Friday, 31 May 2013

Planned Rationalization of Courses in LASU by Lagos State Government

 University Workers and Students Must Struggle to Stop It

Press Statement

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns the planned rationalization of academic programmes at Lagos State University (LASU). The university Governing Council at its 100th meeting with the backing of the Lagos Government resolved to embark on rationalization of courses. This will lead to the scrapping of departments and sacking of some lecturers and non-teaching staff.

It is on record that the ERC warned that government's cuts in the funding of the University and the commercialization of the institution through the astronomical increment in fees was aimed at drastically reducing the number of students and workers (lecturers and non-teaching staff) as a step at rendering the university prostrate and subsequently selling it at a give-away price.

This plan was kick started with the commercialization of LASU wherein students who gained admission into LASU in the 2011/2012 academic session were forced to pay between N193, 750 and N348, 750. The brutal consequence of this was that only 1,951 students (representing 39.8%) of over 4,903 students offered admission for the 2011/2012 academic session only enrolled in the university. This goes to confirm that the ACN-led government like the PDP, ANPP, APC, APGA etc., has an agenda to destroy public education. Besides, this is a clear testimony of the failure of the policy of commercialization in the education sector.

The ERC warned in 2011 when fees were increased that this was going to have dire implication for staff and the University in its entirety since some departments would have to be scrapped because few students would be admitted. It explains why the ERC was correct when it proposed that the lecturers through ASUU and the non-academic staff should actively and publicly support LASU students when they were fighting the fee hike, but this was ignored. Regrettably, the Student Union leaders equally sold out in the course of the struggle thus abandoning students to their fate.

It is the consequence of the failure to seriously challenge the criminal fee hike policy of the Fashola administration of Lagos state that is now manifesting in the slow destruction of the Lagos State University and public tertiary education in Lagos State today. If this rationalization of courses is allowed to sail through, it is lecturers and non-academic staffs that will be hardest hit as several jobs will be immediately lost. Also it would in the short and long-term lead to further shutting the door of university education to thousands of aspiring undergraduates who want to pursue academic careers in the arts, socials sciences and other courses/departments that the governing council has penciled down for rationalisation. The negative impact of this on staff morale and university education in Lagos State will be deep and long-drawn.

The ERC therefore calls on staff unions and students of LASU to be prepared to challenge this new anti-poor and anti-growth education policy of the LASU management at the instance of the state government. We believe that it is only the solidarity of different sections of the working class and students in an organized and sustainable manner that can struggle to win concessions and also defeat anti-poor education policies.

The ERC demands the reversal of the fees hike as a step towards scrapping of fees and cancellation of the planned rationalisation policy. We also demand adequate investment in LASU and education in its entirety as a means of educating all those that need it.

Lateef Adams
Lagos State Coordinator
Education Rights Campaign (ERC)

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Strikes in Polytechnics: Students Protest in Abuja

ERC members actively participated
By Awe Michael 
ERC Bida Branch

Members of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) the Federal Polytechnic Bida, Niger State Branch were among over one hundred students from different polytechnics in Nigeria who protested in Abuja on May 22, 2013 over the continued closure of polytechnics nationwide as a result of the failure of the government to implement the agreements it reached with academic and non-academic staff unions. The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP) had gone on indefinitely strike to drive home their demands after the government contemptuously ignored the earlier warning strike.

The Abuja protest, which lasted for about six hours and was organized by the National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS), was to call on the government to meet the demands of the striking staffs so that polytechnics can be re-opened nationwide.

ERC Members at the Protest March
The students marched behind the NAPS and ERC banners to the National Assembly Complex, Federal Ministry of Education and the Office of Chief of Staff to the President. Throughout the march there were police escorts trailing the protesters who also carried placards with various inscriptions like: "MEET ASUP AND SSANIP DEMAND NOW", "FUND EDUCATION WITH 26% BUDGET", "END TO DISPARITY BETWEEN HND AND BSC GRADUATES", "ESTABLISHMENT OF NATIONAL POLYTECHNIC COMMISION", "MEET ASUP DEMANDS NOW SO THAT WE CAN RESUME", and so on.

The protesting students were addressed by the respective Permanent Secretaries of the Ministry of Education and the Office Chief of Staff who promised to pass on the message to the appropriate authorities. We however only able to submit our letter of demands at the National Assembly as the security operatives stubbornly prevented us from gaining access to the main premises, let alone meeting any principal staff or officer of the Parliament. Incidentally, we met three other protesting groups including the workers of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) at the National Assembly Complex. 

While at the Ministry of Education, the President of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), who had shortly earlier joined the march with 3 other persons, said that if 60% of ASUP and SSANIP demands were met, activities would resume in the polytechnic campuses. This was a clear misrepresentation conjured and smuggled into the demands of the protesting students by the NANS President. There was no meeting of students where a decision was arrived at that once 60 percent of staff demands are met the normal activities would resume in polytechnics. Besides, the NANS president did not have the mandate of the staff unions, whose strikes have shut down polytechnics, to put forward such benchmark.

We of the ERC commended the NAPS leadership for the Abuja protest march. We however urged them not to make it a one-off action. Rather it should just be one of the mass activities to be held. We call on the striking staff unions and polytechnic students to organise joint actions at all the state capitals. The staff unions must not limit the strike to a just stay-at-home action.

About 1,000 copies of the ERC leaflet (click here) were circulated throughout the protest march. Apart from Abuja, in Oyo, Osun, Niger and Lagos states, the ERC members have been circulating the leaflet which argues for mass support of the general public and students for the striking unions, and also calls for mass actions like symposia, protest marches and rallies by the striking staff unions and students in order to force the government to implement the agreement with the staff unions. The ERC Bida Branch has fixed a protest march in Minna, Niger State on Wednesday May 29 which is the anniversary of the return to civil rule.


Support The Strike! Don't Break it!
For a Joint Struggle of Education Workers and Students
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls on polytechnic students and parents across the country to support the on-going strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP). We must not be divided by government's propaganda. The demands of the unions are genuine. 

The strike became inevitable when government consistently refused to implement agreements reached with the unions years ago. Besides, the unions embarked on the full strike after the government had contemptuously ignored their 21-day ultimatum and one-week warning strikes. Therefore, it is the government that should be blamed for this strike and the consequent disruption of academic calendar. We call on the government to immediately meet the demands of the striking polytechnic unions so that the campuses can be re-opened for normal activities.  

The ERC believes members of ASUP and SSANIP deserve a more dignifying condition of service and improved pay package. However this on-going strike is not about improved salary alone. It is also for improvement in Nigeria's education sector most especially polytechnic education that has been relegated to a second-class status. This why the two unions put forward the demand for establishment of National Commission of Polytechnics (NPC)) basically to monitor the affairs of polytechnic education as against the National Board of Technical Education (NBTE) which does not give sufficient attention to issues of funding, facilities, standard and quality of polytechnic education.

We of the ERC call on Nigerian students to give concrete support to ASUP and SSANIP. Our support must not only be verbal; practical actions like mass mobilizations, rallies, protests and demonstrations of students are needed to pile pressure on the government to meet the unions' demands so that academic activities can resume. 

Fortunately, the National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) has threatened to call out students on protest nationwide. We call on the NAPS to give concrete expression to this threat by beginning immediate mobilization activities like rallies, symposium and protests in all polytechnic campuses across the country. If NAPS can take these steps, it would not be long to force the government to meet the unions' demands. Also the independent participation of NAPS in the strike will also provide opportunity for students to vigorously place their own demands on fee hike, under funding, attacks on independent unionism etc on the front burner such that government would be compelled to grant concessions.

We call on ASUP and SSANIP not to make this strike merely a "sit-at-action". Instead the ERC urge ASUP and SSANIP to mobilize their members, students, parents and public for joint public activities like congresses, rallies, protests and demonstrations. This to us is the best way to give publicity to the cause the union is fighting for and also to win supports of students and parents whose rights to quality education this strike is meant to defend. 

Nigeria is rich in both natural and human resources but unfortunately we are under a capitalist system whose ultimate aim is profit making, and not people's needs. This is why despite the huge oil wealth the country is endowed with, our public education system is in decrepit conditions. We must not fold our hands while these capitalist ruling elite continue to ruin our future. Students have to begin to unite with education workers and fight back until all demands are met.


Are You Tired Of Staying At Home Due To On-going Strike?
1.  Full implementation of CONTISS 15 and CONPCASS 15 across board.
2 The review of polytechnic Act to remove the disparity between Higher National Diploma Graduates and Bachelor Degree.
3   The establishment of National Polytechnic Commission (NPC).
4  Genuine autonomy and democracy in Polytechnic and the education system as a whole
5.  Improved funding of education to 26% of the Nation's budget in line with UNESCO recommendation.
6. Democratic running of Polytechnics through the involvement of elected representatives of staffs and students in all the decision-making bodies of each polytechnic.
7. End to culture of victimization. Recall all victimized workers and student activists. Unban all proscribed unions.