We Warn Government Not To Attempt To Break The Strike
We Call on ASUU To Name a Day for Nationwide Mass Protest and Demonstration
From all indications, negotiation between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has broken down. Instead of the usual plea for patience and understanding from members of the public, what we now hear from top government officials are threats, blackmails and street-gutter propaganda.
The meeting, last week, between the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Pius Anyim and Universities’ Governing Councils and Vice Chancellors is a clear indication that the Federal Government is seriously considering forcing ASUU back to work. In 2009, similar efforts were made which led to the opening of attendance registers on campuses and the threat of "No Work, No Pay".
The ERC warns the Federal Government not to make any attempt whatsoever to force, hoodwink or arm-twist striking University lecturers back to work. In any case, such attempt will be defeated by the determination of the striking University lecturers and the solidarity of students and working class parents who are deeply concerned about the abject condition of public education and the unconcerned attitude of the President Jonathan's Federal Government.
Perhaps nothing better demonstrates the contempt that government has for public education than its offer of a measly N130 billion. If the truth must be told, this amount being offered by the government to meet the dire infrastructural deficit in the Nation's Universities as well settle backlog of earned allowance is too little to make any impact. Indeed it amounts to dousing a roaring fire with spittle. If the government could bail out failed banks with over N3 trillion since 2009 and yet could only raise a pitiful N100 billion to save our collapsing Universities, then it is already clear what the priorities of the government are. No doubt, the government cares for bankers and moneybags but has little or no regard for public education.
However the ERC also believes that ASUU's responses to Government's mounting threat and intimidation have been weak and slow. ASUU by virtue of its on-going strike is leading a movement - supported by many including students, parents and concerned Nigerians - to make government to recognise its responsibility to the funding and provision of quality, standard and accessible public education. As a result, ASUU has the responsibility to win this struggle not just for its members sake but also for the sake of working class Nigerians who have no other option than public schools. People want to see the government held to account over its wasteful spending and looting of the treasury while public education suffers. People want to see our public schools transformed in terms of facilities and infrastructures after this strike. Any other outcome will be unsatisfactory to many.
Therefore it is ever-more incumbent on ASUU to come up with a fighting strategy and programs of action that can defeat the government and compel it to use Nigeria's immense resources to fund public education. This is why the ERC urges ASUU to immediately name and begin to actively mobilise for a day of nationwide mass protest and demonstration that will see University lecturers, students and working class Nigerians march together in defense of public education.
We believe ASUU has the credibility and political authority to call Nigerians out to protest to save public education. If ASUU fully mobilises its own members and actively mobilise Nigerians to come out on a given day to protest and demand better funding of education, the response will be massive.
However it goes without saying that the strikes ravaging the education sector have exposed the President Jonathan's government as an anti-education government. No matter how much his spokespeople try to varnish the truth, nothing can hide the fact that President Jonathan's government is an anti-poor capitalist government that holds public education as well as the teachers and students in contempt. Otherwise how do you explain the litany of unimplemented promises reached with various unions in the education sector?
An example is the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) which suspended its strike for a month to allow government fulfill its promises. Up till now the demands of ASUP has not been met meaning that the Nation's Polytechnic could be shut dow all over again. Similarly, the College of Education Academic Staff Unions (COEASU) is gearing up for a strike over same grouse of unimplemented agreement.
We call on all the Unions in the education sector to unite together to fight the government. What this means is that all the Unions in the education sector need to come together and work out a joint plan of struggle through which governments neo-liberal and anti-poor education attacks can be resisted.
We also call on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to declare a one-day solidarity general strike and mass protest to back ASUU and other unions fighting to save public education. However struggling for improvement in the funding of education is not enough, also crucial is the need to insist on the democratic running of schools by elected committees of students, teachers and communities. Only this can ensure that funds are not squandered but are judiciously utilised to meet the real needs of public schools.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto