DEMANDS THAT GOVERNMENT BACK CHANGES WITH IMPROVED FUNDING AND DEMOCRATIC MANAGEMENT
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) welcomes the recent changes at the Lagos State University (LASU) unveiled by the State government. However we are quick to point out that all of these would amount to nothing if they are not backed by improved funding and democratic management of the institution.
According to the Lagos state government, LASU would now be a residential institution; also a new single 5-year tenure has been approved for Vice Chancellors while the age-long demand of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for 70 years retirement age for professors has now been approved.
To ensure that all of these changes lead to significant progress in the university, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls for increase in the budgetary allocation to the Lagos State University. At the moment, LASU receives very low allocation - a fact that is responsible for the alarming infrastructural deficit in the University as well the deplorable learning environment.
We make this call mindful that more often than not, capitalist politicians in Nigeria are fond of announcing big reforms without backing these with the needed resources for their full realization. It is our strong belief however that any genuine reform in LASU has to be backed with sufficient funds to begin to address all of the challenges under which the institution suffers. Otherwise it would fail.
For instance, the only realistic way to turn the decision to covert LASU into a residential institution into reality is for the state government to release funds for the immediate construction of decent and affordable hostels that are adequate for the entire students’ population. Any other way, especially through the so-called Public Private Partnership (PPP), will only lead to the situation prevalent in other universities across the country where hostel accommodation is inadequate and unaffordable to a majority of students from poor working class background. To avoid this kind of ugly situation, the ERC calls on the Ambode-led state government to immediately come out with a plan to use public resources to provide decent hostel accommodation that can be affordable to all students.
So also is the need for democratic running of LASU. Without greater democracy in the running of the institution, we fear that a single five-year tenure for Vice Chancellors would not automatically bring peace and tranquility to the institution. For instance over the years, staff and students unions in LASU have always accused one Vice chancellor after another of arbitrariness, corruption and despotism. Also, the state government has been known to contribute to some of these crises by regularly interfering in the University and backing the anti-worker policies of the university administration. All of these are however possible because like most universities across the country, students and workers have no real voice or influence in how LASU is run. Policies and important decisions are often dictated by governing councils and Senate that do not fully represent the real stake holders in the university community which are the students and members of staff. This is why it was possible for a Senate dominated by supporters of the erstwhile Vice Chancellor Prof. Obafunwa to withdraw the PhD certificate of the ASUU Chairman in order to victimize him. This was also why it was possible for the university administration to interfere in the students’ union elections last session by declaring a candidate ineligible because they feared a students’ union under his leadership could be too radical.
In our view therefore, the best way to prevent crises in future is for the undemocratic process of decision-making in LASU to be fundamentally changed. Otherwise, the public would soon be surprised to find that despite a single 5-year tenure, LASU is still in the news for one crisis or the other. In essence, the ERC demands that LASU be fully democratized through the involvement of elected representatives of students and staff unions in all decision making organs (governing council, senate etc) of the institution.
In conclusion, while welcoming the steps already taken, we appeal to the Ambode-led state government to increase funding to LASU as well as democratize the running of the institution. These, in our honest opinion, are the best ways to begin to reposition the Lagos State University (LASU) which has, over the years, been battered by one crisis or the other.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Michael OgundeleNational Coordinator (07033697259) National Secretary