Nigeria’s Student Loan Programme: More of A Death Trap than A Promising Boost to Education

By Damilare Adeleye, JKNMedia Reporter

THE anticipation surrounding Nigeria’s student loan scheme is reaching its zenith, with thousands of students poised to become beneficiaries across the nation.

Representing a landmark policy initiative, the student loan law aims to extend interest-free loans to financially disadvantaged students in tertiary institutions and vocational centres.

On April 3, 2024, President Bola Tinubu signed the Student Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill, marking a pivotal moment in Nigerian education policy.

This move replaced the earlier Student Loan Act, broadening the scope to encompass both tertiary education and vocational training.

Central to the revamped law is the establishment of the Nigeria cerns ov Loan Fund (NELFUND), tasked with disbursing loans for tuition, feed, and maintenance allowances without the need for guarantors.

However, concerns linger regarding the repayment burden on students amid Nigeria’s challenging employment landscape.

The presidency, on its part, says it remains optimistic about the scheme’s potential to transform Nigeria’s economy.

O’tega Ogra, a Senior Special Assistant, hailed the scheme as a catalyst for cultivating a financially savvy generation that is vital for national development.

Similarly, Minister of Youth Development, Ayodele Olawande, hailed the new law as a harbinger of educational opportunity, urging youths to seize the chance to realize their ambitions.

Yet, dissenting voices, notably from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), caution against potential pitfalls.

ASUU in particular, voiced concerns over diverting funds from public universities and the risk of perpetual student indebtedness.

NANS, through recognizing the scheme’s intent, warned of its attendant risks, including exploitation and wielding education disparities.

As the scheme gears up for implementation, NELFUND revealed that 1.2million students are slated to benefit initially, with funding sourced from a percentage of the Federal Inland Revenue Service’s annual revenue.

However, exclusions loom for students in private institutions, sparking debate over equity and wealth redistribution.

NELFUND defended this stance as a means to prioritize the financially disadvantaged.

Crucially too, the loan scheme’s success hinges on robust regulation and support mechanisms. With a budget allocation of N60 billion, the scheme’s fate reportedly intertwines with Nigeria’s broader economic path.

Observers note that as Nigeria embarks on this education venture, it is important to stress the balance between access, accountability, and sustainability that will shape the future of the nation’s student loan scheme.

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