Education Workers, Students and Socialists Agree that a United Action is needed to save Public Education from Total Collapse.
By Ogundepo Titus
On Thursday, 27th February, 2014, no fewer than one hundred (100) people including students, education workers and journalists gathered at a public symposium organized by the Education Right Campaign (ERC) at the University of Ibadan to discuss the 2013 ASUU strike and its lessons.
Virtually all the speakers commended the ERC for organizing the public gathering of both students and education workers which was the first of its kind since the suspension of the six months' long strike embarked upon by members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to protest poor funding of public university education.
|A cross section of the participants|
The speakers at were the Dr Nasir Fagge, President of ASUU; Chibuzor Asumogha, President Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP ) who was represented by Mr. Anderson, ASUP Zone D Coordinator from Federal Polytechnic Nekede Imo State; Segun Sango, Chairperson, Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and Hassan Taiwo Soweto, National Coordinator of ERC.
Amongst other speakers were Dr Demola Aremu, ASUU National Treasurer who doubles as the Oyo State chair of Joint Action Front (JAF); Dr Alada, Dean of Students' Affair, University of Ibadan; Dr Omonigo Karo, Chairman, ASUU Unilag and Dr Segun Ajiboye, Chairman, ASUU UI.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto, in his introductory remarks, declared that the symposium was organized not only to arrive at suggestions on how the gains recorded during the last ASUU strike can be defended and sustained, but also to discuss the on-going strikes of ASUP and COEASU with a view to mapping out ways and strategies to take these struggles to a victorious end. He also made reference to current crisis in the Lagos State University (LASU) and the interventions of ERC so far to ensure reversal of the fee hike and adequate funding of that university.
|HT Soweto, ERC National Coordinator|
While leading the discussion on the theme of the symposium, Dr. Nasir Fagge's first statement was an appreciation to members and leadership of ERC for their remarkable roles during the last ASUU six-month strike. He also expressed his personal interest in ERC as well as the trust he reposes in the organisation as far as issues affecting the public education in Nigeria are concerned.
Fagge blamed the government's irresponsibility and insensibility to public education as the root cause of the last ASUU strike whose main demand was the implementation of the agreement the federal Government signed with Union in 2009. He cited how improved budgetary allocation to education of some countries like Brazil, China, Malaysia, India, Finland, Sweden etc has been the secret of the tremendous progress those countries have made in making quality education accessible to a good number of their citizens.
|Nasir Fagge, ASUP President|
To sustain the gains of the last strike Fagge informed the gathering that all the branches of the union have been mandated to constitute an independent project monitoring committee to ensure that the N20bn intervention fund promised by the federal government is judiciously used for the need of the system and not to be squandered among contractors and University managements.
Speaking on lessons of the last ASUU strike, Fagge revealed that the last strike made so many facts clearer to his union. Notably among these is lack of sincerity and will to defend the aspiration of Nigerians among individuals that are in positions of authority in the country.
Another important lesson from the last strike according to Fagge is the fact concerted effort and struggle of ordinary people is continuously needed before the government at all levels can be made to yield to her constitutional responsibility of making education accessible to all Nigerians. In view of this, he endorsed the proposal of the ERC for the united struggle of all stakeholders in education sector towards adequate and proper funding of education. He informed the gathering that the union has concluded plan to organize an education submit which will be held by July. He however acknowledged the fact that only a pro-working people oriented government is capable of guaranteeing free and quality education for Nigerian masses.
|Mr Anderson ASUP Zone D Coordinator|
While speaking on the sub-theme: The ASUP strike and matter arising Mr. Anderson revealed that the ongoing ASUP strike is also a reflection of negligence and irresponsibility by the federal government. He explained this by making reference to how federal government has been refusing to honour the agreement which was signed with union since April 2009.
According to Anderson, the detail of the agreement signed with the union are: re-amending of the Act that established the polytechnic which was amended last in 1993; the need to set up a commission to be regulating the activities of the polytechnic instead of using National Board of Technical Education (NBTE); the need to ensure that ASUP mode of salaries should not be under IPPRL payment roll; scheme of service which was last treated in 1989 should be retreated to make it updated to the new mode of service among others.
He reaffirmed the determination of the ASUP to continue the strike action as long as the Federal government refuses to accede to various demands of the union. He also welcomed the ASUU's plan to organize the education submit while pledging the support of ASUP to such urgently needed initiative.
Segun Sango, who is also the General Secretary of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), in his short speech was able to clearly establish the fact that capitalist misrule and crazy drive for profit as against the need of the people is the root cause of all the enormous crises confronting public education as well as other sectors of the economy which the previous speakers had highlighted.
|Segun Sango, National Chairperson SPN|
He lauded the ASUU's planned education submit and effort toward having a pro-working people Nigeria constitution and pledged the support of SPN and DSM. He was however quick to stress that only a pro-working people government with a socialist programme of nationalizing the commanding heights of the economy placed under a democratic control and management of the working people is capable of guaranteeing quality and free education.
He also used the occasion to announce the initiative to form the SPN by DSM as the latest step taken by the organization towards realizing its age-long goal for a socialist transformation of Nigeria. Sango also mentioned the difficulty of raising N1m (One million naira) that INEC now demands as a registration fee. He therefore called on students, education workers particularly their unions (ASUU and ASUP) to support and donate to the SPN campaign fund for registration fees and party building.
One of the highlights of the programme was the solidarity message by the University of Ibadan, Dean of Students Affair who declared his support to the philosophy of ERC despite the fact that the ERC is not a registered organization with the Student Affair unit.
Most of other solidarity messages were words of encouragement to students to be more active and participatory in day to day running of their union particularly towards reviving the students' movement. One of the striking solidarity messages was that of the LASU Students Union president-elect who solicited the support of ASUU and other education workers unions towards the ongoing struggle of LASU students presently being coordinated by members of ERC against outrageous fees.
Eighteen participants including workers and students indicated interest to join ERC.