Students must Resist all Anti-Poor Onslaught on Education
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) welcomes all University of Portharcourt (UNIPORT) students back for the second semester. We particularly welcome newly admitted Year 1 students and the old Year 1 students whose initial resumption was postponed and given compulsory 3-month holiday by the School Management for lack of space and accommodation to host Sandwich Students and so-called centenary games which made students to be chased away from the hostels like outcasts.
This is no doubt an example of the crisis of decay and government’s lack of commitment to public education, resulting in the lack of adequate learning facilities and space to accommodate all students that are admitted yearly.
The management having successfully imposed a new fee regime has become emboldened to carry out further attacks on students and staff welfare. The first semester came, riding on the crest of management triumph at the expense of the collective interest and welfare of students on campus, with absolutely no resistance from students’ leaders.
UNJUST HIKE IN STUDENTS’ FEES
It would be recalled that Uniport was temporarily closed down on June 4, 2014 by the School Authorities following students’ peaceful protest against recent astronomical hike in school fees from N29,000 for Humanities, Management Sciences, and Social Sciences students, and N49,000 for Sciences; to N41,000 and N60,900 respectively for regular students. This is apart from the increased fee of the Year 1 students as well as the introduction of development levy, increased acceptance fees and hostel accommodation that was first increased in January by more than 700% margin, amounting to about N135, 000 put together without resistance from the Students’ Union leadership.
The new fee regime to be paid by students comprises statutory fees and non-statutory fees. The statutory fee is the main fee, the non-statutory fee is called Faculty charges, the amount of which will be decided and determined by each faculty’s requirement for students.
For us in the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), we believe that the habitual rotten compromises of the Students’ Union leaders with the School Management will make students more vulnerable and exposed to more attacks. To be honest, a serious fight back led by the Students Union may not necessarily force the management to retreat on its present fee hike policy. Nevertheless, it can force the management to think twice in future before introducing any anti-student policy because of its fear that students will fight back. This is one important benefit of struggle. But when every policy of the management is accepted without resistance, it gives management the confidence to introduce more anti- student policies.
Already, students in some faculties who have started paying the new fee are bitterly complaining of paying more than the stipulated increment which does not reflect the N5, 000 reduction in the hiked fee as falsely claimed by the opportunistic Felix Nwizua led SUG leadership. Formerly, GES courses where students were only required to register the course and buy GES workbook at the rate of N500 now, following the new fee regime and payment system, requires that students register at the bank at the rate of N2, 000, N3, 000 to N5, 000 depending on the department, for both regular and part-time students.
For us in the ERC, this latest attack is coming at a time when the pro-chancellors of the universities recently met, passing a resolution to introduce tuition fee in all Federal and State universities. This, no doubt, is part of a longstanding neo-liberal capitalist agenda by government to commercialize and privatize public education in Nigeria, with the intent of making education the exclusive preserve of the private sector whose main drive for venturing into business is profit maximization while it tries to absolve and excuse government of the responsibility of funding education.
But unfortunately, despite available and abundant natural resources and in spite of unaccountable trillions of petrol dollars raked in by government since 1999, which have mostly been looted by corrupt bourgeois politicians in the ruling political parties, government on its part have continued to argue albeit unconvincingly, that it does not have the resources to fund education alone. While this untenable argument accounts for years of government deliberate underfunding of education in Nigeria, paving way for the private sector, it has constantly led to hiked fees for students across universities, polytechnics, monotecnnics and colleges of education by the authorities, as well as deliberate refusal by government to honour agreements reached with staff and non-staff unions in the education sector, leading to constant strikes and disruption of academic calendar year in year out.
The private sector on its part has become a nightmare, a total failure and a terrible manager where they have taken up control and management of government property/parastatal such as the Daily Times, the Nigerian Paper Mill, the Ajaokuta Steel Company, NITEL and PHCN, to mention but a few which have all gone down the drain or in the process of going down the drain.
BREAK THE DEADLOCK OF MANAGEMENT’S CORRUPTING INFLUENCE ON THE SUG?
These attacks have become possible due largely to management’s overbearing and corrupting influence on the Students’ Union and the complete ideological collapse and disorientation of the NANS and SUG leadership who see their positions as a means of enriching themselves while pandering to the wishes and desires of the school’s management and corrupt anti-poor capitalist politicians. This is why the ERC continue to urge all politically active and conscious students to take up the demand and struggle for an independent and vibrant students’ unionism.
TIME TO FIGHT BACK, JOIN THE ERC!
The recent victory by the Lagos State University Students (LASU) students over unjust hike in school fees by the Lagos’s All Progressive Congress (APC) government from N25, 000 to N193, 750 and N348, 750 since 2011 respectively have shown that struggle pays. As a result of determined struggle and resistance by the students, with active support and solidarity from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and radical organizations like the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) and Joint Action Front (JAF), the state government was recently forced to revert to the old fee of 25,000. This is victory for the Nigerian students and shows the way to go for students in tertiary institutions where similar astronomical fee has been introduced like in OAU, OOU, UNIPORT, etc.
For students and education workers who are fighting for improved funding, this experience has ultimately underscored the need to build an independent revolutionary working people’s party that can challenge all anti-poor capitalist policies of all the corrupt ruling parties and ultimately bring about a working people’s government.
This is why the ERC supports the efforts of the Democratic Socialist Movement in forming the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN).
Join us today to fight for:
(1) Reversal of the hiked fee and cancellation of all illegal charges.
(2) Renovation of teaching and hostel facilities to ensure that students are able to learn under a decent atmosphere.
(3) Improved funding of education and democratic management of schools Improvement in the pay and conditions of all teaching and non-teaching staff.
(4) Respect of the democratic rights of students and workers.
(5) An independent, Democratic and mass-based Students’ Union that can defend the interest of its members.
DARE TO STRUGGLE, DARE TO WIN!
Coordinator, UNIPORT ERC Branch
To join the ERC or know more about our activities, call 08183358490.