Beneficiaries Of Student Loans In Other Countries Are Committing Suicide Over Debt -ASUU

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In a recent interview with Channels Television, Emmanuel Osodeke, the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has called on the federal government to convert the student loan act into a grant. Osodeke expressed concerns about the lack of collective bargaining before the bill was signed into law.

Speaking on Monday, Osodeke highlighted that the current conditions of the student loan are not sustainable. He further noted that individuals in other countries who have benefitted from similar initiatives have resorted to committing suicide due to the overwhelming debts incurred.

The student loan bill was signed into law by President Bola Tinubu on June 12. The bill, sponsored by Femi Gbajabiamila, the immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, aims to provide financial assistance to economically disadvantaged Nigerians to fund their education. Repayment for the loan will commence after two years of completing the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
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Osodeke emphasized that 90 percent of Nigerian students would be unable to meet the “stringent requirements” to access and repay the loan. He proposed that instead of a loan, the funding should be given as a grant to students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Given that the funding is sourced from the federation account, Osodeke argued that it should be considered a grant. This would allow more individuals to have access to education without the burden of repayment. He criticized the provision in the law that requires two guarantors who must be level 12 civil service officers or 10-year-experienced lawyers. Osodeke questioned the availability of such individuals in rural areas and the willingness of Nigerians to serve as guarantors, knowing that they could face jail time if the beneficiaries fail to repay the loan.
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Osodeke also highlighted past failures of student loan programs in Nigeria. He mentioned that in 1972, a bank was established for student loans, but many borrowers did not repay. In 1993, Decree 50 was enacted, which established a students’ loan board. However, in 2004, the program was discontinued, with the funds disappearing. Osodeke expressed skepticism about the current student loan program and emphasized the need for accountability.

ASUU’s research on student loan programs in other countries revealed cases of individuals who resorted to suicide due to overwhelming debt. The union also pointed out that US President Joe Biden is currently working to pay back bank loans of some American borrowers.
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Osodeke concluded by emphasizing the importance of finding alternative means of funding education rather than burdening students whose parents earn a monthly income of N30,000 with a loan.

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