The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

Young Nigerians face many obstacles in furthering their education. The government wants to make it even harder.

It may sound logical to some that new student loan legislation proposed by the Nigerian government will serve as a solution for students who have no financial means, but for many Nigerians, it will end up being a burden for the less privileged. Despite its many downsides, most poor students and their families will view it as a possible solution in paying for school.

According to the legislation, students are expected to begin repayment on their loans two years after compulsory National Youth Service Corps, or NYSC, training. Nigeria is a country with a long history of high unemployment, which begs the question of how students will afford to repay their loans when graduates are struggling to survive.

It is no longer news that the country has few employment opportunities, and the unemployment rate is exceedingly high compared to many other developing economies.

KPMG, the global audit firm, predicts Nigeria’s unemployment rate to hit 41% in 2023, thus killing the job prospects for millions of Nigerians. Nigeria’s government has created a form of psychological trauma for newly graduated students by making them repay their loan debt despite their abysmal job prospects.

The loans will not be payable for a year, even if one is lucky enough to get a job immediately after graduation. To support this argument, even in the United States, which is one of the richest countries in the world, millions of adults have defaulted on their student loan payments. If millions of Americans can’t repay their loans what hope do Nigerians have?

In my view, it seems that the government is planning to privatize public universities. On this basis, I think that student loans in Nigeria will make tertiary education the exclusive preserve of the upper class. This is in a country where more than 90% of the population is currently living in abject poverty.

If privatization is the answer, it will only widen the gap between rich and poor. It will deny many Nigerians an affordable high-quality education, increase the rate of illiteracy, and reduce academic performance at the tertiary level.

Therefore, the government should start supporting students with affordable financial assistance, and not force them into an endless cycle of student loan debt they have no hope of paying off.

Ismaila Biliaminu Manne is a freelance journalist and writer, with a keen interest in African cultures as well as underreported storytelling of marginalized communities across Nigeria. He lives in North Central Nigeria.