We in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), OSCOED, Ilesa Chapter welcome this initiative to discuss the state of education in Osun State, especially as it affects the tertiary institutions in the state. We also welcome the idea of inviting active student organizations and unions/unionists into this forum. This is a far cry from the previously organized Education Summit some two years ago where some bigwigs who have nothing to do with public education were made to draw policies for the education sector in the state, while the stakeholders are left out.
However, we will advise that this effort should not be used to co-opt student activists into government policies as this will prevent government from sincerely assessing itself as it relates to addressing issues in the education sector. Moreover, we believe this kind of forum should have representation of appropriate government organs associated with formulating and implementing policies in the education sector. This to us will allow for proper evaluation and implementation of decisions taken in this forum. Despite these observations, we wish to raise issues that we feel are most germaine to public education in Osun state as of this moment vis-a-viz item 1, 2 and 3 of the terms of reference in the invitation letter of this summit.
(1) The Situation Report and Recommendation Concerning the State of Existing Infrastructure on Campuses
The state of infrastructures in Osun State-owned tertiary institutions is very bad. Many institutions lack key teaching infrastructures like modern lecture theatres equipped with public address systems. Libraries where they exist are completely denuded of relevant and modern materials. Laboratories are an eye-sore. Many of the institutions have no provision for hostel facilities thus exposing students to exploitation by private landlords and other dangers associated with off-campus accomodation. Many tertiary institutions in Osun state are in reality no more than glorified secondary schools. There is still huge infrastructural gaps in our schools vis-a-vis adequate lecture rooms, well-stocked libraries and laboratories, and workshops. There is also huge shortfall in academic staff. All this has affected the quality of education we receive. The case of OSCOED, Ilesa is particularly pathetic as the institution is expected to churn out educators who will impart education on young ones. Government policy on education seems to suggest that tertiary education is not that important. If this is the position of the government in the 21st century, then there is serious problem. While government has rolled out drums to celebrate its 'Opon Imo' project in which some secondary school students are to be given computer tablets that store textbooks, most tertiary institutions lack functional computer centres and information technology facilities, which are essential for proper education in this age. How can we even talk of information technology when most physical infrastructures are in their dilapidated conditions. Even in secondary schools where the computer tablets are being distributed, basic facilities are fundamentally lacking: well-functioning and adequate classrooms, laboratories, libraries, sport facilities, etc. Even, most schools lack electricity connection while the teachers are not integrated into the "Opon Imo" project.
We recommend an immediate crash program funded by government to begin to upgrade the facilities, employ more teaching and non-teaching staff and fundamentally improve condition of education in the state-owned tertiary instititions.
(2) The Social and Academic Realities on Campuses as Conditioned by Administrative Policies and Recommendations on Way Forward
In our opinion, the undemocratic nature of the administration of osun state-owned instititions is a fundamental problem for anu effort to put tertiaru education on a sound footing. Mismanagement of funds, victimisation of students and staff and complete alienation of students and members of staff from vital decisions about how their institutions should be run are parts of the negative consequences of the undemocratic nature of administration in Osun state institutions.
We recommend the democratisation of the institution's administration through the involvement of elected representatives of students and staff unions in all decision making organs of the institution's administration.
(3) The Social and Academic Realities on Campus as Conditioned by Governmental Policies and Recommendations on Way Forward
Governmental policies on education has for a long time been anti-poor. Regretfully, this has not changed fundamentally over the past two years. Fundamentally, we in the DSM believe that education is a social service that must be funded from public till. We are not asking government officials to fund education from their private pockets but from the society's common wealth. This is because society gains from an educated youth. We have gone beyond the era when government feels that its commitment to education should be for basic education alone. Even in the first and second republics when governments concentrated on basic education, tertiary education was highly subsidized and in many instances made free. Unfortunately, things seem to have gone 180 degree in the opposite direction, even when more people are getting poorer. We believe that provision of free and quality education at all levels today is not only a right but indeed of urgent importance today for any government that claim to be progressive and pro-development. It is to this end that we demand immediate downward review of fees payable in our tertiary institutions.
(a) We in the DSM, OSCOED Ilesa, hereby call on the Osun State government to immediately accede to the demands of the currently striking academic staff of the state-owned tertiary institutions. This is with the aim of ensuring smooth running of calendar, peace on campuses and improvement in the quality of training we get. We wish to reiterate that there is no meaningful learning that can be transferred when the teachers are not properly motivated and their future assured. More than this, we in the DSM OSCOED, Ilesa believe that the demands of the lecturers are genuine and that it is within the capacity of the state government to accede to these demands. We shall not fail to utilise all available civil means including aligning with other section of the oppressed to support the academic staff and compel the state government to do the proper thing, which is acceding to the demands of the striking workers. Indeed, the current strike has knocked a big hole in the so-called education reform of the state government.
(b) On School Fees We in the DSM hereby call on the government to review downward fees payable students in the state-owned tertiary institutions. Without being immodest, the fees are not sustainable for students, as the fee reduction promised by the state government has not led to substantial reduction in fees in the state institutions. For instance, currently in OSCOED, Ilesa, students are still paying as much as N40, 000 as fees, in a country where over seventy percent of the population is officially living in abject poverty. It is worthy of note that most of the students come from working class background with many parents being pensioners whose pensions are not paid as at when due. More so that the state government has not implemented the nationally legislated N18, 000 minimum wage.
(c) Education Reform and Dilapidated/Inadequate Facilities
One of the central planks of the current government's programme is the education reform, vis-a-vis improvement in facilities and infrastructures in the education sector. We wish to state unequivocally that these reforms have been cosmetic at best. For instance, while the state government spends almost a billion naira on procurement of school uniforms for pupils and students in primary and secondary schools, tertiary institutions have not enjoyed any fundamental improvement. To us in the DSM, a genuine education reform must be holistic. More importantly, such must involve the real stakeholders such as teachers, lecturers, students, communities and parents, in democratically drawing out programmes and policies to revive education in the state, and not the government giving piecemeal and haphazard projects that are aimed at projecting the image of the government and servicing the profit interests of some people without caring about the real future of the state.
Consequently, we demand a massive but immediate investment in facilities and infrastructures in our tertiary institutions in the state. We believe that a genuine investment and reform programme must be done through democratic process at all levels, involving the aforementioned stakeholders, through their popular organizations. This kind of approach will not limit education reform to mere funding, but also address the issue of absorption of graduates, as a way of making education more attractive and useful to society.
We believe this our position will contribute positively to improving public education in the state if the government is sincere about reviving education in Osun State.
Osun State College of Education (OSCOED) Ilesa Chapter
Wednesday, 27 March 2013
Thursday, 14 March 2013
Ilesha Students Solidarity Protest Dispersed by Armed Police
DSM, OSCE Ilesha
On Tuesday 12 March, 2013, students of the Osun State College of Education (OSCE) Ilesha organized themselves at the school Motion Ground to embark on a peaceful protest to support the strike action embarked on by the CASUOSTI which is the umbrella body of all the academic staff unions in Osun state tertiary institutions. The protest started all the way from the campus with the hope of heading to the Round-about area at central town to meet with journalists who had gathered there and clamour for Aregbesola/ACN government to meet the demands of the striking lecturers so that academic activity can resume.
On getting to AYESO police station, we were stopped by the police led by the Area commander. After a short conversation held with the police officers, they tried to terminate the protests at that point but students insisted on marching to the terminal point of the protest which was the Round-about area.
In response, the Area commander told his boys in collaboration with the AYESO prison warders to shoot sporadically and release tear-gas canisters to scare away the students. In the process, about 5 students were hit by tear gas and were injured. Also many passersby got affected by the noxious gas.
Unable to move forward again, students discussed and agreed to select delegates to visit the radio stations like Unique fm and Gold fm in the state to make a report of the undemocratic actions taken by the AYESO police unit command as well as to call on the government to immediately meet the striking lecturers demands .
About 10 members of DSM branch participated in the solidarity protest. We sold 6 copies of the new edition (March/April) of Socialist Democracy. A special DSM statement supporting the strike and arguing why the government can meet the demands of the lecturers was also circulated to students and some of the striking lecturers.
Tuesday, 12 March 2013
* AREGBESOLA MUST MEET THEIR DEMANDS NOW * WE CONDEMN POLICE BRUTAL ATTACK OF STUDENTS PROTESTING IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE STRIKING LECTURERS AT OSCE ILESA TODAY * RELEASE THE FOUR ARRESTED STUDENTS NOW
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) supports the strike action began yesterday Monday 11 March 2013 by lecturers of Osun State tertiary institutions. The strike has successfully stopped academic activities in the four state-owned tertiary institutions: Osun State Polytechnic Iree, Osun State College of Technology (OSCOTECH) Esa Oke, Osun State College of Education Ilesa and that of Ila-Orangun.
We call on the Aregbesola government of the State of Osun to immediately meet the demands of the striking teachers so that academic activities can resume in the four institutions. Instead of engaging in empty propaganda and "white elephant" education reforms, we demand real and genuine reforms in the education sector which would see significant improvement in funding, provision of teaching facilities and employment of adequate workforce.
We also call on the Aregbesola government to stop attacks on the striking lecturers and students solidarising with them. On Tuesday March 12, 2013 at the Osun State College of Education Ilesa, students of the institution protested in solidarity with the striking lecturers. They were however brutally dispersed with teargas by armed police. Also at least four of the protesting students have been reportedly arrested. We condemn this kind of attack on the democratic rights of protest by a government claiming to be "progressive". We demand immediate release of the four students.
We offer our solidarity to the striking lecturers and the Council of Academic Staff Union of Tertiary Institutions leading the strike. While supporting their key demands against taxation, on the non-contribution of the state government towards the pension scheme as well as on retirement age, we call on the striking lecturers to also stand against fee hike and for adequate funding of education and for democratic management of schools. Without adequate funding of education and democratic management of schools, none of the improvement of working conditions being sought would be achieved on a lasting basis.
We call on the lecturers not to limit the action to a mere stay-at-home strike. They should organise a series of mass activities to mobilize the support of students, parents and public, and thereby mount a sustained pressure on the government to meet their demands.
We place the responsibility for the strike and the inconvenience being suffered by students as a result on the shoulders of the Governor Aregbesola government of the State of Osun. The striking lecturers had given ample warning with series of partial strike over the last three weeks. If the Aregbesola government was sensitive and responsible to its duties towards the education sector, this was a sufficient enough time to have met the demands of the striking unions.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto
Saturday, 2 March 2013
What remains of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) are the hilarious tales about past achievements. She was famously in the intellectual horizon and her magnificent architectural gratification. Pitiably, it is a fact beyond exaggeration that the institution is a shadow of her old self. No one is to be blamed for this degeneration, except for the government and self-imposed university administrators. In all facets of life on campus, OAU students wallow in dejected conditions. An average Great Ife student wakes up from a congested room housing fifteen or more students (a room originally designed for four). It is only for him to meet uglier fate later in the lecture rooms; a place where he is miserably jam-packed amid colleagues. Funny enough, he is not there to take lectures, but to mark attendance. The overwhelming population of students and absence of Public Address System make listening to lecturers an elusive ambition. Despite all the ills that characterises the life of OAU students, the government still fails copiously in its budgetary allocation, while corrupt University administrators do not also help matters. Government spending on University education yearly flunctuates between 5-9% of National Budget. This is clearly against the UNESCO education funding recommendation for developing countries; where at least 26% of budgetary allocation should be voted for education. And the meagre granted the educational sector is only a tiny fraction of the national wealth budgeted for embezzlement and laundering. With ever-increasing number of UTME candidates yearly, dilapidated academic facilities in universities like OAU only produce the effect of non-qualitative university education. And of course, the negative impact of this on national economy is too appalling to mention. However, with the peanuts grudgingly granted to universities, it is impossible for academic facilities to be radically upgraded. Similarly with financial neglect of the university system, university administration is by implication left in the hands money-thirsty Vice Chancellors. Only few Nigerian VCs surpass the aggressive money-making record of OAU VCs. No farther than January 2011, Prof. Faborode, the immediate past VC, increased acceptance fee from N2, 000 to N20, 000. Like a hereditary trait, the emergence of a new VC, Prof. Omole has meant no difference to the immoral business of extortion. Prof. Omole has conducted a post-UTME in July 2012 with an unprecedented record of candidates' extortion. Candidates paid N2, 300 for registration and another N2, 750 to check examination results. And this fraud was inspite of the pathetic fact that only a tiny 20% will gain admission. The vast majority who are denied admission will move en masse to another fraudulent university business avenue, Pre-Degree programmes. There they pay as high as N150, 000 to study in a hell-like condition for a year with the tranquilising hope of studying in Ife. But in actual fact, only a fraction of their population is ever admitted. Despite the opaque manner in which the earnings and spending of OAU are being shielded from public knowledge, it is graphic that the university's funds are always carelessly squandered. Recently, in the name of hosting National Universities Games (NUGA), the university management spent N500 million on building a swimming pool. Not that a swimming is not in order. Indeed such new facilities alongside a real program to upgrade existing ones are required for the teaching and promotion of sport among students. But the swift construction of an expensive swimming pool for a handful population of students-sportsmen only just to make easy profit from NUGA games, contrasted with the real need of the entire students (inadequate lecture theatres, decrepit hostel accomodation, epileptic water and electricity supply, inadequate academic staff including sport lecturers and libraries and laboratories denuded of relevant materials) again underlines the skewed priority of the management. Despite the presence of a huge dam on campus that can serve the whole Osun State in terms of clean water distribution, students still experience large scale water scarcity. Even in the few halls where water runs, it cannot be used for purposes outside laundery. It is then ironic that N500 million could be mindlessly spent on a swimming pool project, when such money could be used effectively for upgrading the dam and procuring modern water treatment and ensuring electricity supply. Times without number, staffs and students unions have always demanded that tertiary institutions be democratically managed from inside. But instead, universities are being undemocratically and bureaucratically managed by "Vice-Chancellors and friends". This means that how a community of thousands will be managed is determined by the dictates and views of a privileged section. In actual fact, these few are cut-off from the real life of the academic community. Vice Chancellors, Registrars, Chairmen of 'annointed committees' and Directors of University businesses live far more lucrative lives that prevents them from knowing what lecturers, junior staffs and students want. In view of this, they plan elitist projects for the institution. Such projects do not fit into the life of students or staffs but fit into that of the previleged elite. One could hardly imagine that the response of the Tale Omole-led administration to the clamour for adequate water supply would be to start a commercial water-bottling enterprise. The amount of this bottled water makes it a non-affordable commodity for students on a daily basis. And this makes students to depend on contaminated university water for drinking purposes. But for the administrators that can afford buying this product, creating a bottled water company is far more important and profitable than creating a non-commercial clean water source. Of course, selfish-oriented policies of OAU administration do not end at unnecessary enterprises. The university has only last year responded to the need to renovate dilapidated buildings by repainting them. The once beautiful structures on OAU campus are now tearing apart. The gigantic buildings in Awolowo hall are begging for renovation. In the face of this urgent task, the best the management could do is to cover copious sections with thick gloss; even when these structures are tearing apart within. As stated earlier that the absence of democratic decision-making system in Universities like OAU will not give university policies a positive outlook and acceptability. Actually, no decision of the present OAU administration has revealed the yearnings of students. And this pathetic development is effectively aided by the administration's determination to place the students' union under continual ban. Really with a students' union on OAU campus, the management would have been properly guided in line with students' wants. But with no known students' representatives in decision-making organs of the University, a gap of interests will be continually established between the studentry and the management. With flamboyant lifestyles of the University officials, it is not unexpected that the administration want students' unionism crushed. Today, the security outfit attached to the motorcade of OAU VC is almost as large as that of a president. Evidently, OAU with a traditional students' union that abhors superflous spending will oppose this kind of lifestyle. But the administration cherishes it. In conclusion, the absence of the democratic involvement of students and workers unions in university administration will always cause setbacks. Nigerian universities must be saved from inhumane and money thirsty VCs. Even for this reason, parents and alumni must join the campaign for restoration of a democratic students' union in OAU. Wole Olubanji (Com. Engels).