WE URGE ASUU TO TAKE THE STRUGGLE TO THE NEXT LEVEL BY NAMING A DAY FOR NATIONWIDE MASS ACTION
No doubt, there is urgent need for us to act now to save Nigeria's education sector from a total collapse! It will interest us to know that between 2000 and 2011, Nigeria government earned N48.48 trillion from the sale of oil alone against N3.10 trillion earned between 1979 and 1999 (Guardian, 24/3/13). With this tremendous revenue at the disposal of the Nigeria government, one would have expected it to translate to a commensurate improvement in the quantity and quality of Nigeria's public education as well as other social services.
Unfortunately, public education at present is more than ever enmeshed in a monumental crisis largely characterized by poor funding. As a matter of fact the budgetary allocation to education has fallen from 12.22% in 1985 to 8.5% in 2013. Comparing this year allocation of 8.5% with UNESCO recommendation of 26% budgetary allocation to education it is very clear that Nigeria government is not really interested in funding education.
This explains why the Nigerian government is extremely comfortable with 8.5% of budgetary allocation to education while about one-third of the nation's budget goes to salaries and allowance of political office holders. This is appalling especially in a situation where many countries with smaller GDP have their percentage budgetary allocations to education as follows: Ghana (31%); Cote d'Ivoire (20%); Kenya (23%); Morocco (17.7%); Botswana (19.0%); Swaziland (24.6%); Lesotho (17.0%); Burkina Faso (16.8%); Uganda (27.0%) and Tunisia (17.0%).
As a result of poor government funding, Nigeria's public education, from primary to tertiary levels is bedeviled with lack of adequate facilities for proper teaching, learning and research. Hostel facilities in the few schools where they still exist are dilapidated and insufficient. Access to education opportunities is greatly reduced. Over 10 million children are out-of-school in Nigeria.Only just this year, 2013, about 1.7 million candidates sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and from the available space in all the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in the country only less than 29 percent of the total candidates will be admitted, thus leaving out over 1.2 million candidates.
Our academics have continued to seek greener pasture abroad which is leading to brain drain in our education sector. There are just about 34,504 lecturers left in the Universities. Out of this, only 75% or 28,128 are engaged on a full time basis. About 50, 000 more lecturers are needed to ensure adequate academic staff in universities. Yet nothing is being done about this even though there are tens of thousands of unemployed graduates who can fill these vacancies.The University of Abuja has been turned to mere glorified secondary school. The medical and engineering faculties have been running without accreditations; facilities are not in place. Even other faculties are also in crisis with decaying infrastructures. At the Osun State University, about three sets of medical students are in limbo between pre-clinical and clinical stages because of the lack of a teaching hospital.
ISSUES INVOLVED IN ASUU STRIKE
On Monday 1st July, 2013, the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) was forced to once again resume the industrial action which was suspended in February 2012. As usual, the issue again is the Federal Government's persistent refusal to fully implement the FGN/ASUU agreement signed since 2009.Since 2009, the Union has embarked on series of actions including dialogues and warning strikes none of which has succeeded in convincing the government to meet its demands. Meanwhile ASUU's demands are not just about its members' welfare, it is also about the need to fund education properly and provide adequate teaching facilities.
An agreement is supposed to be an honorable contract between two parties. Contrary to this, the President Jonathan's government has been unfair to the letters and spirit of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement. For instance, while the agreement stipulates annual increases in budgetary allocation to education between 2009 and 2020 until it reaches 26%, the Federal government budgeted just a paltry 8.5% to education this year.All ASUU is demanding now is that the agreement must be fully implemented. As students, we cannot be indifferent to the content of this agreement just because of our fears about the academic calendar!
Moreover, if this agreement is fully implemented, together with democratic management of schools to include elected representatives of education workers and students, it would mean better funding of education and a great relief to overburdened students. It is therefore, in our best interest as students to ensure this agreement is fully implemented by supporting ASUU and fighting together with them to save public education from collapse.
STUDENTS SHOULD ALSO PUT THEIR DEMANDS FORWARD AND GET ORGANIZED TO FIGHT FOR ITUnfortunately, while the unions in the education sector are currently engaging the government in a struggle to save the education sector from total collapse, nothing is being heard from the national leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS)
Meanwhile, students suffer the most from government insensitivity to the funding of public education and the poor teaching and hostel infrastructures in higher institutions. Added to this are the assaults and attacks on student rights. For instance, nearly 10 students have been killed in extrajudicial circumstances by the police this year alone. UNIBEN students continue to cry for justice for the extrajudicial killing of Ibrahim Momodu. In UNIUYO, not only did police kill a student, 45 students were clamped into detention for protesting against fee hike. These are just the few injustices Nigerian students suffer.In light of this, Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls on students to boldly back the strike action of ASUU and other unions to save public education from total collapse. Also students should get organised to put forward their own demands on varied issues such as fee hike, poor teaching and hostel facilities, victimisation and attack on independent unionism and be prepared to mobilise protests and demonstrations to compel government to meet these demands.
FOR A JOINT STRUGGLEAs experience of the last three and half years has shown, it would take a far more monumental struggle than the one needed to get the agreement signed to force the corrupt capitalist government to implement it. This is why as ASUU embarks on another strike, we have to reiterate that this strike should not be taken as just a sit-at-home action. Instead it has to be taken as a mass struggle to compel the government to commit Nigeria's resources to the funding of education, provision of adequate teaching facilities and to meet the needs of staffs in terms of pay and working conditions. This means ASUU has to begin mobilization of its members as well as students, youth and the public for mass actions like rallies, leafleting and demonstrations.
Ultimately, not one of the demands of ASUU can be satisfactorily implemented without defeat in government's anti-poor education policies. Needless to say, only a government that is truly committed to using Nigeria's resources to fund education can fully and satisfactorily guarantee the pay and working conditions of staff. This is why in the current strike and subsequent ones, the demands for improvement in education funding, democratic management of schools to include elected representatives of education workers and students, and provision of free education at all levels have to be fully placed on the front burner, not as secondary issues but as demands ASUU would be willing to continue to fight for even if the agreement presently in contention is implemented.We in the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) believe that to win the struggle to save public education, all unions (ASUU, NASU, ASUP, NUT SSANIP, SSANU, NANS etc) need to come together. We call for a jointly coordinated campaign of all unions in the education sector to press home the demands for improvement in education funding and democratic management of schools. We observe that the needs assessment report has caused cleavage between ASUU and non-academic unions in universities who suspect that the implementation of the report will lead to mass retrenchment of their members. All the unions especially ASUU must ensure that the implementation of the report, which emphasizes provision of the adequate facilities for quality education, does not lead to loss of Jobs in universities.
We call on ASUU, which is currently on strike, to name a day for nationwide protests and demonstrations that will involve its members as well as students and all members of the public concerned about the crisis of public education. We believe this is the best way to break the deadlock in on-going negotiations and to also combat government propaganda and blackmail. We also call on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to back the struggle to save public education with a 48-hour general strike and mass protest.DEMANDS
(1) Implement the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement and all other agreements reached with unions (ASUP, SSANIP, NASU, SSANU, COEASU, NAAT and NUT)
(2) Improve funding of education to 26% in line with UNESCO recommendation
(3) Improvement in the pay and conditions of all teaching and non-teaching staff
(4) Provision of free and quality education at all levels
(5) Immediate reversal of all hiked fees in LASU and other institutions in the country.
(6) No to Victimizations! For respect of the right to independent unionism
(7) No to Police attacks and killing of students! Release the UNIUYO 45!
(8) Democratic representation of staffs (academic and non-academic) and students in all decision making organs of schools.
(9) Nationalization of the commanding sectors of the economy under public democratic control and management.