Saturday, 5 January 2019

ERC REITERATES PRINCIPLED SUPPORT FOR ASUU, ASUP STRIKES


Condemns NANS for opposing a nationwide strike against Education Underfunding

 PRESS STATEMENT

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) wishes to reiterate her principled support for the ongoing strike of ASUU and ASUP. We believe this strike which is about compelling government to fulfill its social responsibility in terms of funding public education and improving the conditions of education workers deserve the principled support of students, parents and the labour movement as a whole. 

To this extent, we condemn the position taken by the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) towards the strike which consists of issuing ultimatum to ASUU to call off the strike without any regard for the crucial issues of education funding which the strike was called to address. Now with the recent visit of NANS to President Buhari at which a big birthday card was presented by NANS to president Buhari, it is clear that all of NANS recriminations about this strike has nothing to do with protecting the interests of Nigerian students who are suffering at home due to the strike but actually dictated by the interests of the hungry locusts in the leadership of NANS to get close to the corridors of power in exchange for money. 

As we in the ERC have labored to explain, the best way to protect the interest of students and ensure this strike comes to an end as soon as possible is for the students' movement to rally behind the strike in order to mount pressure on the Federal government to meet the demands of ASUU and ASUP. Any other method is opportunistic and a tongue-in-cheek endorsement of the anti-education and anti-student policies of underfunding and fee hike being implemented by the President Buhari APC government. 

ERC members have campaigned over the last decade for adequate funding of the education sector, on the basis that quality education is crucial to economic growth and national security. Regrettably, this dogged issue of funding has remained the bane of strike actions in tertiary institutions since 2009.

The agreements the federal government willingly entered with the unions were foregrounded by a NEEDS assessment report, a report that was conducted, sanctioned and adopted by the federal government. The pictures from the NEEDS assessment report, of the overcrowded lecture rooms and unequipped laboratories, have worsened today. Instructions, in the sciences and medical sciences, ought to be demonstrated; but today, science and medical courses are largely taught abstractly. The ERC therefore believes that the material conditions that justified the several agreements with the unions are not only existing, but have worsened.

We are witnesses to the fee hikes that rocked tertiary institutions in the first half of 2018. Fee hikes are convenient for school authorities to augment inadequate funding, and grossly unfair to parents and guardians that a recession had pushed closer to poverty. Underfunding of education hold students and parents as victims as much as education workers. We therefore find the position of NANS on the present strike unfortunate and self-annihilating, because NANS's position failed to recognise the interest of students for comfortable hostels and quality education in the struggle of the education workers. 

When students were protesting fee increment in UNIBEN and UI last year, NANS lost her voice and only just discovered her voice of scurrilities over ASUU and ASUP struggles. That smacks of opportunism! The ERC holds the opinion that NANS is existing in the firmament, and cut off from the realities obtainable on campuses, and therefore incapable of leading advocacy in the interests of Nigerian students. Just to prove this point further: at the press conference where NANS cast aspersion on the demands of ASUU and ASUP, it also seized the moment to endorse President Muhammadu Buhari, despite the intangible contribution of the latter to the education sector.

Meanwhile, the Buhari-led federal government keeps drawing the same conclusions independently as the striking unions about the crisis in the education sector. But it keeps stopping short of funding the sector, even when it agrees that the conditions creating demand for funding are there. We note the revelations of ASUU concerning the Wale Babalakin committee, which was set up by the government to renegotiate the terms of the agreements that previous governments had entered with ASUU. ASUU is demanding for the removal of Wale Babalakin as the chairman of the committee, because he is fixated on fee hike and education loans, according to the ASUU leadership. The ERC believes that the federal government has demonstrated obvious insincerity on the central question of education funding that created the perennial strikes, and evades that question through nebulous means. 

We believe that the government has the wherewithal to fund education, even beyond the current demands of the education sector unions for a one-off funding intervention in the sector. Less than 11, 800 political appointees are fleecing this country, through their outrageous remuneration and inflated cost of contracts or outsourcing of government's projects. The same government rushes to bail out a bank that was plundered by her chief executive, to save the money of a few stinkingly rich people who own more than 50% of the deposits in Nigerian banks.

The ERC holds that the capitalist system that this country runs is responsible for most of government's misplaced priorities that deflect from funding sectors important to vast majority of the people, in order to save funds for looting. This is why the struggle against education underfunding and improvement in workers welfare can only win permanent victory when linked with the general struggle of the working class to put an end to capitalism and enthrone a workers and poor people’s government armed with socialist policies. 

Signed

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                           Wole Olubanji
National Coordinator.                                                            National Mobilization Officer

Thursday, 30 August 2018

SECOND ANNUAL FREE HOLIDAY COACHING BY ERC OYO STATE CHAPTER ENTERS THE FOURTH WEEK


 * The coaching will end with a public symposium on the 4th September, 2018

The Second edition of annual free holiday coaching organised by members of Education Rights campaign, ERC, Oyo State Chapter kicked off on Tuesday, August 7, 2018, at St’ Brigid’s Secondary School, Mokola Ibadan. The inaugural edition which held at Community Grammar school, Mokola, Ibadan between August 7 and September 8, 2017.


In the first day of the lesson, which is strictly organised for students transiting from SS2 to SS3 in Ibadan North Local Government,  a total enrolment of 55 students from not fewer than 7 public secondary schools within and outside the said local government area was recorded. Between the first week and now (fourth week) the number of regular and registered participating students has increased to over 100 students from over ten public schools and 3 private schools with the participation of over 10 volunteers teachers. None of these teachers are being paid for the service rendered and they include members of Democratic Socialist Movement, DSM and Socialist Party of Nigeria, SPN, some teachers in public secondary schools who have been long-time supporters of DSM as well as some academic and post graduate students from the University of Ibadan who were attracted to participate in the lesson through a letter written to Department of Teacher Education, Faculty of Education, University of Ibadan.

 Subjects that are taught are Mathematics, English Language, Physics, Chemistry, Literature in English, Government, Economics, Biology, Commerce etc. They are usually handled by different teachers from Monday to Thursday which are scheduled strictly for serious academic work while Fridays are set aside for some extra-curricular activities like drama, poetry etc during which students are encouraged to showcase their potentials and capacity. 

Since this lesson commenced, two of the three Fridays have also been used to introduce the students to ERC. This was with a view to win some change seeking ones voluntarily to the banner of the organisation as a step towards building a future generation of activists and young Nigerians that will continue to deepen the campaign for free and quality education at all level. One of these occasions was equally used to introduce Socialist Democracy, a bi-monthly publication of DSM. No fewer than 20 copies of the SD have so far been bought by some of the students while 25 of them had shown interest to join ERC.


Going by this background, it is very obvious that this year edition is an improvement of the last year own. This is despite the effort and attempts by the Oyo State government to frustrate the lesson from being held this year. The Community Grammar school which was used as the venue for the inaugural edition of the free holiday lesson last year was suddenly picked by the Oyo State government as the venue to organise its own programme tagged OYOMESI. This is after we had already secured the same venue through a letter written by the ERC and approved by the School management.

 It will be recalled that OYOMESI is a scheme that also include a free lesson for students during holiday. This was organised last year at St Luis Grammar School, a public school located some meters always from the Community Grammar School. This was around same period ERC free lesson was going on at Community Grammar School.  But while the ERC lesson which was organised strictly for students transiting from SS2 to SS3 attracted a total number of 95 students from 7 public schools, the OYOMESI which is organised probably with millions of Naira by the state government under a Private Public Partnership, PPP arrangement for students from JSS 1 to SS3 did not last beyond the first week of its commencement as less than 50 students enrolled largely from the school the programmes held.

We suspect that it was this huge success recorded by the ERC lesson that prompted the Oyo State Government to change the venue for its own programme from the venue used last year to the venue used by the ERC. It could be that the Oyo State government thought that what responsible for the huge participation of students in the ERC lesson was because of the location of the Community grammar School which is not only central but also close to the road side.

Unfortunately, despite this, there is no practical sign that the school is currently being used for such a purpose. It could either be that the programme was not successful like that of last year or the venue was purposely held down by the Oyo State government to prevent the ERC from holding this year holiday coaching 

There is no way the OYOMESI would have attracted the participation of the teachers and students. Asides the fact the most teachers did not trust the scheme, there was no practical effort by the state government to sensitise and encourage the students to participate in the scheme let alone their parents who could have been carried along so that they can encourage their children to participate in the scheme. This was deliberate by the state government as the scheme was not originally designed for students to participate but for it to be used as a smokescreen to siphon public fund.

Finally, the on-going second edition of the ERC lesson will be brought to an end with a public symposium which has been scheduled to hold by 12noon on Tuesday, 4th September, 2018. This symposium is hope to be used to bring parents and guardians of participating students and volunteer teachers together to discuss the crisis in the education sector and the way forward.

Ogunjinmi Isaac
ERC National Deputy Coordinator

ERC CONDEMNS VICTIMISATION OF STAFF AND ADMINISTRATIVE HIGHHANDEDNES IN COLLEGE OF HEALTH TECH ILESE

  • FOR ADEQUATE FUNDING OF EDUCATION AND DEMOCRATIC RUNNING OF SCHOOLS IN OGUN
PRESS STATEMENT

The chaos ridden public education sector in Ogun state, especially the tertiary institutions came to a head recently at the College of Health Technology, Ilese, Ijebu, where the new leadership of the local chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP), who assumed office on March 15th, 2018, are currently under suspension. The leadership are now being hunted like games. Curiously, the suspension of the chapter was announced by the national leadership of ASUP, and its duties ceded to the zonal branch. This is the culmination of orchestrated vicious attacks by the management of the college.

These attacks are the direct results of the legitimate demands of the local chapter of ASUP, which entail daring to criticize the undemocratic management and lack of openness in the affairs of the College by the Provost, Abiodun Oladunjoye.  The union had demanded adequate funding of the institution, prompt payment of salaries and payment of all outstanding allowances and arrears, improved learning environment for students, and better working and living conditions for the workers. But rather than dialogue, the provost resulted to witch-hunt, intimidation, harassment, blackmail, victimization and even sack.

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns these attacks in its entirety and demands an immediate end to all forms of victimization in the college. We demand a restoration of the leadership of ASUP in the college and challenge ASUP national leadership to support the struggle of their members in the college. We also call for all the legitimate demands of the academic staff union in the college to be immediately met. We also demand an independent panel of enquiry instituted to investigate the activities of the provost as well as allegation of fraudulent conducts, highhandedness and wanton victimization of staffs leveled against the provost.

THE REAL REASON FOR THE ATTACKS?

Before the crisis degenerated to this worrisome state, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) had written a petition to the governor and commissioner of education, complaining and alleging among others: that the Provost has exceeded and exhausted his statutory length of service, which expires after 35 years in service, but has spent over 40 years and still running, plus overstaying the 65/70 years mandatory retirement age for academics; that the Ph.D. certificate obtained and presented by the provost is false, alleging that he obtained the degree in a questionable circumstance. Aside that the Ph.D. being non-academic, it was awarded via an online business school program of spurious Irish origin. The promotion and conversion of executive cadres to officer’s cadres and instructors to lecturers, have been stalled for many years by the provost, despite strident calls by the union on the provost to do the needful. Yet while casual workers who have spent over 10 years working in the college are denied regularization and confirmations, the Provost routinely and surreptitiously employs his cronies as staff, over the head of the casuals. Lastly, that the Provost allows some of his friends like Mr. Adelaja (Bobby), to whom he contracted the clearing of grass within the school, access to sensitive staff’s files and students’ exam records.

These allegations precipitated the constitution of a 5-man visitation panel by the state government, who visited the college on May 14, 2018. Members of the academic and non-academic staff were invited by the panel for questioning, and they all made oral presentations. Interestingly when the panel’s report was out, only the Provost allegedly got a copy. He subsequently launched attacks on the staff, dismissing four workers, and demanded that the staff, both academic and non-academic, pay between 5,000 – 70,000 naira for certificate verifications.

The protest that greeted the dismissal of the staff which the provost claimed was authorized by the state government led to the recall of the dismissed workers. There is a palpable fear in the college currently, occasioned by the provost’s threats, harassment, persecution, and victimization of perceived and imagined enemies among the staff, and the government is looking the other way, at best staying aloof. This lackluster, insensitive and callous attitudes of the government is not surprising, it only serves to bolster its pro-rich social economic objectives on education, through privatization and commercialization, by decapitating dissidents who stand to defend workers’ rights and oppose the policies of wholesale commodification of education to highest bidders.

Conclusively, ERC calls on all labour unions in education sector in Ogun State (ASUU, ASUP, NASU, NUT) as well as students’ unions, NLC and TUC to organize various solidarity actions in support of the staffs of College of Health Technology. These solidarity actions which should include protest letters, press conference and protest march will help force the management of college of health technology and the government to end the ongoing attacks. The protest actions should be equally used to demand adequate funding of public schools by the government and democratic management of schools with involvement of elected representatives of staffs and students in all decision making bodies.

GOVERNOR AMOSU IS CULPABLE!

ERC is quick to add that, the APC- led government of Ibikunle Amosu is no less culpable. We note that the anti-poor policies being implemented across sectors, by this government including in education are solely responsible for this chaotic state of public education, and the consequent intractable crisis rearing ugly heads across the various schools (primary, secondary and tertiary) in the State. This government like its predecessors has abdicated it responsibilities of adequately funding of public schools. The norms now, especially in the tertiary institutions is to “look inward and be creative”- a euphemism for commercialization of public schools to augment/replace the measly subvention if any, from the government.  This profit first motive and pro-rich orientation of this government, demonstrated by wholesale commercialization and privatization of the education sector, under guise of paucity of fund, equally led to this government handing over public secondary schools to missionaries, who were then adequately compensated, claiming they are the original owners. 

We recall that governments took over these schools decades ago in a quest to provide and guaranteed, accessible, free and quality education to the mass majority of the children of the poor working parents and guardians, against the elitist and exorbitant education being offered by the missionary then. Today, access to free and quality education is extremely difficult for the children of the poor and working class background due to the anti-people policies of this government, geared towards profits for a few individuals, against the needs of the collectives. The high fees now charged by these “private missionary” schools, not to mention the poor remunerations of the hard working exploited teachers bear witness to this fact.

THE ENTIRE EDUCATION SECTOR IN OGUN STATE IS IN CRISIS

It’s trite to say that inadequate funding of the education sector has engendered various ills now bedeviling and crippling smooth running of tertiary schools in Ogun state. This manifests in sad and sorry tales of decrepit and dilapidated structures, inadequate and poorly furnished classrooms, lack of funding for research and development, unpaid salaries, earned allowances and arrears, obsolete books and journals cohabiting the library that lacks internet facility etc. The lists are legion! From Ago Iwoye to Ijagun, Ijeja to Ojere, Omu to Igbesa, the sordid state of these schools are the same. OOUTH, the state owned teaching hospital at Sagamu lacks basic drugs to treat common diseases, left alone drinkable water, and medical workers at the college suffering under unpaid salaries and deductions! Not to mention college of health tech Ilese, where common road network within the campus remain in precolonial state-bush paths.

At the primary Schools level, things have not fared better. Though government retains ownership of the majority schools, funding remains extremely poor and inadequate, and pupils are charged one form of fees or the other, notwithstanding the touted free education program, so as to retain some semblance of learning in those schools, with dilapidated and collapsed classrooms, compelling the pupils often than not, to learn under the trees! Even teachers in most of these schools lack offices, and usually stay under tree shade after lesson hours! Apakila primary school in Odeda local government and many others are examples! Attempts at seeking improvement by Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) have often been met with various forms of attacks. A case in point is the dismissal of some of the members and leadership of the NUT by the Amosu-led government accusing them of engaging in opposition politics, for organizing events to mark World Teachers Day in the state, two years ago. These sacked teachers were later recalled after the uproars and protests that greeted the illegal action. The leadership were not that lucky. Their sacks were commuted to compulsory retirement. In fact, one of the union leaders, Com. Akeem Ambali, the state chairman of the NLC, is still in court seeking redress till date, with no end in sight.

These attacks bordering on high handedness and underfunding, are not mutually exclusive, rather, they are links in the same chain of the crisis in education sector in Ogun State, and the Amosu-led government avowed intolerance to criticisms by labor unions, resulting into attacks on democratic rights of workers’- an hallmark of an unpopular government with its anti-poor policies, hell bent on pushing down the rough shod over the popular aspirations of the poor working majority.

URGENT NEED FOR MASS STRUGGLE AND POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE

The ERC calls for a statewide campaign involving all education workers unions and the students’ movement to begin to fightback. However to achieving permanent victory, this campaign and struggle must be linked with the need to overthrow capitalism- the bane of all social, economic, and political advancement and progress, through a working class political alternative party with socialist programs. The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) represents a step in this direction.

We call on workers, and their trade unions to gravitate towards this party and become a card carrying member, and building same in their various communities, with the longtime goal of wrestling political power from all these pro-rich capitalist political parties, represented by APC, PDP, etc. Our ultimate goal must be to defeat capitalism, and ultimately entrench a planned economy, through the nationalization of all public and private corps including the banks and multinational oil corporations placing them under the democratic management and control of workers, thereby liberating resources for investments in all sectors to guarantee the needs of all.


Eko John Nicholas
Coordinator
ERC Ogun State