WITH PUBLIC MEETINGS AND LEAFLETTING
40 years ago, on the morning of 16 June 1976, thousands of high school students from the black township of Soweto began a protest against the Bantu education system and the decision of the South African Apartheid government to impose Afrikaans as a language of instruction in public schools. In response, the racist Apartheid police opened fire on them, killing hundreds of young black school children. The first casualty, Hector Pieterson, was no more than 13 years old. This singular action of the Apartheid government detonated a powerful movement of students and workers that eventually led to the dismantling of the racist and oppressive Apartheid system (a system for the perpetuation of white supremacist minority rule) in South Africa.
To commemorate the history of this struggle and draw useful lessons, three branches of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) organized a series of events and activities on Thursday 16 June 2016 at the Lagos State University (LASU), among public secondary school students in Ajegunle (a poor community in Lagos state) and at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) where non-academic workers have been taking actions against the corruption of the immediate-past Vice Chancellor of the University and his desperate moves to usurp democratic process in the selection of the next Vice Chancellor in order to cover his tracks. We present below brief reports and pictures:
Members of ERC Ajegunle yesterday intervened in the June 16 day of action in secondary schools in Ajegunle, precisely at Tolu complex. June 16 marks the date in history that the Soweto uprising occurred in 1976 in South Africa, a struggle which brought students and black South African workers together in a united struggle against the brutal apartheid regime in South Africa, which succeeded 14 years after, despite bloody repression to bring a glorious end to apartheid in South Africa. In commemorating this heroic struggle, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) chose June 16 as a day of intervention in the crisis plaguing the Nigerian education sector, crisis of government underfunding, inadequate and dilapidated infrastructures, overcrowding, shortage of qualified teachers, very poor remuneration package for teachers and low morale. All of these over the years have led to poor standards in education and mass failure in WAEC, NECO and JAMB. It is in the face of this crisis and in the face of the inability of the APC led government to find a workable and lasting solution that the ERC Ajegunle branch went on a mass sensitization campaign to public secondary schools in Ajegunle. Armed with leaflets and placards we reached out to hundreds of students and a few teachers that we met with the ideas of the need for teachers and students to come together in united struggle against the government’s neo-liberal anti-poor capitalist policies aimed at the commercialization and privatization of education in Nigeria as APC governors in Oyo, Osun etc have recently attempted to do. Apart from the fact that these states governors are also owing workers 5 to 6 months salaries, which had sparked off a united mass action of workers and students against these wicked austerity/neo-liberal policies.
The example of the Soweto uprising shows that only a united and consistent struggle of workers, students and the poor masses can win victory. However, 22 years after the fall of Apartheid, black South Africans still suffer from poverty and exclusion from education, housing, jobs and opportunities. The lesson here is that winning democratic or political right is not enough; there is a need to build a movement to defeat capitalism and enthrone a democratic socialist alternative. Drawing lessons from this, students and workers must organize to defeat the neo-liberal capitalist regime in Nigeria that is bent on making education the exclusive preserve of the rich.
Nearly 80 students turned up today at a public meeting organized by the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) - LASU Chapter at the Lagos State University (LASU) to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the June 16 Soweto uprising. Held under the theme "The Soweto Uprising and its Relevance for the Struggle to Save Public Education in Nigeria", the public meeting offered students the opportunity of reconnecting with this important aspect of the history of struggles on the African continent and how the echo of the magnificent movement of high school students in South Africa found deep resonation in the "Ali Must Go" students boycott and mass protest here in Nigeria two years after in 1978 which was organized by the Segun Okeowo-led National Union of Nigerian Students(NUNS). In taking account of the lessons, the meeting noted the similarity of the issues that led to the uprising in SA and neo-liberal policies and terrible conditions under which students learn in Nigeria. Were it not for mass struggle of students and staff from 2011 to 2015, LASU would have continued to be the most expensive public university thus leading to the exclusion students from poor background. As the examples of 1976 in SA, 1978, 1984 and 1990 here in Nigeria show, organization is vital; so also is the restoration of radical and revolutionary socialist ideas back in the students’ movement. Unfortunately, this no more the case with NANS. The meeting resolved on the need to rebuild the students movement here in Nigeria and link students struggles to the working class movement with a view to ending capitalism which is ultimately the source of the crisis public education and society at large face. We thank comrade Tony Dansu - Secretary Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU LASU), Ambode of LASU, the president of the Faculty of Education and other activists for accepting to speak at the event. 7 students (one male and 6 female) joined the ERC LASU branch immediately with a promise to begin to attend branch meetings starting from Friday June 24. We urge all other change-seeking students to join us. From tomorrow, the ERC train will move to Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education Ijanikin (AOCOED) and from there to other campuses in Lagos to propagate the message of struggle to students and staff. The ERC will continue to raise the banner of free and democratically-managed public education high until it becomes a roaring and unstoppable mass movement.
The ERC OAU June 16 Public Meeting was attended by more than 26 Great Ife Students, even while Stalelites were yet to resume. Despite the number, the quality of the discussions was exceptional, while the intellectual resolutions reached on the salient issues discussed were stainless. Watch out for the Communiqué of the Public Meeting.