, said the scheme was not workable and sustainable.
He stated this in Keffi Local Government Area of Nasarawa State.
Alu said, “the scheme is not a realistic, workable or sustainable scheme because it’s not in favour of the common man, especially poor students.
“Conditions set for the students to access this loan are not tenable or feasible.
“A situation where you are asking students living below the poverty line to get a Director in a Ministry to stand as guarantor is not an easy task.
“This is my own view but even ASUU as a body has severally issued statements on this, rejecting it in it’s totality. So I don’t know why the Federal Government is bent on it.”
Alu said that the only way forward was for the government to review the scheme positively in favour of the poor whom it is meant for and warned that except the review, the scheme won’t succeed.
“It is already dead on arrival. In other advanced countries, they tried it but discovered it didn’t work and stopped it.
“I don’t know why we are copying something that is already a failed programme elsewhere,” he said.
Alu then advised the Federal
Government to adequately fund its universities as the only viable alternative option to the scheme.
“Funding of universities is the way out. The government must be deliberate in adequately funding universities.
” For instance, an undergraduate who must carry out his project will spend not less than N150,000.
“So, why are they spending that much? Those materials that are supposed to be in the laboratories for the students to use for practicals are not there.
” So, the students are forced to go and get these materials, bring them to school before even talking about the experiments.
“So, once the Federal Government can fund universities as expected, the issue of student loan scheme will not even arise.”
Alu called on the Federal Government to consider adequate funding of the universities.
Similarly, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Niger, say awareness on the loan scheme was low as many Nigerians were not informed about the initiative.
They said “information on the scheme was only being publicised by a section of the media and on the social media”.
Malam Bala Musa, Deputy Director in NOA, said many students and people in the grassroots were not aware of the loan.
He added that there was the need for a lot of awareness for beneficiaries to know what it entailed to key into the scheme.
Musa said that the modalities for the loan were for the students to log into a portal and provide their information such as nationality and admission status, among others.
These will be later be verified by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for approval before crediting their accounts.
He said the scheme was a financial loan to support the education of students in higher institutions, funded from one per cent collection from the Fire, Immigration and Customs Organisation’s annual revenue collecion to be managed by the CBN.
Musa said that the money would be domiciled in deposit money banks, adding that those eligible for the loan were students in higher institutions whose family income was less than N500,000 per annum.
Musa said the students loan scheme was a welcome development, ” if people keep to fate by repaying the loan immediately they start working”.
Also, Dr Abdullahi Jabi, Chairman, Campaign for Democracy, Human Right Advocacy Civil Society, North Central Zone, said the initiative was a welcome development.
He said it came “with a lot of doubt on the implementation and strategies on who is qualified to benefit from it and who is not”.
He said that awareness on the system was zero, as student unions that were supposed to be the vanguards of advocacy among their peer groups on the loan, were not doing that due to lack of interest.
Jabi said that many students were rather Intereated in engaging in ‘yahoo yahoo’ activities where they would make quick money in millions.
“These students are less interested in the loan that will be less than N100,000 or N200,000 of which they are expected to pay back; they are more interested in cyber crime to make millions urgently among their peer group,” he said.
Jabi added that the scheme was not workable and sustainable due to the high rate of unemployment among youths after graduation from higher institutions and completion of their NYSC.
He said that many students, after graduation, spent 10 to 20 years without getting employment, adding that many of them would default in repaying the loan due to their inability to secure jobs to earn money.
Jabi added that some of the students might see the loan as a free money and part of their own national cake and would not want to pay back.
He said that the level of poverty might also scale up the risk of students collecting the loan and not paying back.
Jabi advocated that the Federal Government should start the students loan with a pilot scheme from selected institutions to know if it was workable and sustainable before bringing it to a larger scale. (NAN)