Civil Society Stakeholders in Rivers State have rejected the Tinubu administration Students Loan Scheme as announced, saying it offers no real solution to the current crisis in the country’s education system.
The stakeholders drawn from executives of non-governmental organisations in the state, lawyers, academia, media and students of tertiary institutions in honour of the third anniversary of a former frontline human rights activist in the Niger Delta, late Comrade Anyakwee Nsirim Ovu at his Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Complex, Rukpokwu Port Harcourt, pointed out flaws in the loan policy. They described the eligibility criteria as restrictive and non-inclusive as it shuts out children of the pro-poor and indicates a bureaucratic procedure that would not be favourable to the target beneficiaries.
They demanded a disclosure of the loan limit and advised that the scheme be tied to immediate job provision for beneficiaries to ensure repayment ability after the stipulated two year post-graduation grace. The process should also be transparent and accountable.
The event, the Second ASN Symposium and Anyakwee Human Rights Education Fund 2023 Award Ceremony with the theme, ‘The Injusticeable Right To Education: A Human Right Slander,’ featured a discussion panel. There was also an interactive session with other guests higthat hlighted the challenges in the education sector, absence of quality teachers, tools and infrastructure and the consequence on students.
They described education as an inalienble right which Nigerians especially, Niger Deltans should be guaranteed up to senior secondary school level and called for increase in budgetary allocation to education in line with the UNESCO agreement which Nigeria is a signatory to.
Panelists at the event called on state and local governments to ensure the Universal Basic Education Act is made justiceable, taking care of out-of-school children and sanitizing the quality of service.
They also called on government to expand options for educational advancement by developing and promoting informal and vocational education to enhance life-skills acquisition and self-reliance in the country.
One of the panelists, Mr. Ken Henshaw, executive director of WE The People, an NGO, lamented that “products of public schools who enjoyed quality services, are making education difficult today.”
He described education as a fundamental right stressing, that the Nigerian government owes its citizens the responsibility of promoting and protecting education.
According to the human rights activist, though the Nigerian Constitution does not make education justiceable, the UBE Act which guarantees nine years compulsory education for children and the Child Rights Act protect the right to early education.
The African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples Rights and international conventions which Nigeria is signatory to, provides avenues to hold government accountable.
Another panelist, Mr Kelechi stressed the need for certification of skills and a synergy between policy, academia and industry for a more productive education system.
A call was also raised for public enlightenment in urban and rural areas on the rights of the girl-child to education.
Courage Nsirimovu urged that in pursuit of better education deals for students, there is need to challenge the system by thinking beyond the constitution and exploring other alternatives so that Nigerians can begin to access what international students enjoy.
Highlight of the event which also marked the 65th birthday of Nsirimovu, was the presentation of education awards to six law students from the Rivers State University and the University of Port Harcourt.
The education award instituted in honour of Anyakwee is in its second stage and according to the IHRHL executive director, Mrs Mgbechi Nsirimovu, it is in line with her late husband’s vision to promote public law and help less privileged students in their educational ambition.
A beneficiary of the first batch of the award narrated how the award helped him in getting into the fourth year of his law programme at the Rivers State University, RSU. Beneficiaries this year were drawn from the RSU and the University of Port Harcourt.
Executive director of Ogoni Solidarity Forum, OSF, Comrade Celestine Akpobari, who was also one of the dialogue panelists, advised the awardees to toe the line of Anyakwee Nsirimovu, who he said, left a legacy of knowledge and rights protection.