Thoughts on the Proposed N1m Tuition Fees/Education Loan Scheme

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We Have Not Suspended Our Strike Action Yet - ASUU

By Prof. Femi Mimiko, mni

An indication was given, most recently by the President of ASUU (as reported in the mass media), that the FGN indicated its desire to launch a loan scheme for students of higher educational institutions in the country; such that they’ll be able to afford a new regime of tuition fees, which their schools may begin to charge. Both loan, and tuition fees were to be in the range of One Million Naira. It was further reported that the ASUU leadership promptly rejected this proposal, which obviously, it considered elitist and not in sync with the Union’s ideological predilections.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t an opportunity to interrogate this subject before it was shut down. I, however, am of the opinion that these are times for new thinking, when we should be boldly confronting some of our long running, and very truly debilitating challenges, with a view to generating practicable solutions to them. I personally have always felt and advocated a robust loan scheme, complemented by wide ranging scholarship opportunities, and an effective Student Work-Study Scheme, as a strategic pathway to funding higher education in this country. It is a pretense that we could run tuition-free university education in Nigeria. What is more, it is obvious this thinking is not working, and may not work in the foreseeable future. The parlous state of critical infrastructures, in the face of massification, across our higher educational institutions, attests to this. Whoever is in doubt should peruse, once again, the 2012 “Needs Assessment Report,” which incidentally, ASUU forced the FGN to undertake. Take a look also at the scandalous financial “reward” system of academics and administrators in the higher educational system, and you begin to have an inkling into the depth of the funding crises we are dealing with here. The take-home pay of higher educational institutions’ workers stopped, long ago, serving the original purpose of such. It now, to all intents and purposes, disincentivises!
That extant situation of our public universities is terrible is, therefore, at best, an understatement. Perhaps nobody has made this point better than ASUU.

The proposed loan scheme is certainly not a new concept. Not even here in Nigeria where an Education Bank idea was once conceived for a purpose like this, which, however, quickly fizzled out. It may also not be perfect anywhere where it has been in operation, but it is undeniable that it has worked so well in many countries across the world, including in not too structurally distant places like South Africa, Tanzania, and Malaysia, among others. Everywhere, people are at it, to make it function better. The bottomline for me is, if every student that desires a loan to fund their education can access same, why not; as this would grant our universities the sorely needed opportunity to charge tuition fees.

My take then, is that rather than simply casting away the loan scheme suggested by government, as it obviously did, ASUU should have allowed the idea to be thought through; and made a case for its own involvement in the administration of the proposed scheme – for greater effectiveness. In the light of this, I humbly recommend that the suggestion of government in this regard be brought back onto the table for more critical evaluation, fine tunning, and endorsement.

Mind you, there is nothing here that forecloses continuing deconstruction of the manner in which government, in our clime, (mis)manages public finance; as well as the questionable quality of governance within our higher institutions, including in relation to prioritisation vis a vis fund allocation. This also does not detract from the very obvious fact that Nigeria’s education can admit of much greater funding from government.

@FemiMimiko
[email protected]

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