Thursday, 19 January 2017

ERC Solidarizes with US Students’ Walkout on Trump Inauguration Day


Press Statement

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) declares solidarity for the United States (US) national students’ walkout, otherwise known as lecture boycott by the students movement here in Nigeria, to protest US president-elect Donald Trump’s racist, misogynist and vicious capitalist agenda for America. The walkout is taking place on Friday 20 January 2017 as a part of series of mass activities to inaugurate the resistance to Trump.

The walkout, which will see thousands of high school and college students in the United States abandon classes was initiated by the Socialist Students – the sister organization of the ERC in the US. Just as the ERC is the students and youth campaign of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Socialist Student is the campaign of the Socialist Alternative (SA). Both SA and DSM are respectively co-thinkers and affiliate of the Committee for a Workers International (CWI).

We are in full agreement with our comrades in the Socialist Alternative and Socialist Students who have described the election of Donald Trump as a disaster.  This by no means translates that a Hillary Clinton victory would have brought any fundamental relief to working class Americans. Hillary, as Bernie Sanders correctly described her, is a servant of Wall Street and she remains so. Both Hillary and Trump were the most unpopular presidential candidates ever. This is why together with organizing mass resistance to Trump, the Socialist Alternative and Socialist Students are equally campaigning for a new political party opposed to the two parties of Wall Street – Democrats and Republicans – and devoted to standing up for the 99%.

No doubt a Trump presidency, despite his demagogic promises to provide well paid jobs, will have many negative consequences for the working masses and youth in the US and also globally. Trump has threatened to deport 2-3 million immigrants and to target Muslim immigrants for “extreme vetting.” Women’s reproductive health, democratic rights, and workers rights are all under threat. This is a big concern to many around the world especially here in Africa.

Hundreds of thousands of young people from Nigeria and Africa are in the United States for education and a brighter future. Many migrated to escape the horrors of poverty, wars and persecution back home. This is aside many professionals and working class people from Nigeria who are earning honest living by working in different sectors of the US economy and are sending the proceeds of their labour back home to feed families and dependants who are caught in the cycle of poverty here in Nigeria. All of these people are potential victims if Trump’s racist and vicious far-right capitalist agenda are allowed to succeed. This is why mass resistance must be built now within the US and internationally to resist his policies and unite against division.

Above all, Trump has a clear capitalist agenda which will see the condition of extreme inequality worsen in the United States and globally while the fat-cat bankers continue to corner enormous profits while getting tax breaks. This will be combined with a warmongering foreign policy that will raise tension and the spectre of armed conflicts around the world. All his rhetoric about standing up to China and opposing free trade are merely to protect the profit interests of US multinationals and manufacturing companies and not necessarily to protect jobs. It is becoming clear that Trump does not and will not speak for average working class Americans. His cabinet is already looking set to be the richest, being dominated as it is, by billionaires. No doubt, those who expect Trump to make “America great again” will be resoundingly disappointed.

Trump’s capture of the Republican nomination was a distorted reflection of the widespread opposition to the billionaire class, opposition that was also shown in the huge support Bernie Sanders received for his call for a “political revolution” against the billionaires. Before he’s been sworn in Trump’s approval rating is under 40%, while 48% of Americans see him negatively. In the election Trump was not the most popular candidate, Clinton won over 2.8 million more votes. All this shows the potential for building not just resistance but also a real alternative. 

At this crucial time, solidarity and unity among working people and youth is vital to resist Trump and start a movement to build a party of working people and a socialist future.

Yours-in-the-Struggle
 

                                                                                                                
Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                                      Ibukun Omole                               
National Coordinator (07033697259)                                       National Secretary

Monday, 16 January 2017

5-DAY WARNING STRIKE OF SSANU, NASU AND NAAT: ANOTHER SIGN THAT BUHARI GOVERNMENT HAS FAILED PUBLIC EDUCATION



We Support the Strike and Call on Government to avoid further disruption of academic calendar by meeting all demands

Press statement

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) fully supports the decision of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NASU) to embark on a 5-day warning strike from Monday 16 January 2017 to compel the federal government to fully implement the tenets of the 2009 FGN/ Non Teaching Staff Union agreement.

We call on the Buhari government to immediately meet the demands of the unions in order to stem this dangerous cycle of incessant closure of campuses and disruption of academic calendar which have become permanent features of public education under this government.

We believe that given the sordid conditions on campuses today characterized by low funding and inadequate teaching facilities, students, parents and the general public as a matter of necessity must support all struggles of the staff unions to challenge government to fulfill its social responsibilities. This is why we call for solidarity actions to back the struggle of these striking unions and demonstrate that the struggle to salvage public education is one that unites students, staff and the working class.

We also call on the striking unions in particular not to make this warning strike a mere sit-at-home action. As the ERC has pointed out repeatedly, a common mistake of past struggles waged by unions in the education sector as well as the wider labour movement is to mis-interpret the role of a warning strike thus mismanaging the potential that this kind of action has in detonating a bigger movement that can win concessions. To be clear, a warning strike is an action that presupposes the possibility of a bigger and longer action (s) in future especially if government remains intransigent. Therefore, a warning strike is a preparatory action whose essential purpose is to signal to the government that the workers are ready to fight but more importantly to prepare the fighting forces, educate them and mobilize them for the bigger struggles impending.

Therefore it is our view that this 5-day warning strike can only be adjudged successful if side by side with workers effectively withdrawing their services, public programs like congresses, mass meetings, symposium, rallies, media campaign and leafleting are organized. This kind of public activities will allow the unions to take their case to the students and the general public thus exposing government insincerity with a view to securing the support of the critical mass of the students and the working people which would prove useful if at some time later the unions are forced by continuous government intransigence to embark on indefinite strikes or actions of similar nature.

No doubt, the decision of the non-teaching staff unions to begin another warning strike, just about two months after the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) also shut down the public Universities, is a sad reminder that nothing has changed for the better in the education sector since the Buhari government came nearly two years ago. Rather in many ways, a lot has gone from bad to worse at primary, secondary and tertiary tiers of public education. Nearly two years after, there is no known plan or roadmap by the Buhari government to address the rot in the system. In many ways, it seems the ministry of education and the associated agencies are on auto pilot given recent controversies surrounding qualifications for admission into tertiary institutions.

Not only does the 2017 appropriation bill contain one of the lowest allocations to education in recent times, there have been too many closures of Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education over the past 19 months. Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) which has been shut for 8 months easily comes to mind. So do the University of Lagos, Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), University of Portharcourt (UNIPORT), Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba Akoko (AAUA) and others.

In addition, intolerance and readiness to suspend and expel students’ activists or sack workers leaders are on the rise. So also is the penchant to use security operatives to harass students and workers leaders. It will not amount to gainsaying to reach the conclusion that in the last 19 months of Buhari administration, respect for democratic and human rights has remained under a serious threat in tertiary institutions.

On the whole, the Buhari/APC administration, just like the Jonathan/PDP administration before it, sees public education as a business instead of a social responsibility to the people. This is why anti-poor policies of education underfunding, privatization, commercialization and hike in fees which were the ruinous policies of past regimes have been preserved and are now being implemented with gusto by the Buhari administration.

More than ever before, there is urgent necessity for staff unions and students unions as well as campaigning groups like the ERC to unite to build a strong and powerful mass movement that can begin to resist, through strikes and joint mass protests/demonstrations, the anti-poor education policies of the Buhari government while fighting for improved funding, democratic management, respect of democratic rights and implementation of agreements with staff unions.


Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                                      Ibukun Omole                          
National Coordinator (07033697259)                                       National Secretary

Thursday, 12 January 2017

ERC CONDEMNS THE 35% INCREMENT OF THE TUITION FEE IN ADEYEMI COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, ONDO



·         Demands the immediate and unconditional reversal of the obnoxious fee
·         Calls for an organized movement of students against all forms of fee hike including the administrative fee
·         Demands for a general congress of students to address this issue among others
·         Demands for proper and adequate funding of public education
·         For free and functional education must be accessible by all

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) Ondo State Chapter condemns the 35% hike in the tuition fee of the fresh degree students of Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo from N39, 000 (for Arts, languages and education) to N55, 500 and from N39, 500 (for science and science, vocation and technical education) to N60, 500. We note that this increment has come in a period of economic hardship viz-a-viz non-payment of salaries across majority of the states in the country, and inflation which has led to increases in the cost of goods and services. We consider this increment as anti-students and anti-poor. If implemented, it is capable of limiting many students from accessing public education in the country.

Meanwhile this fee increment does not come as a surprise. It is a logical culmination of the series of anti-poor increases in payable fees that the authorities of Adeyemi College of Education (ACE) Ondo have been imposing on students and their poor parents over the years. No doubt the authorities of ACE have continued to impose all kinds of ridiculous charges. For instance during the 2011/2012 academic session, the management introduced a so-called maintenance fee of N3, 000 for degree and N2, 000 for NCE students. Similarly during the 2012/2013 academic session, the authorities introduced acceptance fee of N10, 000 while in the 2014/2015 academic session, an administrative fee of N10, 000 was introduced. 

The argument behind the introduction of maintenance fee in the 2011/2013 session was to cater for the immediate needs of the departments and schools (faculties) but this has not stopped the heads and deans of various schools and departments from demanding a quota from the students’ association purse. 

Also, the acceptance fee which was introduced in2012/2013session in the name of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) has continued to defy the law of gravity, growing to as much as N25, 000 (for degree students) and N20, 000 (for NCE students) in 2016/2017 session. 

Not only limited to this, an administrative fee of 10,000 was as well introduced in 2014/2015 which started with fresh students only. By this, the increment affected only fresh students and they will continue to pay it till they graduate. As at present, only the 400level students are exempted from this fee. This means that all students will have to pay this fee starting from the next session. This same method was again used for the latest hike in fees in the college. 

This tactical hike in fee is not unconnected with the threat from the mother institution – Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife –which allegedly has threatened to terminate its affiliation if these anti-students policies are not implemented. As the management of ACE Ondo has justified, the administrative fee is meant to cater for the salary arrears and remunerations of the staff taking degree courses as they were only employed for NCE programs and OAU is not taking the responsibilities of remunerating them. In addition to this, it was also stated that it is a norm and it is being done in every other institutions having an affiliation (University of Ibadan, COE Ilesha as example). ERC wonder why students will have to pay for services of the staff in a federal institution. As far as we are concerned, since the degree programme is approved by relevant bodies, the government which is the owner of both institutions should take up the responsibility of paying the salaries and allowances of the academic staff. 

Not limited to this, the same mother institution, OAU, has also demanded for an increment in the fee of the degree students of the affiliate institution, ACE Ondo, to level up with that of OAU faculty of Education if the students want to continue earning the certificate of OAU. The 100% increment proposed by OAU was later negotiated and reduced to the present fee which is statistically 35% greater than the initial fee. While not accepting that the current fee being paid by OAU Education students is fair and just, ERC wonders why ACE students will have to pay the same fee as OAU students when both do not enjoy neither the same amenities nor taught under the same learning conditions. If this threat amidst others are not resisted, ERC fears many and even worse policies will arise in future.

With the explanations above, we can conclude that the inability of ACE to resist various anti-students policies compelled on them has resulted in series of hike in fees. Also, the increment is tactical, starting only with fresh students with the tactics that stale students may not intervene and fresh students (who are actually eager for admission) would graciously pay. Also, the decision of the students union to negotiate the fee without the consent of the majority of the students they represent is condemnable. It is imperative that the rank and file of students must be consulted before such a negotiation is made. For issues relating to students, a well-attended congress of students must be convened with a view to properly convey the opinion of students to the management.  Hence, a congress of students is inevitable at this point. 

The fact that the fee affects only fresh is not an enough reasons for students not to reject such. We should be reminded that the birth of the administrative fee was the same which later attracted lots of mixed reactions later. Also, it should be noted that even NCE students who may actually want to come over for their Degree programs will surely be affected by this. Hence, we call on a radical thinking of students towards this. In essence, we urge students not to fall for this divide and rule gimmick of the college management. Stale and fresh students are the same; they study under the same terrible conditions of learning. We therefore call for unity of all students to resist the fee hike through mass demonstrations and lecture boycotts.

Considering that many ACE students are self-sponsored while several others are children of public workers who are being owed backlog of salaries, the outcome of this is that many students will be denied access  to public education and forced to wait for another year at home. The set of students who have been denied of admission will seek for alternative thereby teaming up to engage in various social vices such as raping, smoking, drinking, cultism, stealing, kidnapping and consequently armed robbery.

Our position as Education Rights Campaign is that free and quality education must be accessible to all. Consequent upon this background, we call on students and activists to resist these future-ruining anti-students policies. Students should understand that if these various threats of the ACE and OAU authorities are not resisted, the upcoming policies might be extremely unbearable and force many students who cannot cope to drop out. We also call on staff unions in the College to oppose the fee hike and stand in solidarity with students until the struggle for reversal is won. This is essential because ACE management may want to use the need for payment of the salary and allowances of workers to justify the anti-poor increment with a view to driving a wedge between students and workers in the institution.

While the management can be timid to confront these policies from OAU for the fear of losing its affiliation, students must start organizing themselves to take up this issue with a view to delivering ACE from any further attack on the campus. We also call on student activist and left organizations in OAU to take up this issue with a view to stopping OAU from any further intimidation on ACE as well as the complete reversal of the existing anti-poor policies.

In conclusion, a general congress of students at this point is inevitable and long overdue. We propose that if the union leadership refuses to call for a congress, the congress of students should start mobilizing themselves with a view to demanding for the reversal of this fee. Also, students need to start demanding for an increased budgetary allocation to education so that the drive to increase the internally generated revenue (IGR) will be totally suppressed and free and functional education will be accessible to all. It is until the students and workers are organized that all these policies can be resisted.

Owoyomi Damilola Owot
Ondo State Coordinator
Education Rights Campaign (ERC)
07065184322