- FOR ADEQUATE FUNDING OF EDUCATION AND DEMOCRATIC RUNNING OF SCHOOLS IN OGUN
The chaos ridden public education sector in Ogun state, especially the tertiary institutions came to a head recently at the College of Health Technology, Ilese, Ijebu, where the new leadership of the local chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP), who assumed office on March 15th, 2018, are currently under suspension. The leadership are now being hunted like games. Curiously, the suspension of the chapter was announced by the national leadership of ASUP, and its duties ceded to the zonal branch. This is the culmination of orchestrated vicious attacks by the management of the college.
These attacks are the direct results of the legitimate demands of the local chapter of ASUP, which entail daring to criticize the undemocratic management and lack of openness in the affairs of the College by the Provost, Abiodun Oladunjoye. The union had demanded adequate funding of the institution, prompt payment of salaries and payment of all outstanding allowances and arrears, improved learning environment for students, and better working and living conditions for the workers. But rather than dialogue, the provost resulted to witch-hunt, intimidation, harassment, blackmail, victimization and even sack.
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns these attacks in its entirety and demands an immediate end to all forms of victimization in the college. We demand a restoration of the leadership of ASUP in the college and challenge ASUP national leadership to support the struggle of their members in the college. We also call for all the legitimate demands of the academic staff union in the college to be immediately met. We also demand an independent panel of enquiry instituted to investigate the activities of the provost as well as allegation of fraudulent conducts, highhandedness and wanton victimization of staffs leveled against the provost.
THE REAL REASON FOR THE ATTACKS?
Before the crisis degenerated to this worrisome state, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) had written a petition to the governor and commissioner of education, complaining and alleging among others: that the Provost has exceeded and exhausted his statutory length of service, which expires after 35 years in service, but has spent over 40 years and still running, plus overstaying the 65/70 years mandatory retirement age for academics; that the Ph.D. certificate obtained and presented by the provost is false, alleging that he obtained the degree in a questionable circumstance. Aside that the Ph.D. being non-academic, it was awarded via an online business school program of spurious Irish origin. The promotion and conversion of executive cadres to officer’s cadres and instructors to lecturers, have been stalled for many years by the provost, despite strident calls by the union on the provost to do the needful. Yet while casual workers who have spent over 10 years working in the college are denied regularization and confirmations, the Provost routinely and surreptitiously employs his cronies as staff, over the head of the casuals. Lastly, that the Provost allows some of his friends like Mr. Adelaja (Bobby), to whom he contracted the clearing of grass within the school, access to sensitive staff’s files and students’ exam records.
These allegations precipitated the constitution of a 5-man visitation panel by the state government, who visited the college on May 14, 2018. Members of the academic and non-academic staff were invited by the panel for questioning, and they all made oral presentations. Interestingly when the panel’s report was out, only the Provost allegedly got a copy. He subsequently launched attacks on the staff, dismissing four workers, and demanded that the staff, both academic and non-academic, pay between 5,000 – 70,000 naira for certificate verifications.
The protest that greeted the dismissal of the staff which the provost claimed was authorized by the state government led to the recall of the dismissed workers. There is a palpable fear in the college currently, occasioned by the provost’s threats, harassment, persecution, and victimization of perceived and imagined enemies among the staff, and the government is looking the other way, at best staying aloof. This lackluster, insensitive and callous attitudes of the government is not surprising, it only serves to bolster its pro-rich social economic objectives on education, through privatization and commercialization, by decapitating dissidents who stand to defend workers’ rights and oppose the policies of wholesale commodification of education to highest bidders.
Conclusively, ERC calls on all labour unions in education sector in Ogun State (ASUU, ASUP, NASU, NUT) as well as students’ unions, NLC and TUC to organize various solidarity actions in support of the staffs of College of Health Technology. These solidarity actions which should include protest letters, press conference and protest march will help force the management of college of health technology and the government to end the ongoing attacks. The protest actions should be equally used to demand adequate funding of public schools by the government and democratic management of schools with involvement of elected representatives of staffs and students in all decision making bodies.
GOVERNOR AMOSU IS CULPABLE!
ERC is quick to add that, the APC- led government of Ibikunle Amosu is no less culpable. We note that the anti-poor policies being implemented across sectors, by this government including in education are solely responsible for this chaotic state of public education, and the consequent intractable crisis rearing ugly heads across the various schools (primary, secondary and tertiary) in the State. This government like its predecessors has abdicated it responsibilities of adequately funding of public schools. The norms now, especially in the tertiary institutions is to “look inward and be creative”- a euphemism for commercialization of public schools to augment/replace the measly subvention if any, from the government. This profit first motive and pro-rich orientation of this government, demonstrated by wholesale commercialization and privatization of the education sector, under guise of paucity of fund, equally led to this government handing over public secondary schools to missionaries, who were then adequately compensated, claiming they are the original owners.
We recall that governments took over these schools decades ago in a quest to provide and guaranteed, accessible, free and quality education to the mass majority of the children of the poor working parents and guardians, against the elitist and exorbitant education being offered by the missionary then. Today, access to free and quality education is extremely difficult for the children of the poor and working class background due to the anti-people policies of this government, geared towards profits for a few individuals, against the needs of the collectives. The high fees now charged by these “private missionary” schools, not to mention the poor remunerations of the hard working exploited teachers bear witness to this fact.
THE ENTIRE EDUCATION SECTOR IN OGUN STATE IS IN CRISIS
It’s trite to say that inadequate funding of the education sector has engendered various ills now bedeviling and crippling smooth running of tertiary schools in Ogun state. This manifests in sad and sorry tales of decrepit and dilapidated structures, inadequate and poorly furnished classrooms, lack of funding for research and development, unpaid salaries, earned allowances and arrears, obsolete books and journals cohabiting the library that lacks internet facility etc. The lists are legion! From Ago Iwoye to Ijagun, Ijeja to Ojere, Omu to Igbesa, the sordid state of these schools are the same. OOUTH, the state owned teaching hospital at Sagamu lacks basic drugs to treat common diseases, left alone drinkable water, and medical workers at the college suffering under unpaid salaries and deductions! Not to mention college of health tech Ilese, where common road network within the campus remain in precolonial state-bush paths.
At the primary Schools level, things have not fared better. Though government retains ownership of the majority schools, funding remains extremely poor and inadequate, and pupils are charged one form of fees or the other, notwithstanding the touted free education program, so as to retain some semblance of learning in those schools, with dilapidated and collapsed classrooms, compelling the pupils often than not, to learn under the trees! Even teachers in most of these schools lack offices, and usually stay under tree shade after lesson hours! Apakila primary school in Odeda local government and many others are examples! Attempts at seeking improvement by Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) have often been met with various forms of attacks. A case in point is the dismissal of some of the members and leadership of the NUT by the Amosu-led government accusing them of engaging in opposition politics, for organizing events to mark World Teachers Day in the state, two years ago. These sacked teachers were later recalled after the uproars and protests that greeted the illegal action. The leadership were not that lucky. Their sacks were commuted to compulsory retirement. In fact, one of the union leaders, Com. Akeem Ambali, the state chairman of the NLC, is still in court seeking redress till date, with no end in sight.
These attacks bordering on high handedness and underfunding, are not mutually exclusive, rather, they are links in the same chain of the crisis in education sector in Ogun State, and the Amosu-led government avowed intolerance to criticisms by labor unions, resulting into attacks on democratic rights of workers’- an hallmark of an unpopular government with its anti-poor policies, hell bent on pushing down the rough shod over the popular aspirations of the poor working majority.
URGENT NEED FOR MASS STRUGGLE AND POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE
The ERC calls for a statewide campaign involving all education workers unions and the students’ movement to begin to fightback. However to achieving permanent victory, this campaign and struggle must be linked with the need to overthrow capitalism- the bane of all social, economic, and political advancement and progress, through a working class political alternative party with socialist programs. The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) represents a step in this direction.
We call on workers, and their trade unions to gravitate towards this party and become a card carrying member, and building same in their various communities, with the longtime goal of wrestling political power from all these pro-rich capitalist political parties, represented by APC, PDP, etc
. Our ultimate goal must be to defeat capitalism, and ultimately entrench a planned economy, through the nationalization of all public and private corps including the banks and multinational oil corporations placing them under the democratic management and control of workers, thereby liberating resources for investments in all sectors to guarantee the needs of all.
Eko John Nicholas
ERC Ogun State