By Moshood Oshunfurewa and Tunde Yusuf
The 2013 edition of the annual free summer coaching exercise of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) has begun. First day of classes held on Monday 5th August, 2013 with encouraging number of students in attendance. This year's coaching may record the highest turnout of teachers as about 42 persons have already signed on as volunteer teachers.
Starting 8 years ago, the free summer coaching has become part and parcel of the community campaign work of the ERC in Ajegunle city - a sprawling and densely populated slum in the heart of Lagos state. The free coaching is to demonstrate in practice the possibilities of a public funded free education system placed under the democratic control of the community, students and teachers. It is also to show that compulsory, free and quality education is not only possible but practicable at all levels - primary, secondary and tertiary.
This year Nigeria has experienced new increases in the number of out-of-school children which current estimates places at 10.5 million. Some few years ago, it was just about 7.3 million. This clearly shows that government much-vaunted education reforms - neo-liberal and anti-poor education policies of school privatisation and commercialisation - are not working. In reality, privatisation policies and the fee-paying regime of schooling system only succeeds in pushing more and more youths out of school especially as working class parents are seeing their income and living conditions plummet.
In Ajegunle, many secondary school students are unable to afford the cost of private coaching classes during summer breaks. Meanwhile every secondary school student in Nigeria cannot do without extra coaching classes to prepare for external examinations because of the low quality of education at the public secondary schools.
All this is why the ERC free summer coaching enjoys lots of support in the Ajegunle community. For many it is the only opportunity to attend a coaching during the summer holiday. But the coaching does more than this. The coaching is also forum to involve young people in the debate over crisis of public education, government anti-poor policies and ultimately the need to fight to change society. This is achieved through political education programs, career and counseling talks, literary debate, prose, poetry, songs and drama.
The decadence in education sector is seriously consuming many innocent young people - endangering and exposing them to the negative impact of social vices. The resultant product of this is year in-year out incidence of examination mass failure, large number of children within the school-age bracket out of school, youth violence, drugs, prostitution, gangsterism and alcoholism and other absurdities recorded in all our academic institutions, homes and communities. The ERC explains this situation as products of government deliberate underfunding of education, lack of democratic management of schools and the exploitative capitalist system which has driven over 70% of the population into excruciating poverty while permiting a few to pocket society's wealth.
The ERC was formed by the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM). The DSM fights for an end to capitalism and for the enthronement of a socialist society. To this end, the DSM has formed a new political party - the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) - to advance the struggle to drive out the ruling class daily looting our resources and to enthrone a working class government committed to using society's resources to provide free education and to benefit the whole of society. Only a democratic socialist society can ensure all our children and youths attend good schools without having to pay, goid health care and that they have well-paid jobs and a bright future.
Presently as things stands under the capitalist system, the future of the youth is very bleak. For example, students in tertiary institutions all over the federation are at home due to a strike of University lecturers provoked by the failure of the government to implement the agreement reached and signed in 2009 with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The ruling elites are not bothered about the strike because their own children do not even attend public schools. Yet it is the money stolen from our collective wealth they are using to build a bright future for their own children while the children of poor working class people have been home for over a month now due to the strike. These are some of the reasons the ERC links the campaign for better education funding with the struggle for a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.
Without doubt, the past experience of the free coaching exercise of ERC organization in the Ajegunle slum shows Nigerian children are willing and ready to learn as against the propaganda that students are the cause of their problems.
In preparation for the commencement of this year's coaching, comrades at the community branch of the ERC circulated 2,000 pieces of leaflets in Tolu complex which houses about 16 secondary schools. They also leafletted in Orege/Mile two area, Sari-Igamu/Orile and Ijora/Badia area and other neighboring communities. The distribution of leaflet to announce the coaching took one week with the involvement of students and volunteer teachers. ERC still enjoys the goodwill of volunteer teachers as well as some students that have passed through the summer coaching and are now graduates of some Universities in Nigeria.
42 volunteer teachers have signified interest in ensuring this year's free flow of teaching without stop and more is still coming. This year's coaching is to take six weeks. As usual, we call on individuals, organisations and groups to support the ERC free coaching. Your financial and material donations in forms of books, chalks, food and money etc. will go a long way in aiding our work. Please call 07033697259 or send an E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help in any way.