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ASUU Condemns FG Student Loan Initiative

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Calabar Zone, has expressed strong objections to the Federal Government’s new student loan program, describing it as a strategy to burden Nigerian students with perpetual debt.

The student loan scheme officially launched last Friday, with the application portal opening to the public. Reports indicated that on the first day, 3,764 students from 126 institutions submitted applications.

The Federal Government claimed the initiative is intended to ensure that no Nigerian youth is denied higher education due to financial constraints.

However, speaking at a press conference in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State, on Monday, the Zonal Chairperson of ASUU, Dr. Happiness Uduk, argued that the student loan scheme is a method of enslaving Nigerian youths.

Uduk criticized the policy, pointing out that those who benefited from scholarships, meal subsidies, and bursary awards in their time are now imposing loans on current students.

ASUU’s National President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, has also repeatedly criticized the student loan program, advocating for bursaries instead.

In a statement co-signed by eight union chairpersons, Uduk argued that instead of loans, the Federal Government should provide subventions to higher institutions to improve the state of tertiary education.

“It is disheartening that people who attended schools on scholarships, enjoyed meal subsidies, and received bursary awards are now running our economy. Their children study on scholarships at top foreign universities, yet after depleting our economy, they impose crippling education loans on taxpayers’ children, forcing them into lifelong debt. They disregard the devastating effects such a scheme could have, including depression, suicide, and a significant loss of intellectual talent.

“We vehemently condemn the idea of education loans and believe that using the funds for higher institution interventions would positively transform our institutions, making tertiary education in Nigeria highly subsidized and self-reliant,” Uduk stated.

Uduk called on the Federal Government to renegotiate and review the agreement reached with the ASUU leadership by the Prof. Nimi Briggs-led committee, to adjust the terms according to current economic realities and establish an acceptable salary structure for university lecturers.

She also condemned the indiscriminate proliferation of universities in Nigeria without adequate funding from both federal and state governments. Uduk emphasized the need to fully implement the 2020 ASUU-FGN Memorandum of Action, which calls for a review of the NUC Act to control the excessive establishment of universities.

“We urge the Tinubu administration to refrain from further proliferation of universities and instead consolidate the existing ones. We need well-equipped and empowered universities to address Nigeria’s challenges, not glorified schools,” she said.

Regarding the ongoing minimum wage negotiations, ASUU Calabar Zone urged the Federal Government to use collective bargaining to conclude the social dialogue, suggesting that this approach would mitigate the declining socio-economic conditions of Nigerians.

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