Friday, 31 January 2014

LASU: A Crisis Foretold

ERC members at Dec 30, 2011 mass protest organised by Mrs. Ganiyat Fawehinmi


Nothing happening today at the Lagos State University (LASU) is strange to us at the Education Rights Campaign (ERC). When a supposedly elected government decides to price education out of the reach of ordinary people, the only possible fallout is crisis. In other words, the LASU crisis is a crisis foretold.

Below we publish a series of public statements, leaflets and articles issued by the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and our mother organisation - the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) - right from October 2011 shortly after the Babatunde Raji Fashola administration of Lagos State increased fees at the Lagos State University (LASU) from N25, 000 to between N193, 750 to N348,750. This series covers various articles issued condemning the increment, our written advices to students and unions of the University at different stages to fight the fee hike and the best method to go about it.

Indeed, this series shows that the ERC strictly monitored and wrote every year about the steady decline in the fortunes of the University in the aftermath of the fee hike most dramatically manifested in the sharp drop in the patronage of LASU admissions. 

Today LASU has just a little over 12,000 full-time students and at this rate of decline, by the time current 300 level and 400 level students graduate, LASU may not have up to 5,000 students. As we predicted three years ago, academic and non-academic staff of the University will suddenly wake up one day to find out their services are no more needed. This is about happening. There are reports that there is just a student at 100 level of the French Department, 6 at Islamic studies and 25 at the Faculty of Law. This is a recipe for mass sack!
The reality of this eventuality is why ASUU LASU has in the past few months publicly condemned the fee hike. This is a welcome development. The series published below becomes all the more relevant from the point of view of what the students union and staff unions of LASU should have done or not done. 

Throughout all these articles are the calls on staff unions to stoutly resist the hike with the repeated warnings that the implication would ultimately affect education workers in the institution. Indeed if ASUU and other staff unions had publicly resisted alongside with students the fee hike when it was introduced in 2011, perhaps it would have been possible to achieve a reversal of the fees, and this crisis would have been avoided. Also key here is the attitude of the Students Union leadership when the fee was increased. LASU, especially its students union, has always had an unfair share of state influence. The APC government and its hirelings are adept at taking control of and weakening the fighting organisations of the oppressed people especially students. The LASUSU of the era of the fee hike fought but could have fought better if it trusted and relied more on the power and initiative of its student-members and civil society allies than on members of the ruling elite and so-called Ex-Lasuites members of the State Assembly and in larger corridor of power. Indeed the union at a stage of the struggle paid a visit to Bola Ahmed Tinubu ostensibly to plead for reversal of the fees. Unfortunately this unnecessary visit did not achieve anything. In our opinion, this kind of method only brings illusion and ultimately derailment into a mass struggle.

The point being made here is that but for the political timidity of the then students union leadership, LASU students had the opportunity of defeating the fee hike during the mass struggles that broke out against the policy in the later part of 2011 and then 2012. Some would say today that the struggle was defeated because 100 level students paid or because the Students Union was proscribed but this is not the whole truth. Naturally new students hungry for admission would rush to pay. But so unaffordable was the fees that payment deadline had to be extended 4 times from September 2011 till March 2012 when matriculation was eventually organised. Even by this time, only 39.8% of the students that applied to LASU matriculated meaning that about 60% actually abandoned their admission! If this 60% any day and at any time had been properly mobilized by the union they would have joined any struggle against the outrageous fees. Therefore if the union had mounted stout resistance without any illusion in any member of the ruling elite but putting their trust in students and the mass of Lagosians, they would have won.

And it wasnt that there was no public support for the cause of LASU students. For instance when LASUSU leaders sought the assistance of Chief Ganiyat Fawehinmi (wife of late Chief Gani Fawehinmi), she said since she had no money to give but she would offer solidarity. She there and then declared December 30th 2011 as a day of protest against the LASU fee hike. This was to give prominence including national headlines to the cause of LASUSU. This would have forced Fashola to a corner. Alas on 30th December, no single member of the LASUSU leadership showed up.

These lessons have to be learnt today if we are going to win this battle. But unfortunately today the same game is playing out. Faced with an unfair, unjust and completely unacceptable resolution of the Lagos House of Assembly (LAHA), the outgoing Students Union Executive has no idea of what to do while the newly elected executive is fearful of making its opinion known on this matter. The staff unions on campus are equally cautious of being accused by government as the instigators of the January 23 students protest and are therefore keeping quiet. So just as it happened in 2011, this conspiracy of silence or siege mentality from all quarters that matter is slowly but surely allowing the Lagos State government and the LASU management to get away with their crimes. No one is talking about injured students lying in pains at the hospital - one of whom was given a higher version of the "Magnus Abe treatment" with a tear gas canister searing his skull! Not only this, now the victims will be further penalised as the Lagos House of Assembly has sworn to fish out the "ringleaders"!

We have to break this confounding silence. We cannot allow this injustice to be swept under the carpet. The ERC calls on the Students Union of LASU as well as ASUU and other staff unions of the University to publicly reject the LAHA resolutions. We should all insist that if anyone is to apologise, it is the Lagos State government whose criminal fee hike policy is the remote cause of the crisis. For us in the ERC, opening the portal for two days is not enough. Reversing the fee hike and investing more public funds into LASU are the only solutions that can guarantee peace and progress in LASU. As far as we are concerned, every of the 1,292 students must write examinations. This means that the only real obstacle to their ability to register which is the unaffordable fee must be reversed. 

We at the ERC shall continue to fight, in every way we can and alongside all those willing, to ensure that this anti-poor fee hike is reversed and there is adequate funding of the University.
The LASU fee hike has fully exposed the vicious anti-poor characteristic of Fashola government and the APC as a whole. The LASU fee fully demonstrates that the APC is the same as the ruling PDP. Neither of them deserves our support. We should boot them out, take control of our country and put in place a working peoples government that can democratically plan and use our collective resources to provide free education and a better life for us all.

H.T Soweto
ERC National Coordinator
07033697259.

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14 October 2011
Fee Battle Looms in Lagos State University

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) government in Lagos state has announced a 725% increment in fees payable by students of Lagos State University (LASU). The highest fee proposed for medical students is N348, 750 - several times higher than the minimum wage!
Coming on the heels of harsh anti-poor attacks (planned removal of oil subsidy and electricity tariff hike) by the ruling Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) Federal government, this latest fee increment is beginning to show clearly the consensus of all political parties including the ACN on attacks on the living conditions of young people, students and workers.
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) has always argued that there is no fundamental difference between the ACN and the PDP. They both defend the same neo-liberal and anti-poor policies of removal of fuel subsidy, deregulation, fuel price hike, education commercialization and privatization of public assets. Only the building of a mass-based and democratic working class political party can provide the vast majority of working masses and angry youths with a political way out of the crisis of capitalism in Nigeria. With public ownership of key sectors of the economy linked with a socialist plan, Nigeria's resources are more than enough to provide free and functional education at all levels.
As anger boils among young people and students, most of whom would be forced out of school as a result of fee hike, there is the urgent necessity to begin to build a mass-based struggle that can defeat education attacks and that can link demands for free education with the necessity for socialist change. The takeover of the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) by pro-capitalist government agents has been a key obstacle, in the last 10 years, to students struggle against education attacks. There is the urgent need to rebuild the Students' Unions and make them real democratic and fighting organs of students through which a new mass-based and fighting national students' platform can emerge.
The DSM calls on students of LASU to resist this fee hike with boycott, protest and demonstration. We urge staff unions and the trade unions to give support and solidarity to the struggle. Young people and students must resist the glaring insincerity of a ruling class which bails out banks while imposing ever higher school fees on students and taxes on poor people. Even though the fee hike is planned to kick off next session, the plans and activities to resist it must begin right from now. Below is a leaflet issued by the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) to sensitize the students' populace and other members of the university community on the need to struggle against the outrageous fee increment.
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Fee Increment? No Way!

Greatest LASUites! Fee Hike is Anti-POOR

Prepare to Resist with Lecture Boycott and Sustained Mass Action

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns the announcement of increment in the school fees of Lagos State University (LASU) by the Lagos State Government. This announcement was contained in a document titled "Government's view on the report of the visitation panel to Lagos State University" released in September, 2011.
The document read thus "in view of the enormous financial commitment required to run a University vis-à-vis other competing demands in the public sector, Government accepts the recommendation to increase tuition fees…Government directs that the new tuition fees shall not be applied retroactively as current students are exempted from the increase. The new tuition fees will take effect from 2011/2012 academic session".
The fee increment will have students of Arts/Education, Social and Management Sciences, Law, Communication/Transport, Science, Engineering and Medicine pay N193,750, N223,750, N248,750, N238,750, N258,750, N298,750 and N348,750 respectively as against the present fees which ranges from N25,000 to N62,500. This represents a 725% increase! The new fees include illegal fees like N15, 000 for Teaching Practice/Field Trip, N50, 000 for Moot Court Fee for Law students, N2,500 for General Studies, N10,000 for Caution Fee, N20,000 for Acceptance Fee, N10,000 for registration fee amongst many other obnoxious fees.
It is ironical that even though the same visitation panel recommended "increase in the Budgetary Allocation to the University using the UNESCO benchmark of a minimum of 25% of Annual Budget of the State to be expended on education", the Lagos State ACN government is only quick to implement the one that suits it best.

PRICING EDUCATION OUT OF THE REACH OF THE POOR

The fee hike is another attempt by the Lagos State Government to commercialize education out of the reach of children of the poor and the working masses. It is indeed saddening to note this is coming from a major opposition party, the Action Congress of Nigeria which lays claim to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo's philosophy of free education.
Presently Lagos State University is characterized with overcrowded classrooms, inadequate lecture halls, water-logged environment (as a result of poor drainage system), ill-equipped libraries and laboratories, inadequate teaching and non-teaching staff, lack of transportation facilities, poor sport facilities, poor ICT services among others.
However for students of Lagos State University, this new anti-student policy is not new at all as it has always been the case with every second term of all ACN Governors that have ruled the State recently. In 2004, the immediate past Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu hiked the school fees from N250 to a minimum of N25,000 along with the appointment of a new Vice Chancellor in the person of Prof. Lateef Hussein. Despite this there was no improvement in infrastructure as the University Management mismanaged both subventions and Internally Generated Revenue of the institution.
Similarly this new increment is coming on the heels of the re-election of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola and the appointment of Prof. John Obafunwa as the new Vice Chancellor. Students must not be fooled by Government propaganda which gives the impression that paying high fees is the solution to the infrastructural deficit in LASU.
Rather the only solution to the deficit in quality and infrastructure in the University is for the state government to fund education adequately and democratize the running of schools through the involvement of elected representatives of students and staff unions in all decision making organs. This is the only way to ensure that resources allocated to schools are judiciously used to cater for the infrastructural improvement of the institutions.

WE CAN WIN IF WE FIGHT!

This fee increment is coming in a country characterized by low per capital income with over 80% of the population living below the poverty line. If this anti-student fee is successfully implemented, thousands of students will be forced to drop out of school while the academic ambitions of others will be jeopardized. This will make tertiary education to become the exclusive preserve of children of the rich and the highest bidders. It is an obvious fact that most students of Lagos State University are from low-income or lower class family as rich politicians like Governor Fashola and his cohorts do not even enroll their children in the university.
This struggle is therefore a struggle for the present and future generations. This is why the ERC call on the Students' Union of Lagos State University (LASU) to resist this increment with mass actions and lecture boycott. Only a mass-based programme can force the state government to rescind her decision. We also appeal to staff unions to equally condemn the fee increment and give support to students' resistance.
Most importantly we call on the generality of students not to allow the government to divide us along stalelites and freshers. Even though the fee hike will affect mainly the fresh students, we all must see it as an attack on everyone's right to quality education and unite to struggle collectively for the reversal of the fees.
The Students' Union must call an immediate CONGRESS of all students to discuss how to fight back. With congresses backed up with regular sensitization activities, it will be possible to unite all students around a program to fight for reversal of the fees and for genuine government commitment to education funding and improvement in the infrastructures of LASU. The struggle against fee increment can only be waged successfully if linked with the demand for adequate funding of education and the democratic running of schools to ensure resources are judiciously used to cater for genuine needs.

FOR A STATE-WIDE LECTURE BOYCOTT AND MASS ACTION

However the fee hike introduced in LASU appears as an initial step to test the mood of students in the state. Sooner than later, more outrageous fee hike will be introduced in other tertiary institutions owned by Lagos State. Only a sustained mass action of students of all the state-owned tertiary institutions in Lagos State directed at the Lagos State government can halt the fee hike and force the government to concede to the demands for adequate funding of the state-owned tertiary institutions. This requires the Students' Unions and students of all other state-owned tertiary institutions uniting together under a programme of joint and collective struggle. Such a programme will include series of one-day lecture boycotts, mass protests and demonstration planned, coordinated and executed together.
Also, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) should commence the mobilization of Nigerian students in a national campaign for adequate funding of education and democratic management of schools. This movement is urgently needed to roll back the wave of fee hike, education commercialization and other neo-liberal attacks on education by the Federal and all state governments in Nigeria.
OUR DEMANDS
1. No to fee increment in Lagos State University.
2. Increase in the budgetary allocation to Lagos State University up to UNESCO recommended 26%.
3. Massive investment in infrastructural development to cater for the provision of auditoria, laboratories, libraries, teaching facilities etc.
4. Development of Lagos State University, Ojo Campus into a residential campus with the provision of affordable and comfortable hostels.
5. Democratic running of the university with elected representatives of education workers and students in all the decision making bodies.

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11 February 2012

Education Rights Campaign statement

SAY NO TO FEE HIKE AND ATTACK ON SCHOLARSHIP IN LASU!

FOR A ONE-DAY LECTURE BOYCOTT AND MASS PROTEST TO DEMAND:

(1)Reversal of Outrageous Fee Hike, (2) Reversal of the Review of Scholarship Scheme, (3) Restoration of LASUSU, (4) Improved Funding of Education
All right-thinking people will certainly condemn the Lagos State Government and the Lagos State University management for their continuous disregard of the calls by students and parents for the reversal of the outrageous fee hike. It shows the state government has nothing but contempt for the people.
The public would recall that the state government introduced a 725% hike in the tuition fees payable in Lagos State University last year with new students expected to pay between N193,750 and N348,750 as against the old fee of N25,000.
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) believes this fee increment is wicked, unacceptable and a brutal anti-poor agenda to price education out of the reach of poor working and middle class families. Just like the Federal government, the Lagos State government is forcing these harsh anti-poor policies down the throat of students, staff and parents. This explains why the Students' Union of the University was banned recently at the height of the public agitations against the hike.

PRICING EDUCATION OUT OF THE REACH OF THE POOR!

The criminal manifestation of this outrageous fee hike is already being felt. As the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. John Obafunwa himself admitted in a letter dated Thursday, January 5, 2012 to the Governor seeking extension of payment deadline, "extension of the registration deadline would correct the shortfall in the required number of students registered till date then which is just 10,367 or 59 per cent of the 17,679 students expected to fulfill the registration requirement." "As at January 5, this year 9,217 or 70 per cent out of the 13,111 returning students have paid their school fees and completed their registration process, while only 1,150 or 25 per cent of the 4,568 fresh students have registered for their various programmes."
It is instructive to note that the university management had mandated all students to conclude payment and registration for the new session on or before November 30, 2011! But faced with the glaring reality that most cannot afford it, the university management had since extended the deadline for payment of school fees and registration four times in a row including the approval of installment payment of school fees on a 70-30 ratio!
This again demonstrates the fact the new fee regime is beyond the reach of students from poor working and middle class backgrounds. This is why we again call for immediate reversal of the criminal fee hike and urge the Lagos State government to commit adequate funds to reposition LASU and other tertiary institutions in Lagos State.

ATTACK ON STUDENTS' SCHOLARSHIP

While jerking fees through the roof, the government is at the same time tampering with the LASU scholarship scheme which had before now been the last straw available for some indigent but bright students to hang onto to complete their studies.
In a bulletin released by the university management on Friday, 20th January, 2012, the Governing Council of LASU "agreed that it was necessary to regulate further, the requirement for the award of university scholarship. Scholarship should be restricted to the best 5 students in each year per level. Minimum CGPA to qualify as a scholar should henceforth be 4.50". By this review, government is attempting to reduce the inadequate scholarship funding it provides for bright students instead of increasing it.
Prior to this new policy, there was no limit to the number of scholarship awardees with qualification pegged at a minimum CGPA of 4.00. 424 and 525 students benefitted from the scholarship awards in 2007/2008 and 2009/2010 academic session respectively but given the 2010/2011 results, fewer than 20 students will be eligible for the scholarship under the new policy.
This attack on students' scholarship represents a new low in the anti-poor record of the state government. Indeed under the old scholarship scheme, awardees are paid back their whole school fees with an additional N20, 000. Now under the new scheme approved by the Governing Council some days ago, students are expected to pay the full school fees first and upon qualification for the scheme, only 25% of the fees paid will be refunded!
The LASU Students Union, Staff Unions, trade unions and civil society organizations must condemn this criminal attack on the Lagos State University Scholarship Award Scheme by the university's governing council.
Besides it is a contradiction of Governor Babatunde Fashola's claim that the government will mitigate the effect of the fee increase on indigent students with the provision of scholarship awards. Rather than boost the existing scholarship schemes, the government is trying to reduce the beneficiaries of the university scholarship scheme.
The scholarship review together with the fee hike is part and parcel of the neo-liberal package of the ACN government to destroy public education in the State. This is why the state government is pushing forward this agenda to reduce number of scholarship beneficiaries at the same time that fees were outrageously increased by 725% such that many new students are being forced to abandon their admissions.

FREE AND QUALITY EDUCATION IS POSSIBLE

The whole anti-poor education policies of the Lagos State government further demonstrates how much far the party is from being a credible alternative to the PDP looters.
While this can only be fully possible with the enthronement of a working and poor peoples' government that is completely committed to using Lagos State's resources primarily for the benefits of ordinary working Lagosians and the poor, yet a lot of difference can still be made if the present government is really sincere about turning the fortunes of public education around in the State.
Just by cutting the outrageous salaries and allowances of all political office holders in the State and the wasteful spending going on at the state government and local councils, it is possible to free huge sums of money that can be used to begin to renovate all the state public institutions, expand faculties, laboratories and libraries, build decent students' hostels and employ more teaching staff without burdening poor parents with high fees.
Equally by fully and thoroughly democratizing governance through the establishment of committees comprising elected representatives of the working people, youth and poor with the task of monitoring government revenue and spending, it can be possible to equally block the corrupt leakages through which taxes and other revenues of the state are siphoned by political office holders and contractors.
Or is it not a contradiction that while Lagos State Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is the highest among the 36 states, the fees of its only public university is among the 5 most expensive public university in Nigeria? This is because a lot of these revenues (a sizeable chunk of which are taxes paid by poor Lagosians!) end up in the bank accounts of politicians, god fathers and looters of various shades.
But unfortunately Governor Fashola and his ilk are merely interested in turning Lagos to a "mega city" on the bones of ordinary Lagosians and the working class. This neo-liberal mindset explains the concessioning of the Lekki-Epe expressway and the imposition of tolls which elicited mass protests that were crushed with armed police at the instance of the state government. Instead of cutting their salary and halting the criminal waste of public funds so as to save more money to fund education and other vital social services, they prefer to implement policies that satisfy the private sector or ensure the continuous looting of resources by politicians to the detriment of working class and poor people.

MASS STRUGGLE IS THE KEY

We must take our destinies into our hands and begin to fight against the fee hike in LASU while demanding that the state government must increase the budgetary allocation to education in the state. This must go hand in hand with building a working class political alternative to the anti-poor ACN and their neo-liberal attacks on the condition of students, youths, workers and the poor.
LASU students and the Students Union have a responsibility to continue to organize mass resistance against these anti-poor attacks. Student activists and progressive groups in LASU must insist that the union does not use the excuse of its purported proscription to suspend the struggle. Indeed, the only reliable way to get the Union restored is by pushing the struggle against fee hike to a logical conclusion. Most importantly too, the student union leaders and activists must convene an immediate STUDENTS' CONGRESS to discuss the attacks and how to continue the struggle.
As a starting point, the DSM and ERC call for a one-day lecture boycott and mass protest. If this action is declared by a STUDENTS' CONGRESS in defiance of the ban of the union, it can force the school management and government to the negotiation table. However this action must be part and parcel of series of mass actions like rallies, boycotts and demonstrations that must be organized continuously until the criminal policies are reversed.
The DSM and ERC urge the staff unions of LASU, trade unions and civil society organizations to equally condemn the fee hike publicly and join forces with LASU students to demand affordable and quality public education in Lagos State.

Join DSM and ERC to fight for:

(1) Immediate reversal of the fee hike
(2) Immediate reversal of the scholarship review. Instead we demand the increase in the funding of the scholarship scheme
(3) Immediate restoration of the banned students union
(4) Increase in education budgetary allocation up to 26% as a step towards provision of free education at all levels
(5) Reduction in the outrageous salaries and allowances of political office holders and the usage of the saved money to fund public education and other vital social services
(6) Democratization of the decision-making bodies in LASU and other higher institutions in the State to ensure involvement of elected representatives of students and staff unions in vital decision making organs.
(7) Public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under the democratic control and management of the working people.
HT Soweto
National Coordinator, ERC
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17 April 2012  

LASU: Fee Hike Causes Drop in Admission

By Keye Ewebiyi
Last year, the Lagos State Government introduced a 725% hike in the tuition fees of Lagos State University. This is an increase up to between N193, 750 and N348, 750 as against the old fee of N25, 000. To fully impose this increment, the Students' Union was banned for mobilizing for protests and demonstrations.
The brutal reality of this attack is already manifesting. As the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. John Obafunwa himself admitted in a letter dated Thursday, January 5, 2012 and written to the Governor seeking extension of payment deadline, only 25 % of the over 4000 fresh students have registered for their various programmes.

DECLINING ADMISSION

Before now the university management had mandated all students to conclude payment on or before November 30, 2011! But faced with the reality that most cannot afford it, they had to extend the deadline four times in a row including allowing payment by instalments on a 70-30 ratio!
This picture became clearer at the matriculation ceremony held on 12th March, 2012 when only 39.8 %, 1,951 students out of over 4,903 students offered admission turned out to take the oath. This is a far cry from the admission last session. It is to the credit of this anti-poor fee hike that only 801 students could pay the fees between January, when the VC pleaded for extension, and March!
Lying through gritted teeth, the Vice-Chancellor tried to explain away the drop in the admission figure to be a result of an allegedly new admission policy which he said emphasizes merit. But the real truth, which they find so uncomfortable to acknowledge, is that it is the fee increment that is responsible for the decline in admission.

A TWIN-PRONGED ATTACK

While jerking fees through the roof, the government is also tampering with the LASU scholarship scheme which had before now been the only straw available for some indigent but bright students to hang onto to complete their studies.
In a bulletin released by the university management on Friday, 20th January, 2012, the Governing Council of LASU "agreed that it was necessary to regulate further, the requirement for the award of university scholarship. Scholarship should be restricted to the best 5 students in each year per level. Minimum CGPA to qualify as a scholar should henceforth be 4.50". By this review, government is attempting to reduce the inadequate scholarship funding it provides for bright students instead of increasing it.
Prior to this new policy, there was no limit to the number of scholarship awardees with qualification pegged at a minimum CGPA of 4.00. 424 and 525 students benefitted from the scholarship awards in 2007/2008 and 2009/2010 academic session respectively but given the 2010/2011 results, fewer than 20 students will be eligible for the scholarship under the new policy.
This attack on students' scholarship represents a new low in the anti-poor record of the state government. Indeed under the old scholarship scheme, awardees are paid back their whole school fees with an additional N20, 000. Now under the new scheme approved by the Governing Council some weeks ago, students are expected to pay the full school fees first and upon qualification for the scheme, only 25% of the fees paid will be refunded! Students and education workers, trade unions and civil society organizations must condemn this criminal attack on the Lagos State University Scholarship Award Scheme by the university's governing council.

FREE AND QUALITY EDUCATION IS POSSIBLE

The whole anti-poor education policies of the Lagos State government further demonstrates how much far the ACN is from being a credible alternative to the PDP looters. Clearly the present government is not sincere about turning the fortunes of public education around in the State.
Just by cutting the outrageous salaries and allowances of all political office holders in the State and the wasteful spending going on at the state government and local councils, it is possible to free huge sums of money that can be used to begin to renovate all the state public institutions and expand their faculties.
Equally by fully and thoroughly democratizing governance through the establishment of committees comprising elected representatives of the working people, youth and poor with the task of monitoring government revenue and spending, it can be possible to equally block the corrupt leakages through which taxes and other revenues of the state are siphoned by political office holders and contractors.

MASS STRUGGLE IS THE KEY

LASU students must take their destinies into their hands and begin to fight against the fee hike in LASU while demanding that the state government must increase the budgetary allocation to education in the state. This must go hand in hand with building a working class political alternative to the anti-poor ACN and their neo-liberal attacks on the condition of students, youths, workers and the poor.
LASU students must continue to organize mass resistance against these anti-poor attacks. Student activists and progressive groups in LASU must insist that the union does not use the excuse of its purported proscription to suspend the struggle. Indeed, the only reliable way to get the Union restored is by fighting the struggle against fee hike to a logical conclusion.
As a starting point, a one-day lecture boycott and mass protest should be organized. This must be connected with other mass actions like rallies, boycotts and demonstrations until the criminal policies are reversed.
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31 May 2013  

PRESS STATEMENT

Planned Rationalization of Courses in LASU by Lagos State Government

University Workers and Students Must Struggle to Stop It

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 resolved, with the backing of the Lagos Government, 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)
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7 September 2013  

LASU FEE-HIKE: Two Years After

(By James Foluso)
Barely two years after the introduction of the 725% hike in tuition fees of Lagos State University, the resultant effect of this anti-poor policy has become very obvious in the institution. The hike which resulted in new students paying between N195,750 and N348,750 as against the old fee of N25,000 has successfully denied thousands of poor Lagosians access to university education.
The brutal reality of this fee hike was first manifested during the first post-fee hike matriculation ceremony held on 12th March, 2012 when only 1,951 students (representing 39.8%) out of 4,903 students offered admission for the 2011/2012 academic session turned out for the oath. In the same vein, for the 2012/2013 academic session, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Oladapo Obafunwa disclosed that out of the 2,784 students offered admission; only 2,008 were cleared for matriculation. Meanwhile, about 3,000 students sat for the post UTME examination. For the incoming academic session, according to a report by the Punch newspaper as at July 19 only about 1,100 candidates had registered for post-UTME examination (Punch July 30, 2013). These figures are a far cry from what was obtainable in the pre-fee hike era. The number of students that used to sit for similar examination in the four years before the hike fluctuated between the 15,000 and 20,000. It also fall short of the 5,000 carrying capacity issued LASU by the National Universities Commission (NUC).
The low patronage suffered by the institution has forced the management to make admission an all-comers' affair by allowing those that did not choose the institution but scored a minimum mark of 180 in the 2013 UTME to write the second-round of the Post-UTME Screening Test. Meanwhile the university scholarship scheme which used to provide a lifeline for indigent but brilliant students during the old fee regime has come under serious attack by the university management. In a recent publication by the university, the Governing Council directed that only indigent students who obtain a minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 4.5 at the end of each session will have his or her tuition taken care of by the university.
This is contrary to the pledge made by the Lagos State Government in the heat of the fee hike struggle that bursary and scholarship awards would be given to cushion the effect of the fee hike. The scholarship scheme during the old fee regime guaranteed all students with a minimum CGPA of 4.00 tuition-free academic session plus a N20,000 textbook allowance. Record has it that 424 and 525 students benefitted from the scholarship awards in 2007/2008 and 2009/2010 academic session respectively but given the latest results, fewer than 20 students will be eligible for the scholarship under the new policy, and this few will have to be subjected to a background test to determine whether they are indigent or not.
It is pertinent to note that Lagos State University is the highest fee-paying state-owned institution in Nigeria, an institution owned by the opposition party and a much taunted progressive party the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) now known as All Progressive Congress (APC). This goes to show that most opposition parties are oppositions only in name and slogan. They implement the same anti-poor, pro-rich policies with the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP). Meanwhile, workers of Lagos State University are reported to have begun a face-off with the management over its planned restructuring policy.
According to The Nations Newspaper of July 18, 2013, "teachers at Lagos State University are oiling their guns in readiness for a battle with management against the institutions 'no vacancy, no promotion' policy and proposed restructuring of some programmes. They believe that the planned restructuring would lead to the sacking of some workers".
This assertion by the teachers is not far-fetched. As enrolment level drops and drop-out rate rises on account of unaffordable level of fees, some programmes and courses in the university may be rationalized due to inadequate number of students, and subsequently some programmes and departments could be shutdown. In this case, teaching and non-teaching personnel will be sacked.
There is need for an urgent fight-back! The campaign for the reversal of the fee hike should be re-launched as a matter of urgency by both staff and students' unions. Given the glaring facts and figures available on the outcome of the hike, a strong campaign that will appeal to the masses is possible, to fight for the reversal of the hike. A joint struggle by the Student's Union, ASUU, NASU and NAAT is needed to defeat this anti-students/workers policy.
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23 January 2014

Reopen LASU Now!

ERC Demands Immediate Reversal of Hiked Fees!!
                                                                  
                                                                  Press Statement

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) demands the immediate re-opening of the Lagos State University (LASU). We also demand opening of the University’s portal for the 1, 292 students of the University to register so they can participate in the second semester examinations.

However LASU can only begin to know peace when the remote cause of the crisis rocking the University which is actually the hike of tuition fees beyond what ordinary working class people can afford is resolved through an immediate reversal. Any effort of the State Assembly to resolve the on-going crisis in LASU will fail if it does not address the question of fee hike. We in the ERC demand an immediate reversal of the hiked fees and the drastic increase of the state budgetary provision for the funding of LASU and other state-owned schools.

The ERC does not support violence as a method of struggle and agitation. Yet we hold that the protest of LASU students was justified.

The degeneration of the protest is on the one hand a reflection of the widespread frustration being felt by most students of LASU, especially 100 and 200 level students, who find it increasingly difficult to afford the high cost of tuition in the institution. On the other hand, the crisis is a reflection of the highhandedness of the University’s Vice chancellor and members of his kitchen cabinet who believe they can ride roughshod on students of the University.

We place the blame for the degeneration of the crisis on the shoulders of the Vice Chancellor of the University Prof. Oladapo Obafunwa who rebuffed a peaceful plea of students a day earlier (Wednesday 22 January 2014) and told them emphatically they would not write the second semester examinations. This is particularly sadistic on the part of the Vice Chancellor as he did not consider the pain, anguish and deprivations parents of the few students still remaining in LASU today go through before gathering the hundreds of thousands being charged as tuition fee. Had the VC listened to students plea and done the needful, the crisis of Thursday 23 January 2014 would have been avoided. By his insensitive and sadistic refusal to listen to the students plea, the Vice Chancellor forced students to take the only course of action available to them to avoid repeat of the semester. It is ridiculous that the same Vice Chancellor who could not agree to open the University portal just for 24 hours has now closed down the University indefinitely!

We condemn the invitation of armed police to suppress the protest of students. In the process lives of students have been endangered with some students already sustaining injuries as a result of the rash intervention of the police who shot teargas indiscriminately.

What is behind this crisis is the unjust hike of the payable fees in the University nearly three years ago by the anti-poor Fashola administration. Fees were increased to between N193, 750 and N358, 750 depending on the courses of study while the minimum wage earnings stood at a paltry N18,000. By this action, the Lagos State government shut the door of University education on the faces of working class Lagosians thus precipitating the crisis we are currently witnessing in the institution.

We support the opinion expressed by ASUU that LASU is now the most expensive University in Nigeria. LASU's fee hike is not only outrageous, it has become a single factor curtailing, limiting and reversing the progress and development of the University. This is a shame to the Lagos State Government and the All Progressive Congress (APC).

Nearly three years after LASU fees was hiked by the Lagos State government with the support of a toothless State Assembly, the University has become a shadow of its former self. With record-level annual decline in admission applicants and closure of faculties and programs, the jobs of the University's academic and non-academic staff are now threatened. Many projects are abandoned and University now gives the impression of a dying edifice thanks to the anti-poor and anti-education policies of the Fashola administration.

Unfortunately the ERC in numerous public statements and petitions warned of this same unsavoury outcome but the Fashola government, true to its characteristic disdain for public opinion including the opinion of the students of the university and their poor parents, turned a deaf ear.

We warn that unless the hiked fees are quickly reversed, no matter the value of the developmental achievement Governor Fashola may lay claim to when he leaves office, the carcass of LASU would be the only visible sign and legacy of his administration.


Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                              Michael Ogundele
National Coordinator                                               National Secretary



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