ASUU Abuja Zone Holds Congress to Strengthen Strike
By ERC Reporters
As the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike enters a month, the Abuja Zone of the union held a congress at the Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger state. The zone includes the Federal University Abuja, Federal University of Agriculture Markudi, Benue State University, Nasarawa State University, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Kogi State University and also the host IBBU.
The reason for choosing IBBU was to counter the wrong statement issued by both the school authorities that the ASUU branch of the IBBU is only on a sympathising strike with the national body. This statement was aimed at giving the impression that all was well with University lecturers in IBBU. The purpose of the zonal meeting was therefore to strengthen ties with the members of the union and to conscientize the members about the rotten state of public education in Nigeria as a result of poor funding, which is the major reason for the strike.
As the meeting made clear, the Niger state government is not different from the Federal Government which subscribes to the pro-capitalist philosophy of privatisation and poor funding of public education. At the congress, lecturers explained that IBBU should rightly be called TETFUND University because it is only TETFUND (an intervention funding agency) that has been responsible for the little physical projects going on in the University instead of the government.
There were lots of interesting discussion and comments at the congress. Each branch gave reports from their institutions about how pressure has been mounted on them to break the strike. All the reports showed that the strike was sustained thus far with the strength and willingness of the union members to continue the strike as well as solidarity from civil society and campaigning groups.
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) was present with our leaflets and posters calling for support for the strike. Comrade Dimeji Macaulay (ERC Niger State Coordinator) addressed the congress. In his speech, Macaulay affirmed ERC solidarity to the ASUU strike. He made reference to the role played by ERC in 2009 before government signed agreement with ASUU as an example of ERC's historical solidarity for the struggles of University lecturers and education workers for better funding of education. He also made mention of the astronomical fee hikes at the Lagos State University (LASU) and the rate at which politicians are looting money meant for education funding as the reasons why the on-going strike of the University lecturers is worth supporting by students and parents.
He urged ASUU not to make this struggle a mere sit-at-home strike but to embark on mass rallies and protest activities to strengthen the strike further, to compel government to meet the demands of the strike and to also fight for improved funding and democratic running of schools with inclusion of the elected representatives of students, staff unions and communities.
However the need for rally and public protest activities even though not further discussed was not rejected. The ERC will continue to campaign among striking University lecturers and all education workers for the right working class method of struggle to win demands. After Macaulay spoke, there was a resounding applause and many of the lecturers in attendance expressed appreciation for the work of the ERC.