The Student Loans Act signed by Tinubu on Democracy Day (12th June) 2023 is a cruel hoax. Student loans have failed in Western countries and the version for Nigeria will help very few students due to the harsh conditions. The Government’s supporters claim that loans are the modern way to fund higher education. They claim that the governments should no longer have to fund higher education. This is a lie.

Student loans have failed in the US and Britain. They are an expensive and inefficient way of funding higher education. They also leave graduates with huge debts. In Britain student fees are now nearly N10 million a year. The US recently had to write off many student loans as they could not collect them from the graduates.

The conditions in the Student Loans Act mean that very few students will be able to get a loan. It is only available if both parents of the student together earn less than N42,000 a month. How many of these families can afford to send their children to secondary school, let alone university?

These poor families also have to have good contacts as they will need two guarantors. These have to be senior civil servants, a lawyer with at least 10 years experience, or a judicial officer, or a justice of peace. If that is not enough, the applicant will need a letter signed personally by the head of the university where they have secured a place.

The loans are only to pay for tuition fees. So how will students from these poor families pay for their subsistence when they are in higher education?

The Act also has harsh repayment requirements. In Britain and the US graduates only have to start paying their loans if they have reasonably well paid employment. The Act suggests that all graduates will have to start repaying their loans two years after they finish their National Service. If they do not they face the harsh penalties of a N500,000 fine and/or two years in prison.

Governments since at least 2000 have been grossly underfunding higher education. Buhari did not increase funding of education as he promised. This was the reason behind the long ASUU strikes by university lecturers. This year, the budget for education is only just over 5% of the Federal budget. Tinubu is promising less than 8% of the 2024 budget.  This is only half of the international norm of at least 15% of government budgets.

The Student Loans Act is just one example of the Neoliberal reforms supported by the IMF and World Bank that Tinabu is introducing. The others include scrapping the fuel subsidy and equalisation of the exchange rates. These reforms are of great benefit to the rich and have led to increased poverty even in Western countries.

We need a united campaign against student loans, the petrol price hike and other anti-people policies. We need students and the organised working class to work together to overturn these attacks.


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