Friday 27 July 2012

ERC protest on October 1st 2009


Adequate Funding and Democratic Management is the Key

By Keye Ewebiyi
Seven years after the introduction of Post-UTME screening exercise into tertiary education system in Nigeria, the exploitation of students under the guise of this exercise has remained unwavering. The screening exercise was introduced as a result of the alleged failure of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to conduct a Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) that is acceptable to the authorities of tertiary institutions. But the Post-UTME exercise has over the years been turned into a money-making venture by shylock school administrators with the introduction of various questionable fees to exploit admission seekers. The fees include examination fee, result-checking fee, processing fees, bank administrative charges etc. While some schools collect these fees as a lump sum, others collect separately.

The motive behind the Post-UTME exercise has largely been defeated considering the reported cases of examination malpractice, question leakages and commercialization of admission by school officials.
Admission seekers are made to pay through their nose to sit for the exam. For the 2012/2013 Post-UTME screening exercise, candidates are expected to pay between N2,000 and N10,000 as screening fees. This is aside the cost of transportation, accommodation and other miscellaneous expenses that will be incurred in the course of writing the examination. The situation is even more problematic for those who had to travel long distance to write the examination given the poor state of our roads and alarming rate of insecurity across the country. Both public and private institutions are culprits. For instance, while the Lagos State University (LASU), University of Lagos (UNILAG) and Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) charged between N1,000 and N2,000, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED) and Veritas University charge between N5,000 and N10,000. The case of OAU is quite appalling. The University management initially charged N2,350 as screening fee and on the release of screening results, candidates were made to part with an additional N3,350 to check their results, which they were oblivious of in the beginning.

This abuse of Post-UTME exercise constitutes a disregard of Nigerian Senate's directive that institutions should not charge beyond N2,000 as screening fees. The Senate had on Thursday, 9th February, 2012, considered the report of its Committee on Education on the investigation of the illegality of Post-UTME and the failure of JAMB to conduct examinations acceptable to universities. It approved Examinations-for-admission fee to tertiary institutions to be a unified and one-stop (but composite) charge and also recommended a gross charge of N6,000.00 per candidate - N4,000.00 to JAMB and N2,000.00 to an institution. But what we have today is a situation in which candidates are made to pay about N6,000 for UTME and over N2,000 for Post-UTME.

The Senate further stated that the disregard of the ceiling on a composite examination charge should attract reprimand, suspension or termination of appointment of an earring Head of Tertiary Institution. But till now, none of these officials has been brought to book.

The continuous fall in the standard of education as evident in the mass failure recorded in the WAEC and NECO Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) year in year out and the failure of Nigerian universities to make the top twenty universities in Africa has shown that the way out of this quagmire goes beyond Post-UTME. The writing of Post-UTME has not fundamentally addressed the problems confronting tertiary education. The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) predicted 6 years ago that Post-UTME education would not solve the myriad of problems if education is not well funded and there is no democratic management of the education sector with elected representatives of education workers and students actively involved in decision making processes.

Admission figures show clearly that the crisis in the sector is growing. For instance, out of 1,493,603 candidates that wrote the 2011 UTME, a meager 467,000 gained admissions to various institutions for the 2011/2012 academic session. With 1,503,931 candidates writing the 2012 UTME, making it the highest number of candidates ever to write the annual examination, it is only fraction of them that will be eventually admitted when no serious effort has been made by government in the past years to develop the capacity of the existing public universities. Year 2011 offered worrisome statistics on applications for admission identifying the five 'most preferred' universities of candidates' first choices as UNILAG (99,145), ABU Zaria (89,760), UNN (88,177), NAU Awka (84,719) and UNIBEN (80,976) even when maximum quota allocations approved by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) are 6,106 (UNILAG), 6,068 (ABU Zaria), 5970(UNN) and 6,100 (UNIBEN).

What is needed is a committed effort by government to invest massively in the ailing education sector with the revamping of infrastructural and academic facilities on all campuses, including setting up of more tertiary institutions. This however cannot be possible under a government that runs society on the basis of "profit first" through the implementation of anti-poor policies of privatization and commercialization. Only a socialist economy can guarantee free and quality education for all regardless of age, sex, religious, ethnic of economic background because funding of education and other basic amenities will be taken as priority and all human and natural resources shall be channeled towards meeting the education needs of all.

Thursday 26 July 2012


For immediate restoration of independent students' unionism
By Odunayo
Secretary, OAU DSM branch

Students at the July 10 Symposium

July 10 is perhaps the darkest day in the history of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU). In 1999 it was the day when heavily armed cultists allegedly sponsored by the then Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Wale Omole, stormed the University and killed 5 student union leaders.

The slain students were George Yemi Iwilade (the then General Secretary of the students' union), Babatunde Oke (a part 1 student and a member of DSM), Efe Ekede (part 3 Psychology), Eviano Ekelemu (part 4 medicine) and Yemi Ajiteru (an extra student). The backdrop to these brutal killings was the struggle of the Students Union for reinstatement of victimized student leaders and against anti-poor education policies of the government and university management. 

To commemorate the 13th anniversary of this day, a symposium and candle-lit procession was organized at OAU by the Students Security Committee which was massively attended by students. Speaking at the symposium were Lanre Adeleke (former OAU Union president and DSM member), Akinola Saburi (another former Union president) and Adeleke Olorunwa (DSM member). The trio highlighted the history of the July 10 cult killings and the lessons worth learning from the incident.

Lanre Adeleke who was the Union President at that time of the killings narrated how it happened. According to him, in the early hours of that fateful day, men of the black axe confraternity stormed the campus and gruesomely murdered the five students. It is also on record that most of the notorious cultists were apprehended by organized great Ife students and they confessed to have been sponsored by the then Vice-Chancellor (Prof. Wale Omole). He lamented that due to the corrupt judicial system in Nigeria, the cultists were later discharged and acquitted and so 13 years down the line, OAU students are still crying out for justice.

George Iwilade Afrika

The speakers pointed out that the most important thing now is for students to draw lessons from the sad incident and ensure that the labour of the fallen martyrs is not in vain. They were victims of the struggle for the defense of students' interests and rights. Afrika as the Secretary General of the Students Union played a leading role in the fight for the right to independent students' unionism and against anti-student policies like commercialization and privatization of education as well as campus cultism.
The anniversary of the July 10 cult killings has again highlighted the continuous attack on independent unionism in Nigeria. In OAU, attacks on independent unionism have not subsided, instead it has sharply increased over the last few years. 13 years after the killings, genuine student and worker activists who support struggles to demand and defend basic democratic rights are still being witch hunted by the university administration. The most recent has been the undemocratic proscription of the OAU students' union. The union was proscribed 17 months ago due to a peaceful protest organised by students against an astronomic increment in acceptance fees for fresh students.

Students have however shown a growing interest to fervently struggle for the union's restoration. This was reflected in students' active participation in the July 10 remembrance activities despite the ongoing examination. Aside from the over 500 that attended the symposium, a far larger crowd turned up for the bonfire and candle-lit procession on 10th July. 

The DSM commends students for their resoluteness and the only way to uphold the legacy of the fallen heroes in July 10, 1999 is to step up the struggle for the restoration of the union and against anti-poor attacks on public education. 

It is important to note that the events of July 10 and the spirited fight back by conscious and organized great Ife students led to a decline in cult activities in OAU. This is not accidental but a product of the presence of a militant and independent union that can curb such activities. 

This enviable tradition must not be allowed to die. The proscription of the union provides an opportunity for cult and other violent groups to thrive. Recent happenings on OAU campus gives reason to fear cultists are again regrouping and organizing on the campus. In the course of the semester, there were reports of at least 2 cult initiations.

The DSM joins all great Ife students in the demand for the immediate restoration of the students' union and the recall of Wale Owolabi (a student activist who was victimized for participating in a protest against fee hike). We also demand the immediate and unconditional restoration of all banned unions across campuses in Nigeria. This is imperative to build a mass based formidable students movement that can counterweight cultism and oppose all anti-student policies.

To achieve this, there is the need for students to demand the democratization of the decision making organs of the universities to include elected representatives of workers and students. This will ensure a democratic process through which principal officers of universities emerge as against the current process shrouded in secrecy and corruption.

Students must however realize that under the current system of capitalism, these demands, if met are not sustainable. Students must be therefore ready to struggle for proper funding of education and ultimately join the campaign for a mass based political party armed with socialist programs. The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) has taken a practical step towards this end by launching the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN). We hereby enjoin students to join the party and participate actively in its activities.


As More Students Shun LASU

By James Foluso

The resultant effect of anti-poor policies of fee hike and commercialization of public education has started telling in Lagos State University. Last year, the Lagos State Government introduced a 725% hike in the tuition fees of Lagos State University. With the increase, new students were asked to pay between N193,750 and N348,750 as against the old fee of N25,000.

The brutal reality of this fee hike first manifested during the last matriculation ceremony held on 12th March, 2012 when only 1,951 students (representing 39.8%) of over 4,903 students offered admission for the 2011/2012 academic session turned out to take the oath. The reality became much clearer during the Post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (Post-UTME) for the 2012/2013 academic session conducted by the university on Monday, 18th June, 2012.

In the past, the Post-UTME examination was held as a week-long activity considering the large turnout of candidates with a resultant heavy human and vehicular traffic on campus. But the reverse was the case this time around as it was reported that a meager 3,000 candidates came for the exam as against past figures which fluctuate between 15,000 and 20,000, and the exam was also conducted in one day! This was after the University management had placed expensive adverts in daily national newspapers wooing candidates including those who never chose LASU to come and participate in the exams.

This development cannot be disconnected from the fee hike as it has scared away prospective students who could not afford to pay the huge tuition fees. Faced with this scary situation, the University management has introduced a second-round Post-UTME exercise to cover up for the low turn-out. This latest effort is a clear departure from the past when the management is usually overburdened with the pressure of sorting and admitting thousands of applicants considering the low admission space in the university.

The excuse by government that it cannot fund free and quality tertiary education is untenable and unacceptable. Just by cutting the outrageous salaries and allowances of all political office holders in the State and the wasteful spending going on at the state government and local councils, it is possible to free huge sums of money that can be used to begin to renovate all the state public institutions, expand their facilities and pay living wage.

Commercialization of education is a central policy of the ACN-led government of Babatunde Fashola. Cuts in social spending are vigorously pursued so as to have more idle funds to mismanage or channel towards private-interest ventures. So, it is profitable for those in power to commercialize education and other social amenities. 

LASU Staff and Students' Unions must as a matter of urgency re-launch a campaign for the reversal of the fee hike because in actual fact both staff and students will be affected. As enrolment level drops and drop-out rate rises on account of unaffordable level of fees, some programmes and courses in the university may be rationalized due to inadequate number of students. As the crisis deepens, some programmes and departments could be shutdown. In this case, academic and non-academic personnel will be sacked.

A joint struggle against the fee hike should be embarked upon by the Students' Union, ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT to defeat this anti-students/workers policy. This should take the form of boycotts, rallies, mass protests and demonstrations until this anti-poor policy is reversed.

Friday 20 July 2012


We Can't Pay! We won't pay!!
For mass action to defeat attacks on public education

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) strongly rejects the recommendation of the Committee for the Restructuring and Rationalization of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies headed by Mr. Stephen Oronsaye for tuition fees to be introduced in Federal-owned tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
We call on the government to throw out this recommendation in the interest of students and poor working class parents who are already over-burdened by teaching fees, examination charges, hostel fees and other sundry charges in the nation's tertiary institutions.

This recommendation if accepted by the Federal government will see fees in federal universities, polytechnics and colleges of education rise up to between N450, 000 and N525, 000. Together with the existing fees students pay, this we see a huge drop in enrollment and significant rise in drop-outs. 

A good example of how fee increases destroy public education is the case of Lagos State University (LASU) where close to 70% of new entrants failed to take up their admissions after fee was increased by over 725%. This has also threatened the existence of some departments in the university because of sharp drop in the number of students enrolled. There is even thinking in the official quarters of scrapping some of the departments which will lead to retrenchment of lecturers and non-teaching staff. The Oronsaye report threatens to achieve more than this. The report if implemented will signal the death of public education in Nigeria. Already several students drop out annually as a result of the plethora of outrageous fees being charged at Federal tertiary institutions.

By the Oronsaye committee report, the anti-poor government of President Jonathan is serving notice of its preparedness to again put more burdens on workers and poor people of Nigeria by introducing tuition fees. This is much like the processes leading to recent anti-poor attacks on the populace like withdrawal of fuel subsidy and now the increment of electricity tariff that have kicked off since June 1st.

Therefore, Nigerian students and education workers unions must not take the matter lightly. Indeed this is the time to begin to mobilize and build resistance to this new anti-poor attack. The ERC calls on Students' Unions, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), youth-based groups, staff unions and the trade unions to oppose the recommendation of the Oronsaye committee and begin to prepare for sustained mass actions and demonstrations.

According to the Punch newspaper (19 May 2012), the committee identified "the tuition-free policy of government for undergraduates in federal universities, the over-dependency on government funding by universities, near absence of good governance structures, dearth of quality research, decline in ethical and professional practices by lecturers", as among the factors responsible for the sharp decline in the quality of standards in tertiary education. 

Others, according to the committee, are the "politicization of hierarchical positions in the universities, proliferation of part-time programmes, role of staff unions and absence of strong regulations for ensuring standards."

This is very far from the truth. Tuition policy and over-dependency on government funding are not among the factors responsible for the sharp decline in the quality of standards in tertiary education. Neither is the role of staff unions. 

The real cause of the sharp decline in education quality and standard is the neo-liberal policy of underfunding and commercialization embraced by succeeding governments (both military and civilian) in Nigeria. In the 2012 budget, a meager 10% was allocated to the education sector by President Jonathan government. This miniscule amount is not even up to the amount set aside for the maintenance of the Presidency and the National Assembly members. Coupled with underfunding is also the phenomenal profligacy and corruption of unelected school administrations. In many tertiary institutions, top-paid officials of the management are more interested in purchasing Porsche official vehicles, renovating residences of Vice Chancellors, Provost and Rectors and organizing expensive convocation ceremonies and banquets instead of spending money to improve teaching and hostel facilities.

we need to build from below a powerful movement of students and workers to fight education attacks

The ERC believes that the real solution to the crisis of public education is for government to increase funding to the sector as a significant step towards provision of free and functional education at all levels. We also call for the democratization of the administration/management boards of universities, polytechnics and colleges of education through the involvement of elected representatives of staff and students in decision making organs. This is the best way to ensure that monies voted for education funding are judiciously used to improve facilities and standards.

(1) We call on the Federal government and the National Assembly to throw out the recommendation of the Oronsaye report as it relates to introduction of tuition .
(2) Scrapping of all fees
(3) Improvement in education funding up to 26% of annual budget
(4) Democratization of the management of tertiary institutions through the involvement of elected representatives of staff and students in all decision-making organs
(5) Provision of free and functional education at all levels
(6) Respect of democratic rights of students and staff to form unions and the restoration of all banned unions and recall of all victimized students and staff activists.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto
National Coordinator