Thursday, 23 November 2017

2018 BUDGET PROPOSAL: ANOTHER GOVERNMENT’S ATTACK ON PUBLIC EDUCATION


Calls For Nationwide Mass Protests to force an increase in the Budgetary Allocation to Education
Press statement
 
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) strongly condemns the proposal of President Buhari-led Federal Executive Council to allocate a paltry 7.04% of the 2018 budget to the education sector. We hereby demand an upward review of the budgetary allocation to education up to 26% as recommended by UNESCO, democratic management of schools as well as the honoring of all agreements reached with unions in the education sector.

There is no more doubt that the Buhari-administration has only been paying lip service to the much needed revitalization of this crucial, but ailing sector. We applaud the National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) and other groups for condemning the budget but now is the time to move beyond talks.

Now that the 2018 budget proposal is yet to be passed into law, there is a chance to win an upward increase in the allocation to education if we fight. Between now and January 2018, we have a chance to stamp our feet on the ground and demand that government does what is right. This would require a series of mass actions like lecture boycotts, strikes and protest marches across the country and up to the gate of the National Assembly to compel the lawmakers to increase the allocation to education.

Therefore, we urge the students unions, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), NAPS, NUT, ASUU and other unions in the education sector not to fold their arms but to immediately hold meetings of their organs and collectively call for mass actions involving students, education workers, parents and members of the public. Such mass actions which should take place on campuses must also move to the streets nationwide and culminate in a mass occupation of the National Assembly as the 2018 budget proposals are being debated by lawmakers. Without doing this, the public education sector will face serious challenges over the next one year as a result of this paltry allocation.

The 2018 budget proposal, presented to the National Assembly on Tuesday, 7th November, indicates that a meagre N605.8 billion is earmarked for the funding of the education sector, in spite of the widely acknowledged crises bedeviling the sector. As with previous budgets, the proposed allocation to the education sector is a far cry from the 26% budgetary allocation to education as recommended by UNESCO for developing countries like Nigeria. On the surface, there appears to be a fractional increase in the education budget compared to the N550 billion earmarked for the sector in the present 2017 budget. But as Premium Times of 8th November reported: “Although the N605 billion allocated to the sector this year is higher in naira terms than the N550 billion allocated in 2017, there is a decrease in percentage terms.”

Against the backdrop of collapse of public education in the country, the 2018 budget proposal, if passed into law by the National Assembly, would further compound the problems that students and education workers face on daily basis on account of underfunding of public education. Already, managements of schools are increasing fees astronomically, and the University of Benin is the latest example in this regard. As experience has shown in schools where fees have been astronomically increased, the policy of squeezing the pockets of parents dry in order to run schools is indeed incapable of resuscitating moribund academic facilities.

The budget has equally exposed the insincerity of government in respect of its promises to meet the demands of education workers’ unions, especially ASUU, for upward funding of the education sector. This means that the government would continue to grapple with industrial actions by these unions in the coming year, if the national assembly fails to rectify this error and sufficiently increase the budget to education.

Days after this budget was submitted to the National Assembly, the President delivered another academic talk on the problems with the nation’s education system at the Education Summit of the Federal Executive Council. We find it completely deceitful of the President to diagnose same government-induced problems with the nation’s education system, when the underfunding of this system is at the epicentre of the Nigeria’s education crisis. Like the politicians before him, President Buhari continues to draw a parallel line between quality education and national growth, forgetting that there cannot be sustainable growth without a value-creating human population.

However, students, education workers, and parents should draw the conclusion that the crops of capitalist ruling elites in this country are incapable of taking independent initiative to mould a desirable future for young people, and in effect, for this country. This is why together with fighting for save public education, we should also fight to replace all these failed anti-poor and anti-education capitalist politicians with a planned democratic socialist system under which the wealth of Nigeria can be publicly owned and democratically managed to finance free and functional education and other vital social services.

 

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                                      Ibukun Omole                               

National Coordinator (07033697259)                                       National Secretary

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

ERC CONDEMNS PROSCRIPTION OF STUDENTS UNION AT OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY, ILE-IFE


           Several Students Injured as Management Unleashes Reign of Terror to Enforce Proscription of the Union
           Appeals to FG to call the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ogunmodede, to Order
           Demands Restoration of Independent Unionism and Recall of all Victimized Students Activists

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls on the Prof. Eyitope Ogunmodede-led management of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile- Ife to immediately rescind its recent decision to proscribe the Students’ Union in the interest of peace and progress of the university.

We also demand the recall of ERC National Secretary, Comrade Omole Ibukun and three (3) other student activists who were recently placed on indefinite suspension by the University administration for simply complaining about the poor welfare conditions of the hostels.

OAU is being gradually turned into a military barrack where dissent is a crime. Staff unions, the labour movement, Civil Society Organizations and NGOs must not watch and allow Prof. Ogunmodede turn the nation’s clock back to the days of military dictatorship. As we write, several students have been injured by over fifty (50) security men armed with cudgels and sledge hammers sent by the University Vice Chancellor, yesterday Monday 6 November 2017, to enforce the proscription by closing down the union office. There are no words to describe the latest action of the University administration other than tyrannical, despotic, undemocratic and unacceptable.

For avoidance of doubt, we must point out that the Prof. Ogunmodede-led University authorities went beyond their powers in proscribing the Students Union. The existence of Students Unionism is guaranteed by relevant provisions of the 1999 constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria (AS Amended). As such, no Vice Chancellor has the power to pronounce a Students Union banned the same way same cannot be done to the staff unions. Against this background, the action of the management of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) is therefore illegal, null and void and a reckless abuse of authority.

To be clear, the reason for the proscription of the union was because the mass of students had the courage to impeach the Union president, Dr. IBK who happened to be a close friend of the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ogunmodede, for various acts of infraction of the union constitution and misdemeanor including misappropriation of union funds, gross negligence and inability to defend students interests and hiring of cultists to assault innocent students on November 1st 2017.

We call on the Federal government and in particular the visitor to the University, President Muhammadu Buhari, to call the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ogunmodede, to order before he turns OAU into a military garrison. So far over, about eight (8) undergraduate and postgraduate students of the University have been suspended since Prof. Ogunmodede’s appointment as the Vice Chancellor of the University. For a Vice Chancellor who has not spent up to seven (7) months in office, Prof. Ogunmodede has clearly shown by all his actions so far that his administration is bound to be one under which all democratic rights enjoyed by students and workers in the university community would be forcefully taken away.

The proscription of the Students Union following the action taken by the mass of students to democratically remove the union president only goes to show what we have always alleged which is that the university administration is unnecessarily meddling in the affairs of the Students Union with a view to control it. As far as we are concerned, independent unionism is a right. Students have a right to pilot their union affairs as they like and to punish their erring union officers.

We hereby charge the students movement, staff unions, the labour movement, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups to rise up to resist the emerging tyranny in OAU by demanding immediate restoration of the students union and recall of suspended students activists.


                                                                                               


 


                                            
Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                                               
National Coordinator (07033697259)                

Friday, 3 November 2017

ON THE UNJUST FEES FOR LEARNING JUSTICE IN NIGERIAN LAW SCHOOL


By Omole Ibukun
National Secretary, Education Rights Campaign (ERC)

The month of October, 2017 will go down in history as a month of indebtedness and penury for some Nigerian families, as our intending barristers will be paying over Three hundred thousand Naira (N300,000) to be recognized as a professional in a course they have spent some five years in the university to learn. This is aside other fees that they would have to pay during their registration and graduation process from the Law school and money spent during the programme for sustenance and project work e.t.c. As a matter of fact the law school has adopted a method of yearly systemic increment in the recent period that involves increasing the fees by fifteen thousand Naira (N15, 000) every year. The matter that beg for answers is how a parent earning Eighteen thousand Naira (N18,000) as monthly minimum wage would be able to pay these exploitative fees for their children.

A case that comes to mind is that of a law graduate from Obafemi Awolowo University who had to release a “please-help” notice on social media before Nigerians later contributed money to pay for his Law school fees. It is disheartening that law school has become as costly as a venture that now demands crowd-funding. How then do we hope that our lawyers remain incorruptible? When they have become extremely indebted to become lawyers, won’t they prefer to give justice to the highest bidders?

Despite these exorbitant fees that the Law school bills, the poor welfare state of the Law school that Kayode Olusegun Bello recently exposed is still fresh in our minds; the poor social condition that the Nigerian Law School desperately wanted to cover up to the point of booting him out of Law school military-style, and later disobeying a court order to reinstate him. This poor welfare includes congestion, and poor state of accommodation facilities at the law school campuses.

While this barbarity is the obtainable at the law school, members of the management of the Council of Legal Education continue to live in opulence while making these policies that relegates our future lawyers to gnashing suffering.

One would then ask if public education (esp. Legal education) has become a commodity or it remains a social service. With the knowledge that justice is the only job of the judicial arm of government and that public education is a social responsibility of the government, it is only logical to conclude that the burden of legal education should be the responsibility of that government. This is why the Nigerian Law School is a public institution and not a private enterprise. Meanwhile, education is a social service that serves the society and the government more than the individual. While education serves the role of advancing our society, it also helps the government in ensuring that the people remain governable and maintain a certain order.

In a country where Judges are been tried for corruption, it becomes understandable that the trial of those judges will not fundamentally bring to an end the problem of systemic corruption, but it is a question of changing the entire corrupt capitalist system. If youths that are supposed to learn justice have it accepted through these fees that legal and judicial education goes to the highest bidder, and then they would not find it hard to rationalize it in the future that justice should also go to the highest bidder.


All of these aforementioned facts stress the fact that public education, especially legal education, must be affordable. In the final analysis, we need a public education sector that is democratically-managed, properly-planned and publicly funded. If this is not done, the laws for the rich will continue to be different than the law for the poor.

RE: WE REJECT THE #1,200 EXTRA FEES FOR POST UTME SCREENING EXERCISE CHARGED BY THE ACE MANAGEMENT


Please refer to the statement dated 24/10/2017 issued by the Education Rights Campaign, ACE Chapter, rejecting the #1,200 extra fees for POST UTME screening charged by the ACE management and the response of the Provost of the college thereafter. The Organization hereby clarifies the college management and the entire college community the basis of the statement and our position.

Education Rights Campaign, ERC, is a platform of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) formed in 2004 to campaign for a free, functional, public-funded and democratically-managed education sector. It is a non-profit, principled and independent organization which has been in existence for more than a decade now across campuses in Nigeria with an enviable track record and antecedence. As such we can never be “teleguided” or “sponsored”.

On the 23rd of October, 2017, the POST UTME screening candidates of the institution received a notification on their private portals indicating they have to pay a sum of One thousand naira (#1,000) for result verification before proceeding to print their registration slips. The notification reads; “pay 1000.00NGN only for your result verification, before proceeding to print your Exam slip”. ERC also noted that this is the only information provided by the college management for the consumption of the general public.

Upon receiving information from the candidates about this notification, the ERC took pains to verify it by actually checking the portal of a number of the candidates. If the information was found in the portal of just one or two candidates, perhaps there could have been a reason to doubt its authenticity. But in each of the portals of the several numbers of candidates we discussed with, we saw the same message asking candidates to pay the sum of N1, 000 before proceeding to print exam slip. So in every way, we sought “clarifications” and confirmed the information before “hitting the button”.

It was only after duly verifying the notification via candidates’ portal and convinced that this would amount to charging candidates above the N2, 000 thresh-hold as mandated by JAMB that we issued the public statement. Needless to stress, the aim of the public statement was not “a deliberate attempt to tarnish the image of the Institution” but to call the attention of the management to an issue that was bothering the minds of candidates and students.

In this regard we wish to commend the Provost Olukoya Ogen (PhD) who personally responded by E-mail to our statement concerning the subject matter. In his response, the Provost explained the reasons for charging the N1000 fee which is for the procurement of WAEC and NECO scratch cards in order to verify candidate’s O’ Level certificates. Other details that emerged from the Provost response also included the fact that candidates are free to buy their scratch cards by themselves and submit this to the officials. Such candidates need not pay the N1, 000 verification fee. Interestingly these very important details were not included in the notification on the candidates’ portal. All that was in the notification was the instruction that candidates should “pay 1000.00NGN only for your result verification, before proceeding to print your Exam slip”.

We recommend in future that the College management should endeavor to put out detailed bulletin to avoid misinterpretation and confusion. If the notification about the N1, 000 result verification fee had been communicated via a detailed bulletin, most likely the facts of the matter would have been more explicit than it is in the present case.

We acknowledge the fact that college provost, Prof. Olukoya Ogen, clarified the reasons for the #1,000 in response to the statement from ERC. However, we of ERC believe that such a clarification should be made public so that the candidates and the generality of the College community can be clarified. Again we must stress that it is essential that the college management, at every point in time, release clear and unambiguous notifications and information for the consumption of the general public using all available media, including the school website and circular.

We of ERC are not interested in tarnishing the image of the College or of any person or group of persons We are open-minded and ready to work with anyone that agrees with our manifesto in the campaign for a free, functional, public-funded, and democratically-managed education sector.
We are satisfied today that not only did the statement draw the attention of the Provost to the issue; also we are aware that the management has now asked candidates who can procure the scratch cards by themselves to do so without having to pay the N1, 000 verification fee.  
We hereby thank the College management for having a listening ear. We shall continue to do our best in contributing our quota to the progress and development of Adeyemi College of Education (ACE) Ondo through positive criticism and advocacy on issues that affects the rights of students and education workers.
Olotu Wole Prof.

ERC, ACE ONDO.

LASUSU: ERC LASU APPLAUDS LASUITES FOR REJECTING E-VOTING

SAYS BALLOTING SYSTEM IS A WELCOME DEVELOPMENT

“Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it – Frantz Fannon.
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Lagos State University Chapter, applaud Lasuites for demonstrating that there is power in unity. Our ability to unite against all odds makes us stronger. Moreso, the events of the past few days have shown that Lasuites are prepared to defend the independence of their union against any internal or external threat. Therefore, it is important to put things in right perspective and that is why ERC considers it necessary to put forward this statement.

The demand of the mass of students for an alternative system of voting is genuine and we fully support and identify with it. Every human learn from experience. Based on experience, Lasuites are not wrong to reject the e-voting system on the basis of suspicious manipulations and failure of the system in recent time. Although this failure might be seen from the perspective of ICT error but nevertheless error is error.  In order not to further toy with the election process, the quest for alternative system of system is inevitable and justified.

To be clear, similar dissatisfaction and suspicion of manipulation which Lasuites have variously expressed exists on other campuses where the e-voting system is in practice. A major drawback of the e-voting system is that students or the students union does not own nor control the technology and software. These are primarily under the control of the authorities and the consultants employed for the purpose. Also the e-voting system places considerable difficulties on the path of candidates who may wish to challenge the outcome. Consequently, the e-voting system gives undue advantage to the authorities to manipulate the process in favour of their preferred candidates.

Now an agreement has emerged to employ the ballot paper system much to students’ relief. However for us in the ERC, this would not automatically mean that all election manipulations crisis are over or that the authorities would still not be able to influence the elections. Students must understand that by agreeing to the ballot system, the University authorities were scared by the public uproar against the electronic system. Therefore, Lasuites should then expect concerted efforts to sabotage the ballot paper system in order to compel students to agree to the introduction of the electronic system of voting. Ultimately, an independent students union free from management interference can only be achieved through struggle. As they say, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Therefore, students must be prepared to defend the ballot paper system by ensuring proper and adequate monitoring of the process, prevent anything that might lead to disruption of the process, raise alarm on any suspicious move and report such to the appropriate quarters. All these are what Lasuites need to do to sustain the ballot paper system.

To ensure a fully transparent and independent LASUSU capable of defending the interest of students, Lasuites must also demand an end to the shady selection/screening process for honourable members of the SPC. We must demand that all honourable members of the SPC must be elected by the popular votes of their constituencies. Anyone who wants to become an SPC member should go and campaign for votes among members of his or her constituencies. This is the only way to end nepotism in LASUSU.

ERC hereby call on the LASUSU IEC to come out with Electoral Rules and Regulations to guide the conduct of the ballot paper system as provided by the LASUSU constitution. This will enable students to be aware of the election Modus operandi.

In conclusion, ERC hereby wishes Lasuites a free and fair election and also urge Lasuites to be wise in making their choice of leadership.

Aluta.... Continua...... Victoria Ascerta!

Signed
Dihkrullah Aasim (Bintinlaye)

ERC LASU Coordinator 

LASUSU: ERC LASU POSITION ON THE RECENT ELECTION SCREENING RESULTS

18/10/2017

The result of screening of honourable members of the Students Parliamentary Council (SPC) of the Lagos State University Students Union (LASUSU) has once again become a subject of controversy. This time around, a huge number of candidates for seats in the SPC were screened out. These include a number of our members like comrades YNA Omomeewa, Dhikrullah Aasim (Bintinlaye) and a whole lot of known radical and progressive student activists. Like previous years, no one knows the criteria used, no one knows how the screening is done and what factors are considered before approving or disqualifying an applicant.

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) Lagos State University (LASU) hereby rejects the disqualification of the candidates. The candidates as well as the mass of students have a right to know the reasons for the disqualification. We therefore challenge the Independent Electoral Committee (IEC) to publish the criteria it used for the screening. This is the least the IEC must do if the mass of students are to continue to retain any confidence in the on-going electioneering process of the Students Union.

So far the electioneering process has been fraught with irregularity which has cast a shadow over the credibility of its outcome. Of particular importance is the undue interference of the management in the affairs and conducts of the elections. This only goes to show that LASUSU remains tied to the apron string of the management. To build an independent and virile LASUSU, a vibrant SPC is required. But this cannot be achieved going by the highly opaque and undemocratic manner honourables of the SPC are selected.

On several occasions, we in the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) had condemned the process for the election of SPC members as shady, undemocratic, fraudulent and not in consonance with the democratic ideals of a Students union. Instead of elections, members of the SPC are selected through a shady screening process. We had also condemned similar undemocratic practices in the union and had always canvassed that it is about time to amend the LASUSU constitution in order to make the union more independent and democratic. This shady process of SPC elections replaces the right of all matriculated members of the union to elect their representatives and places this responsibility in the hands of a cabal of godfathers and kingmakers.

The outcome of this year’s screening process has again confirmed the correctness of our position which is that the SPC screening process is patently fraudulent undemocratic. Otherwise how can the IEC or anyone explain the disqualification of applicants who are so active in students’ union activities and equally popular on campus that if they should even contest for any office in the SEC some of them would garner hundreds if not thousands of votes?

We hereby urge all LASUITES to rise up and reject this fraudulent process. We must all demand that members of the SPC be elected by popular votes the same way parliaments are elected in many students unions across the country. Without insisting on this, the choice of who become our representatives at the SPC will continue to be decided by the cabal.

The question we must ask is if members of the SEC are democratically elected, then why are the honourables who are to make laws and checkmate the union not democratically elected? Also, if democracy is a system popular representation (Majority), it is only logical that students’ representatives at either SPC or SEC must be elected by popular vote.

Students must understand that the undemocratic process of electing honourables into the LASUSU SPC is a major factor affecting the efficiency and effectiveness of students’ representative. It's only when the mandate to represent is giving by students then we can have quality representation to check balance the union.

Therefore students should not sit back and watch. It is to this end that ERC draws the conclusion that the screening results is far from being credible and obviously it is incapable of representing the genuine interest of students on campus and therefore it must be rejected.

Our Demands are:

  1. The IEC with immediate effect and in the interest of the entire students and the union as a whole to reconsider the qualification of those disqualified.

2. The IEC in further discharge of her duties should put first the interest of the union above all other interest.

(3) A halt to the shady process for election of SPC members. Henceforth, all SPC members to be elected through direct vote by all valid members of their constituencies.

(4) An independent, mass based and democratic LASUSU free of management interference and capable of defending the rights of the mass of students

We therefore hope the IEC considers these genuine demands in the interest of students at large. We like to reiterate our commitment to a responsible union which serves the interest of her members.

signed
Dhikrullah Aasim (Bintinlaye)
Coordinator

ERC LASU BRANCH            

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

OAU: SUSPENSION OF STUDENTS' LEADERS OVER PEACEFUL PROTEST AGAINST POOR WELFARE CONDITIONS BY MANAGEMENT


UNJUSTIFIABLE AND CONDEMNABLE

  • FOR IMMEDIATE AND UNCONDITIONAL REINSTATEMENT OF IBK AND OTHER VICTIMISED STUDENTS

We in the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) strongly condemn the suspension of 4 students activists and leaders of the students' union of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, over students' protest against power outage and poor living and learning conditions. This latest suspension brings to 8 the total number of students activists that have so far been victimized in the last few months.
One of those suspended is Omole Ibukun (aka IBK). He is the National Secretary of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) – an organization committed to struggles for improved funding of education and democratic management of schools.
We hereby demand immediate and unconditional reinstatement of Omole Ibukun - the National Secretary of Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Jacob Tosin - Vice President of Students Union, Oluwalade Babatunde - Chairman Students' Transport Management Committee and Udeh John, who were suspended for joining other students to protest deleterious conditions on the campus of the university. We also demand the recall of the 4 post-graduate students earlier suspended for peacefully protesting against extension of their programme and increment in fees. We call for a halt to further victimization and attacks on students democratic rights. Freedom of expression and assembly are inalienable rights.
We appeal to the Governing Council and the visitor to the University to call Prof. Ogunmodede to order. This is a Vice Chancellor that has not spent up to 6 months in office and he has already suspended a total of 8 students (4 undergraduate and 4 post graduate) for peacefully protesting against anti-student policies. We also urge the mass of OAU students, staff unions in the university, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), trade unions and all Nigerians who hold fundamental rights to freedom of thought and speech in high esteem to support the demand for immediate and unconditional reinstatement of the suspended students and improved conditions of learning and living in the university.
We reiterate our position in the ERC that victimizing students' activists – who raise concerns over the degeneration of academic infrastructures, quality of learning and mismanagement of University funds - is despotic and an assault on the right to freedom of speech and assembly.
Until the protest of students on 6th October (almost a week after reopening of the university), the University was in complete darkness due to power outage, making healthy living and learning on a campus characterized by overcrowded lecture rooms and hostels impossible. It is crucial to note that coupled with the power outage is an embarrassing situation of bed-bug infested hostels, which these students formally complained about before vacation, and still resumed into same few weeks ago.
We therefore received with shock the news that while implementing the congressional resolution of the students' union for a lecture boycott over abject conditions of learning and living, some activists were hounded, indiscriminately beaten and hurled into police custody at Moore, Ile-Ife by security personnel of the University on the order of the Vice-Chancellor. The detained students, some of whom became victims of the new suspension order were released due to the intervention of a lawyer employed by the leadership of the Students' Union for that purpose.
The suspension of Omole Ibukun, Jacob Tosin, Udeh John and Oluwalade Babatunde in connection to this matter was unjustifiable and carried out in violation of the principle of natural justice. This is so because none of the victimized students was queried or invited to any panel of the varsity for the purpose of responding to the allegations levied against them by the University management. The university has hinged their suspension on a so-called Police investigation. However, the only shred of justification for the suspension becomes spurious given the fact that none of the victimized students were (or have been contacted) by police authorities concerning any investigation.
We have no doubt that the current suspension is no more than a ploy to dissuade students from raising concerns over their deleterious conditions of learning and living, and which is in sync with the despotic style of the previous substantive Vice-Chancellor who resorted to victimization of activists when questioned over the management of billions of Naira released to the university by the federal government between 2014 and 2016. The intention of the management, beyond the trump-up charges adduced as offenses, becomes apparent given the fact that some students of the University's post-graduate college were similarly suspended after protesting against policies of the university they considered inimical to their interests.
We in the ERC reiterate that the suspension of students as response to their demands for improved conditions on campus is unacceptable in a democratic society, especially in a University where students are supposed to be encouraged to think and speak critically.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto
ERC National Coordinator