Education: Why ‘Tuition Fee Increment And Student Loan’ May Not Be The Best Approach

By Olugbade Majeed Abiola

As a Nigerian student who has studied the lapses that may riddle the introduction of student loans in a developing country like Nigeria, and that tuition fee increment and its introduction is not the needed panacea to the problem facing the education sector of the country, it is paramount that this opinion be articulated to alert educators, parents, students, and other stakeholders involved on the danger of the so-called development happening around tertiary institutions in the country and what should have been the alternate approach to the difficulty education sector generally faces in the country.

Late last year, a student-loan bill was passed at the lower chamber of the National Assembly by the Speaker House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, which allows for the creation of the Educational bank of Nigeria which will be responsible for granting loans for tertiary institutions students to pay their tuition fee. In his defence, the Speaker pointed out and stated that this bill would help ease the burden of educational expenditures and greatly benefit the institutions and the country at large (ThisDay newspaper, 30 November 2022). While not disputing this premise, I hold a contrary opinion that the government should make education a social responsibility and commit public resources to its development to make the educational sector better in the country. Furthermore, make Education more convenient and productive and remain accessible to the general masses of the country.

Undoubtedly, student loans can provide a means of financing education for students who may not be able to afford it otherwise. However, for student loans to be effective, the borrowing and repayment process must be well-designed and implemented.

One challenge in developing countries is the lack of a robust credit reporting system. Without reliable credit information, lenders may be hesitant to lend money to students who lack a credit history or collateral

Notably, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommends that 26% of a nation's budget should be allocated to the educational sector of any country. And according to Macrotrends, Honduras as a government spends an average on Education (% of GDP) 26.60%, Cameroon 14.89%,  Morocco 16.86%, Republic of Congo 18.8%; this could be compared to Nigeria, whose spending on Education decreases year in year out (between 2018-2021) 5.94% down to 5.86%, 5.13%, increase by just 0.01% in 2020 to make 5.14 then reduce to 5.11% in 2021. This is the case when elected and appointed politicians in the country rake off more significant percentages into their purses. And to cover this up, they came up with songs of lamentation and a cajole to impose Student-Loans and therefore introduce tuition fees for institutions that do not pay this and increase those that have been paying before. 

To say this unequivocally, a student loan opportunity will not solve the problem. Instead, it would throw students from poor working-class and middle-class families into generational indebtedness that would adversely affect their quality of life after graduation. Additionally, this bill is nothing but a backdoor means to increase the fees payable in schools and make it hard for children of the poor masses to access higher education. In a country where employment is not guaranteed, and even those employed are paid in pennies, how do they expect an unemployed graduate to clear up their vast loan? It is obvious the increments will lead the student to depression after graduation and result in greater unpleasant consequences. 

Ironically, the school system that produced the leaders making these inhuman decisions was free and humane. The leaders then made education easy, convenient and accessible for the masses by being selfless, futuristic and patriotic. Many Federal University has increased, and it's unhearable OAU, UI, and UNILAG paying above 100,000 and legislators concluding to Education Loan Banks. Education should be accessible to every Nigerian regardless of their background. The minimum wage is 30k, and we even have workers who earn less in the country. Yet, tertiary institutions in the federation are increasing their tuition to threefold the minimum wage. 

Instead of making education not accessible or providing loans which will make citizens of the country a walking debt in the future, the government should, on the other hand, fund education adequately and see it as the point of duty to invest more in education and provide necessary infrastructures for a tertiary institution. Pay lecturers and other stakeholders in education handsomely and even make the present educational system better than 2nd Republic education which produced most of them. The right to education is a right that should be protected without harshness or debt. Proper funding and improvement of education have been the simple primary song of ASUU as a concerned union holding the pillar of education as well. The government dancing to this tune will not only drastically improve and develop the education sector, but also it will curb incessant strikes in our educational system. 

 Olugbade Majeed Abiola (Majeed Lev) is a student of the Faculty of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

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