We publish the statement of the Workers and Youth Solidarity Network (WYSN) in Nigeria
Student’s Loan Bill Will Further Increase the Burden on the Poor
We stand in solidarity with millions of Nigerian students in demanding the following:
- Academic grants, not loans
- Abolishment of fees across Nigerian universities
- Payment of 7-month backlog of salaries to ASUU
- Free, public-funded, and democratically-managed education
The Workers’ and Youths Solidarity Network categorically rejects the bill sponsored by Femi Gbajabiamila and signed by President Bola Tinubu regarding the students’ loan policy. We firmly believe that in a country like Nigeria, with a 41% unemployment rate, 63% poverty rate, and a minimum wage of N30,000, introducing student loans will only exacerbate the already deteriorating economic conditions of the country. You just have to look to the US, the strongest economy on the planet, in which student loan has taken frightening proportions. It now amounts to $1,6 trillion and is causing great distress to those who owe money but cannot find a job that allows them to repay them. If US workers can’t repay these loans, what chances do Nigerian workers have?
Therefore, we believe that the government should scrap tuition fees and provide academic grants instead if it is interested in promoting higher education for all.
On June 12, 2023, President Bola Tinubu signed the bill offering no-interest loans to students in tertiary institutions nationwide. This bill was originally sponsored in 2019 by the former Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila. The bill includes several stringent conditions such as the requirement for two guarantors on grade level 12 and above and the threat of imprisonment for defaulters. Furthermore, the bill specifies that beneficiaries will begin repaying the loans two years after completing their compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program.
We think this development will put further barriers to poor people in Nigeria. With average fees ranging from N150,000 to N250,000 in public tertiary institutions today, an individual may accumulate a debt ranging from N600,000 to N2,000,000 depending on their course of study and duration. How can he/she repay this amount if jobs are scarce and badly paid? Student loans will be a burden for many people, which can lead them into another debt trap.
We firmly believe that the Tinubu regime is building upon the eight years of misrule by the APC and the sixteen years of corrupt governance by the PDP. Instead of significantly investing in public education, and providing decent and well-paid jobs, the Tinubu/APC-led government is masking their failures with cosmetic changes. We agree that education is a vital tool for development, and as such, the government should make massive investments in it. This should include, but not be limited to, granting academic scholarships and subsidies to students instead of loans, completely abolishing fees in tertiary institutions, promptly paying the backlog of salaries owed to ASUU members, reviewing and implementing living wages for academic workers, democratizing public education, and ensuring proper funding. Similarly, we demand that the government should focus on providing graduates with decent, well-paid jobs, allowing them to contribute to general development and earn a livelihood.
In a wealthy country like Nigeria, where political officeholders receive exorbitant salaries and allocate trillions of naira to illusory projects and subsidies for their political business partners, investing massively in education should not be an issue. We should demand heavy taxes on the rich, the bankers and financiers, and the capitalists.
We are opposed to the complete sell-out of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) that held a meeting with the president and never called a congress of Nigerian students to determine what approach should be used to oppose these anti-poor policies.
NANS charter of demands includes improved funding of education and against commercialization. The attempt to introduce student loans is also an attempt to introduce outrageous tuition fees.
We stand with millions of other students in demanding an investment program in the Nigerian education system and the abolishment of fees in Nigerian tertiary institutions.
We must organise in every university and community to build such a movement. We need to demand better education in a better society, nationalise key sectors of the economy, implement living minimum wages, invest to create jobs and provide services for the working class, reinstate fuel subsidies, and enact various other pro-people policies. These can only happen in a socialist society. We are dedicated to building such a movement. Join us!