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University tuition fees could be cut to £8,500, say sources

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tuition fees

University tuition fees could be cut to £8,500, say sources

High-level discussions have been held in Whitehall over controversial proposals to cut university tuition fees from £9,250 to £8,500, sources say.

Officials from No 10, the Treasury and the Department for Education (DfE) are said to have been engaged in “lively” talks about a possible cut to fees but have struggled to thrash out an agreement in time for the chancellor’s spending review.

An announcement on changes to higher education is long overdue following the 2019 Augar review of post-18 education, which recommended tuition fees were cut from £9,250 to £7,500 as part of a radical overhaul of university funding.

According to one source, the Treasury has been pushing for a tuition fee cut to £8,500, which would reduce the amount undergraduates have to borrow and in turn the amount of unpaid debt picked up by the state if they fail to repay the fees within 30 years.

The cut is said to have been opposed by officials at the DfE and No 10, who warned it could have a devastating impact on universities’ finances when they are already under pressure from rising inflation.

Ministers have also been considering cutting the threshold at which graduates begin to repay their tuition and maintenance loans, from just over £27,000 to £23,000 as part of an overhaul of student financing designed to save the Treasury billions of pounds.

Sources suggested there may be little detail on higher education in the chancellor’s spending review on Wednesday, with an announcement at a later date once an agreement has been finalised.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) thinktank and special adviser to the universities minister in 2012 when tuition fees in England were raised to £9,000, said debates in Whitehall on the issue had been lively.

He thought that cuts on the scale recommended by Augar looked increasingly unlikely in the current climate, though a smaller reduction may be more palatable and might have stayed on the table.

“The Augar recommendation of a cut of almost 20%, to £7,500, has come to look implausible, especially in the context of rising inflation, as it would have a dramatic impact on institutional finances,” he wrote in a Hepi blog.

“Imagine being a Tory MP for a red wall seat with a higher education institution that might be pushed to the wall by such a cut: you are not going to hold your seat easily and, therefore, you are not going to support such a change.”

With outstanding student loans reaching £140bn last year, the Treasury is desperate to reduce the cost of the student loan system in England. Hillman later said the Treasury was “very, very keen” to save money on higher education.

“As far as I can tell there has been serious thought in the Treasury on the idea of lowering the student repayment threshold. My feeling is there will be no across the board reduction in fees right now.”

Under the current system, graduates repay 9% of their income over the first £26,575. Interest is charged on the outstanding amount but the total remaining including interest is wiped by the government 30 years after graduation.

On other possible higher education developments, Hillman said he was concerned there may be a “slowing down” of the government’s past firm commitment to have 2.4% of UK GDP spent on research and development by 2027.

A government spokesperson said: “The student loan system is designed to ensure all those with the talent and desire to attend higher education are able to do so, while ensuring that the cost of higher education is fairly distributed between graduates and the taxpayer. We do not comment on speculation in the run up to fiscal events.”

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On Father’s Day | The Harmattan News

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Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

The whole world said June Sunday the 19th was Father’s Day, and different emojis flew into my social media space from biological and non-biological wards, from students I taught twenty, thirty years ago, from social media ‘off-springs. ‘Thanks for all that you have been to me’, one wrote. There was sour grape too. One father observed: which one is this again, bringing me more expenses? It’s Father’s Day I will still be the one to take them out, just as I did on Mother’s Day and Children’s Day! Hahahaha!

I didn’t grow up with the tradition of observing Father’s or Mother’s Day. Father was father, papa really. And Mother was mama, you know. Duty. Social responsibility. Provision of everything. Meeting all our needs from a modest civil servant’s income. It was a given. It was part of me, of us. The man in the house called the shots in a firm way but also ensured that we were comfortable within his means. What he could not afford now, he promised to get us later. And he did. Somehow, we knew our limits. We never asked for the moon. From deed and action, Papa taught us how to be a father, a dad, a friend. Friend? That came later, that is, after A ’Levels success and he bought me a beer at 18! I was dizzy after a glass. But a beer from Papa would not harm me, the same man who never spared the rod if I as much broke any of the rules of engagement like going to play football without permission! But all of this prepared me for fatherhood! To be a father by example…

I was 27 when I became a father. And a dad. That early morning in the hospital when I bore my tall thin baby girl in my arms, I stared at her for hours, wondering abut the beauty of a human being that had come out of my loins, my very first, (beginning of my strength’, the bible says) how the experience would change my life, how I would always have to reckon with three persons thenceforth, how I would have to ensure that she was fed regularly no matter how expensive baby formula was and how I would care for her no matter the circumstances. I had always wanted a girl, having come from an immediate family of seven boys and two girls, one five years older and the other six years younger, and how that deprived me of a close relationship with a girl at home. Odd, isn’t it? But that was it.

I also peered into the future, what I would do, what I wouldn’t do, and what direction I would give, religious, philosophical, spiritual, moral, and perhaps political. Sound education was a given. To pay fees for her through school without seeking support from my wife a given. But I did not foresee the world which she came into later as things began to tumble, as salaries were delayed, or withheld when ASUU was on strike, when our Take Home Pay could Not Take us Home, when inflation hit the roof, when the purchasing power of the naira took a terrible nose dive, or when herdsmen came into the narrative, when I ordered her to return home to Nigeria from the UK after an MSc to be able to meet a spouse and marry, how I changed my mind and asked my children to live anywhere in the world after my abductors threatened to kidnap my kids so I would be released from their custody to look for ransom money to free myself! That was not part of my vision!

READ ALSO: Democracy and Money Politics

Fatherhood was trying. Stressful sometimes. Did you worry about school fees sometimes? About what they would wear? About taking them to and bring them back from school, supervising homework, organizing private coaching, preparing them for entrance into secondary school and later JAMB examinations? And they passed the examinations. There was happiness. Sense of achievement. Accomplishment. So, fatherhood was joyful too. How could, how should a father from a conservative home handle ‘tabooed sexuality subjects’ with a child of the modern age? It was a tough question! Push some to the mother? Allow her to discover some?

So, it was that as I journeyed through the walls of education as a teacher, I encountered many students who made me a father, boys and girls who said daddy was absent in their lives, they didn’t know what it was like to have a father, how to bring a child into the world was not everything, how to provide material things was not fatherhood, how being an aggressive male in the house destroyed anything about fatherhood. And in a Creative Writing class, I asked my students to describe their relationship with their father and one of them broke down inconsolably as others wrote, and how she said the only thing about her father she knew was his photograph because he died when she was two or three. Or was it before she was born? I don’t remember now. But there were no dry eyes in the class of twenty-five that day when her experience of a no-dad hit the class, especially those who had taken presence of fatherhood for granted.

There were others too who said once a second wife came into the picture, they ‘lost’ their father to the charms of Mrs. New Wife! How he didn’t bother anymore about the details of their lives. Children of ‘Baby mamas’, who grew up with dad never visiting the child’s school. Love child with no open love for the child. What about the one who grew up in Yorubaland with a Yoruba mother, and who thought his dad was Yoruba, who spoke Yoruba, who was told that his father died when he was a baby, how he once attended a party with his mom and a cousin to his mom cornered and told him his father was from Imo State, and he was alive somewhere in Port Harcourt and before she could complete the story, his mother burst in on them and almost had a fight with the woman, how she warned him never to go to that woman in his life. Pained, as a final year student, what would he say was his home state when he went into politics, what would he tell his children, why did his mother blank out his father, why the bitterness? Questions. Questions! Questions!

VISIT US: @theharmattan1

Fatherhood and Father’s Day. Much later all the other kids came, and I learnt how to deal with each of them individually, separately, and together. They all came in their different ways, character, brilliance, attitude, food choices, choice of academic career, even marriage choices. So, as I was fathering kids, having eat-outs, having family dinner to encourage bonding, I was also a student of parenting too, learning things Papa never taught me, making mistakes even while correcting them, learning lessons which no book or teacher or guardian taught me. Leant that it was better to allow them blossom while you guided them into self-discovery and if they trusted you enough, everyday will be FATHER’S DAY in their lives, they would remember you positively and reciprocate proper fatherhood with good ‘children-hood! And of course, we soon moved to another level- that of a grandfather, welcoming a second generation of my own brood, male and female, a blessing which money cannot buy! Lessons learnt while grooming their parents may no longer be applicable while relating with your children’s children. It’s a new world, where a five-year old could put me through the intricacies of an android phone! Marveling about it all is part of the pride of being a father and a grandfather.

So, let everyday be a day for fathers, mothers, and for the children. So, when your son writes: ‘I’ve never really been a fan of Father’s and Mother’s Day because for me I believe my parents are special and I thank God for having you every day. I thank God because I was blessed to be able to grow up, stroll to the sitting room and have someone sitting there who I could ask any questions and from whom I could get wise answers’, one feels fulfilled. And let the spirit of love, parental, sibling, filial, govern the world. Perhaps if we had that consciousness, there would be less tension in the world!

Professor Hope O. Eghagha, Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos, Akoka Lagos

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

The head of the United Nations warned Friday that the world faces “catastrophe” because of the growing shortage of food around the globe.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine has added to the disruptions caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” already affecting hundreds of millions of people.

“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of rich and developing countries gathered in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”

Guterres noted that harvests across Asia, Africa and the Americas will take a hit as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices.

“This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage,” he said. “No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.”

Guterres said U.N. negotiators were working on a deal that would enable Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.

He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat and for the private sector to help stabilize global food markets.

The Berlin meeting’s host, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were to blame for food shortages was “completely untenable.”

Russia exported as much wheat in May and June this year as in the same months of 2021, Baerbock said.

She echoed Guterres’ comments that several factors underlie the growing hunger crisis around the world.

“But it was Russia’s war of attack against Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami,” Baerbock said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russia has no excuse for holding back vital goods from world markets.

“The sanctions that we’ve imposed on Russia collectively and with many other countries exempt food, exempt food products, exempt fertilizers, exempt insurers, exempt shippers,” he said.

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

Local and federal highways in the North-west have become vulnerable as bandits continue to ambush and abduct travellers.

The gunmen who abducted 29 people returning to Zamfara State from Sokoto State where they had gone to attend the wedding of colleagues have released them after the payment of an unspecified ransom.

The victims, who were mostly dealers of mobile phones and phone accessories at Bebeji Communication Market (Bebeji Plaza) in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State were abducted in Sokoto 13 days ago.

Secretary of the GSM Dealers Association in the state, Ashiru Zurmi, confirmed the release of the victims but didn’t give details.

One of the victims reportedly died in captivity.

Though the amount paid as ransom to secure the release of the hostages has not been revealed, Abdullahi Lawal, whose brother was among those abducted, said their relatives were asked to make donations. He said his family raised N33,000 while the phone sellers’ association “provided the remaining money.”

“Every family was told to gather N400,000 while the members of the plaza and their colleagues in the state provided the remaining money. Some family members were able to raise the money in full, but we couldn’t. I took the money to the plaza and I was told that they were still negotiating with the bandits” he said.

He said he didn’t know how much was given to the bandits “but I’m happy that my brother is okay,” he said.

From N5m to N700,000

A phone accessories seller, Sharhabilu Muhammad, told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone that the officials of the phone dealers association negotiated with the bandits to reduce the ransom they originally demanded to release the captives.

“You know that the initial money they said was N5m for each of the captives but our officials kept negotiating with them (bandits) until they reduced the money to N700k,” he said.

When asked about the person who reportedly died in captivity, Mr Muhammed said his identity has not been revealed.

“We don’t know because even the bandits didn’t tell but we’ll surely find out when they (captives) arrive at Gusau tonight,” he added.

The police command spokesman, Mohammed Shehu, didn’t respond to calls and SMS sent to him on the development.

Backstory

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the wedding guests were abducted when bandits opened fire on the two buses they were travelling in a few kilometres after Bimasa in the Dogon Awo junction, Sokoto State.

They were returning from Tambuwal town in Sokoto State where they had attended the wedding of a colleague, Jamil Umar.

The captives were travelling on a Toyota Coaster bus belonging to the Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC and another bus owned by Gusau Local Government.

The bandits had demanded a ransom of N145 million to release the 29 hostages.

Bandits have been terrorising North-west states and a part of North-central Nigeria, killing and displacing hundreds of people and rustling domestic animals.

Travelling on federal and local highways is becoming dangerous as bandits block roads, abduct and kill motorists.

Major federal highways including Abuja-Kaduna, Gusau-Sokoto-Birnin Kebbi, and Birnin Gwari-Kaduna have become travellers’ nightmares with attacks and abduction or killing of travellers becoming a daily occurrence.

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