Potential Exists For Further Actions
For an Immediate Congress of the NANS ZoneD
Next Step Should Be Mobilization for a One-day Lecture Boycott and Mass Protest
By H.T. Soweto, National Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign (ERC)
October 1st saw movement by students against fee hike and education underfunding across 3 states. The biggest demo was at the University of Ibadan. Over 2,000 came out. The South West leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) also led a demo in Lagos which could have been bigger if the leadership had done a proper mobilization. The Lagos demo was more like something the leadership rushed into than a properly thought-out action. Nevertheless this demo is an interesting and welcomed development given that for years NANS has remained largely fazed by the various neo-liberal capitalist attacks on public education.
The protests on October 1st may not have made any splash in the news media, nevertheless this was an important movement that present the potential for building a coordinated mass campaign against education under funding and fee hike. Weeks before October 1st, the ERC had launched a new campaign against fee hike and education commercialization. A key slogan of the campaign is the demand for coordinated lecture boycotts and mass actions to demand reversal of hiked fees and increase in education funding. Activities of the campaign consist of pasting of posters, circulation of leaflets and discussion with students and education workers on the need to build a movement to challenge education attacks.
So far the response has been impressive. Many eagerly accept our leaflets and are willing to join the campaign. The large turnout on October1st of over 2,000 at the University of Ibadan (U.I) shows how much the campaign met students expectations. Such is the anger on campuses at fee hikes and education underfunding that many have called the ERC wanting to know what is next. This mood is not surprising given Nigeria's impressive growth rate and yet the unrelenting destruction of public education at all levels, record-level fee hikes and reduction in funding to higher institutions. Many have now begun to realize that the problem is not lack of money to fund education but lack of a pro-poor government that can and is willing to do so.
This mood is further reflected in the number of students willing to join the DSM and the campaign as well as in paper sales. Many more who did not join the protest on October 1st are willing to participate in subsequent mass actions. All that is needed is a clear program from the NANS Zone D leadership to build and properly mobilize for a wider movement linking together students on all campuses in the South West around a program of Action against fees, under funding and other neo-liberal capitalist attacks.
For instance the NANS Zone D did not do proper mobilization at the Lagos State University (LASU) where the biggest attack is taking place and the most anger among students. Over 2,000 candidates abandoned their admission early in the year when fees was increased. An academic session down the line, anger still boils as the few first year students who managed cobble together the sky-high fees to secure admission are not willing to go on paying. And they said this in no uncertain language months ago when in the middle of examinations they embarked on protest.
Despite the compromises of the students' union leadership, anger will again rise to the surface when the University resumes in the next few months. Similar situation exists on other campuses across the country. At the Obafemi Awolowo University where the management has been doing everything possible to prevent the restoration an independent union, potential exist to mobilize for actions around a program of democratic rights including demands for recognition of the right to organize, immediate de-proscription of the union, immediate elections and withdrawal of all undemocratic steps already taken to make impossible an independent union.
There is need to build a wider movement that links all these issues together and strive to mobilize for series of actions around them. This means the NANS Zone D has to come up with a clear program to mobilize. An immediate congress of the Zone will play important role in reviewing the October 1st demo and discussing what the next steps should be. As an immediate next step, the ERC is calling for a one-day lecture boycott and mass protest that can provide the springboard for further actions. This will require proper mobilization through rallies, congresses on all campuses, posters, leaflets and press campaign to get a wide number of students informed and involved.
A successful movement against education attacks in the South West can provide a potential for the development of a nationwide movement that can link together students of all campuses in action against government neo-liberal education policies and for free and democratically-managed public education system. To help build this movement, the ERC will continue its campaign by visiting more campuses we have not yet reached with posters and leaflets urging students to join us for a fightback.