CALLS FOR DEMOCRATIC MANAGEMENT OF UNIVERSITIES
FOR A JOINT ACTION OF EDUCATION WORKERS AND STUDENTS
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is holding a week long warning strike that started on Wednesday, November 16, over the failure of the federal government to honour its aspects of the FGN-ASUU 2009 agreement. This agreement contains a commitment of government to upwardly fund education sector and pay outstanding wages of the academic staff. The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) fully supports the consistent struggle of ASUU for the implementation of this agreement. And we hold that the failure of Buhari government to uphold the terms of this agreement shows that there is no fundamental difference between Buhari and previous regimes that have reneged on this agreement and further eroded an already rotten education system.
Just as it was before the 2013 ASUU strike, Nigerian universities are in derelict state, with inadequacy of basic learning and teaching facilities. There are schools where students rely on tree's shades to take lectures and illustrations in Chemistry textbooks to carry out imaginary experiments. The decision of ASUU to embark on yet another strike is in fact long overdue.
It took months of strike and agitation before the Umaru Yar'adua government signed the agreement in 2009. And the ERC had correctly predicted that it would require for more organised and sustained struggle to get the terms of this agreement implemented. We are aware that declaration of warning strike is one of the traditional steps that ASUU employs before declaration of a full scale strike action. But it would take more than staying off work to compel a duplicitous government such as Buhari government to commit funds to the education sector and improvement in the conditions of service of all education workers. ASUU must be prepared to sensitise the public on the essence if her demands and its benefits for the Nigerian masses. it is through such political action that ASUU can counter potential blackmails and propaganda of the government and yet amassing public support.
Before the 2013 strike was called off, the Jonathan government was forced to release a sum of N200 billion to the university system and then reneged on its promise of upwardly releasing funds that would amount to 1.3 trillion within a period of four years. It is quite unfortunate that the application of this funding was characterised by mass scale misappropriation and fraud. And it confirms the correctness of our position in the ERC that demands for proper funding and university autonomy are not enough. ASUU must ensure that the demand for democratic management of education institutions is placed on the front burner and pursued vigorously like the other demands. In a democratically managed school, elected representatives of both academic and nonacademic staff, students and parents would be responsible for decision making on project implementation, disbursement of funds etc. This would mean that the committee charged with the management of school finances is constituted by people who report back and are responsible to their unions; this equally requires that independent staff and students' unionism is present on campuses.
For us in the ERC, we believe that alongside the demand for implementation of the FGN-ASUU 2009 agreement, ASUU must also champion the demand for independent unionism, which is a precursor to democratic management of schools and transparent utilization of funds. Over 6 student unions are currently under proscription, with several student activists suspended for their involvement in struggle of students; ASUU must seize this ongoing struggle to intervene and form a bond of solidarity with the student movement and other staff unions. As it stands, only a united struggle of education workers and students can force the Buhari government to implement the terms of the FGN-ASUU 2009 agreement and similar agreements with other staff unions.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Omole Ibukun
ERC National Coordinator ERC National Secretary