Over the last six months since he came to power, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has rolled out one neoliberal policy after the other, which have dire consequences on poor working people. One of such anti-people’s economic policy is the student loan scheme which the government is forcing down the throat of working-class people and their wards.
There is adequate evidence that funding students education with loans they are left with no option but to take has done serious financial and mental damage to people in advanced capitalist countries that have been practicing this. Some of the effects have been being indebted for the rest of their lives, falling into depression, consideration of suicide or even actual cases of deaths by suicide stemming from frustration.
For many young Nigerians who probably have not taken enough time to analyse what the student loan scheme means, it was a welcome idea because in their opinion, education is too costly to be free and the hike in tuition fees would make these institutions financially self-sufficient. This, as many of them think, will not only help to increase resources for teaching, but also to pay university teachers and non-academic staff decent wages enough to avert strike actions.
But the problem is not so much lack of resources. It is more about the priorities of the self-serving people in power. For example,
N5 billion was allocated for a presidential yacht. This is the same amount that was originally allocated to cater for the student loans! What this government is telling us is that millions of Nigerian students are barely worth the value of the president’s yacht. Hence, even in the plan of the government to keep Nigerians in perpetual debt, the government is not willing to give the people enough!
It leaves one wondering that a government that claims there is no money to fund education could have allocated as much as
N5 billion for a presidential yacht, N1.5 billion for purchase of vehicles for the first lady, N40 billion naira for purchase of vehicles for 465 national assembly members, among many other stupid expenditures in the supplementary budget. These abnormalities only speak to one thing; Nigeria is not broke.
It is the ruling class that is milking the country dry. Should the economy be so bad at the moment that funding education is difficult as they claim, the burden of that poor economic reality should not be shifted on the poor Nigerian people but rather on the ruling class who themselves led the country into economic retrogression.
The question of what is to be done by the Nigerian students and working class is self-evident. It is to unite in the collective aspiration to fight against these obnoxious policies, especially the unjustifiable increment in tuition fee.
We have seen how the hike in fees can be totally reversed due to the struggle of the students of Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma. We have seen how resistance has thrown the managements of Obafemi Awolowo University, University of Ibadan, University of Jos and Tai Solarin University of Education, among others into confusion as they keep switching the fees on their portals like pendulums as a result of fear of what students’ mass protests can lead too.
The effort of the Save Unilag Students Coalition continues to expose the poor management and corruption in the management of the University of Lagos. These examples are just a small preview of the trouble that the ruling class and their cronies may face in managing these institutions if students resist. There is an unimaginable power the Nigerian students have yet to mobilise in the struggle against tuition fee hikes and student loans. The time for the students, trade unions, radical civil society organisations and the mass of people to unite and fight to save the future of public education is now.
by Lekan Abdulazeez SONEYE