We Can't Pay! We won't pay!!
For mass action to defeat attacks on public education
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) strongly rejects the recommendation of the Committee for the Restructuring and Rationalization of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies headed by Mr. Stephen Oronsaye for tuition fees to be introduced in Federal-owned tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
We call on the government to throw out this recommendation in the interest of students and poor working class parents who are already over-burdened by teaching fees, examination charges, hostel fees and other sundry charges in the nation's tertiary institutions.
This recommendation if accepted by the Federal government will see fees in federal universities, polytechnics and colleges of education rise up to between N450, 000 and N525, 000. Together with the existing fees students pay, this we see a huge drop in enrollment and significant rise in drop-outs.
A good example of how fee increases destroy public education is the case of Lagos State University (LASU) where close to 70% of new entrants failed to take up their admissions after fee was increased by over 725%. This has also threatened the existence of some departments in the university because of sharp drop in the number of students enrolled. There is even thinking in the official quarters of scrapping some of the departments which will lead to retrenchment of lecturers and non-teaching staff. The Oronsaye report threatens to achieve more than this. The report if implemented will signal the death of public education in Nigeria. Already several students drop out annually as a result of the plethora of outrageous fees being charged at Federal tertiary institutions.
By the Oronsaye committee report, the anti-poor government of President Jonathan is serving notice of its preparedness to again put more burdens on workers and poor people of Nigeria by introducing tuition fees. This is much like the processes leading to recent anti-poor attacks on the populace like withdrawal of fuel subsidy and now the increment of electricity tariff that have kicked off since June 1st.
Therefore, Nigerian students and education workers unions must not take the matter lightly. Indeed this is the time to begin to mobilize and build resistance to this new anti-poor attack. The ERC calls on Students' Unions, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), youth-based groups, staff unions and the trade unions to oppose the recommendation of the Oronsaye committee and begin to prepare for sustained mass actions and demonstrations.
According to the Punch newspaper (19 May 2012), the committee identified "the tuition-free policy of government for undergraduates in federal universities, the over-dependency on government funding by universities, near absence of good governance structures, dearth of quality research, decline in ethical and professional practices by lecturers", as among the factors responsible for the sharp decline in the quality of standards in tertiary education.
Others, according to the committee, are the "politicization of hierarchical positions in the universities, proliferation of part-time programmes, role of staff unions and absence of strong regulations for ensuring standards."
This is very far from the truth. Tuition policy and over-dependency on government funding are not among the factors responsible for the sharp decline in the quality of standards in tertiary education. Neither is the role of staff unions.
The real cause of the sharp decline in education quality and standard is the neo-liberal policy of underfunding and commercialization embraced by succeeding governments (both military and civilian) in Nigeria. In the 2012 budget, a meager 10% was allocated to the education sector by President Jonathan government. This miniscule amount is not even up to the amount set aside for the maintenance of the Presidency and the National Assembly members. Coupled with underfunding is also the phenomenal profligacy and corruption of unelected school administrations. In many tertiary institutions, top-paid officials of the management are more interested in purchasing Porsche official vehicles, renovating residences of Vice Chancellors, Provost and Rectors and organizing expensive convocation ceremonies and banquets instead of spending money to improve teaching and hostel facilities.
|we need to build from below a powerful movement of students and workers to fight education attacks|
The ERC believes that the real solution to the crisis of public education is for government to increase funding to the sector as a significant step towards provision of free and functional education at all levels. We also call for the democratization of the administration/management boards of universities, polytechnics and colleges of education through the involvement of elected representatives of staff and students in decision making organs. This is the best way to ensure that monies voted for education funding are judiciously used to improve facilities and standards.
(1) We call on the Federal government and the National Assembly to throw out the recommendation of the Oronsaye report as it relates to introduction of tuition .
(2) Scrapping of all fees
(3) Improvement in education funding up to 26% of annual budget
(4) Democratization of the management of tertiary institutions through the involvement of elected representatives of staff and students in all decision-making organs
(5) Provision of free and functional education at all levels
(6) Respect of democratic rights of students and staff to form unions and the restoration of all banned unions and recall of all victimized students and staff activists.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto
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