Wednesday 28 May 2014

Closure of Poly and Colleges: Police Again Brutally Repress Mass Protest Today

At least 50 Students and Activists are Arrested


The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns the repression of a mass protest of students of polytechnic and colleges of education today by the police with tear gas at Alagomeji Yaba Lagos. About 1000 students and activists held the protest march that started at Yaba College of Technology to protest the failure of government to meet the demands of the striking Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) which has led to the several-month closure of polytechnics and colleges of education nationwide. The polytechnics and colleges of education have been closed down for about 11 and 3 months respectively.  

About 50 protesters including female students were arrested and detained at Adekunle and Sabo police stations both in Yaba Lagos. 

We recall that the police in a similar version brutally repressed the mass protest by ASUP and COEASU to press home their demands in Abuja on April 29 with water cannon and tear gas.  

We condemn this entrenched strong-arm and repressive measure which the Goodluck Jonathan government has adopted as the default response to legitimate demands and democratic actions of workers and youth. Incidentally this relapse into dictatorship and the attacks on democratic rights have become heightened at a period the government has started the celebration of 15 years of the advent of the so-called democracy in Nigeria.

We demand immediate and unconditional release of the arrested protesters. We also demand that the government meet the demands of the striking lecturers of polytechnic and colleges of education so that the schools can be reopened for academic activities. It is an unenviable height of insensitivity by the government to have allowed students to stay at home for several months over a matter that is within its capacity to resolve. This however underscores the anti-poor character of the government.  The protest shall continue until the polytechnics and colleges of education are reopened.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto
National Coordinator ERC

Friday 23 May 2014


Press Statement

Over the past few days, the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile Ife has been agog with agitations and protests by students over plans by the Management to hike fees in the University.

According to the details of the plan, the hike will affect mainly fresh students who will be required to pay as much as N80, 000 and above. This is aside from the mandatory N20, 000 acceptance fee which was increased some 3 years ago. Students equally protested then but all they got was the proscription of the Students Union and victimization of their union leaders and activists.

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) joins OAU Students to say no to this increment because it is anti-poor, unjust and unacceptable.

Besides it is a slap on the collective intelligence of students and their poor parents for any management of public University to contemplate increment just when the sum of about N200 billion won by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the end of their strike last year is being disbursed for funding of capital projects in the Universities. OAU is a beneficiary of this grant.

We call on the Prof. Tale Omole-led management of the University to immediately perish the thought of increasing fees. If the University management however decides to go ahead, the consequence will be massive and prolonged resistance.

Perhaps never in the history of Nigeria since the period immediately after independence has the need to reposition and make public education available and accessible to all irrespective of social status being more urgent. In the North East of Nigeria, a violent group called Boko Haram is burning schools, slaughtering school boys and abducting school girls all in an effort to discourage and destroy what they call “western” public education. The narrative of this murderous campaign goes far beyond the physical reality of burnt schools and abducted girls.

The truth actually is that for far too long modern education which is a gateway to a good job and civilized existence has been the exclusive preserve of the Northern capitalist ruling elite. This has made what Boko Haram describes as “western” education to appear in the mind of many poor Northern youth as a privilege of a few and not the right of everyone. At the same time often a significant part of many education syllabuses politically reflect the views of the ruling class and sometimes also imperialism. This is why the ERC has often held on to the belief that after all is said and done, Boko Haram insurgency is a creation of Nigeria's capitalist system and the yawning inequality it has caused in our society. The only effective antidote to Boko Haram insurgency and other violent groups is the expansion of access to public education, provision of jobs and guaranteeing of a decent future for all.

Against this background, the implication of hiking fees in a Federal University like OAU is grave. For a long time, the University with its relatively low fees has presented many students from poor working class background with an opportunity to have a chance at University education. Increasing the fees will definitely cut off this opportunity, drive a majority of prospective students from the institution and end the dream of many. Of course, it need not be stressed that it is this same pattern of alienation of the mass majority from education and other social services that prepared the ground for the rise of Boko Haram in the North East.

However it seems to us in the ERC that what the Boko Haram violent insurgent group plans to accomplish in the North East is essentially what the OAU management also wants to achieve by hiking fees beyond what poor Nigerians can afford. It is the duty of the students as well as staff unions of the Obafemi Awolowo University not to allow this.

We believe that education is a right, not a privilege. We are sure that Nigeria is rich enough to fund education adequately without putting the burden of fees on students and their poor parents. The only obstacle to this is the corruption of the ruling elite and the anti-poor system of capitalism. This is why, to permamently win our demands, we need a working people's political alternative to end capitalism and enthrone a democratic socialist Nigeria.

The ERC will, alongside students, parents, community people and workers in the education sector, continue to resist attempts to price education out of the reach of poor Nigerians. The OAU Management will be saving itself a lot of trouble if it honorably reverses its plans to hike fees.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                                 Michael Ogundele
National Coordinator                                                 National Secretary

Thursday 22 May 2014

Osun tertiary Institutions: Aregbesola Govt. Should Accede to Demands of Striking Workers

·         We condemn the strong-arm tactics of the government
·         We call of striking workers and students to organize united protests

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Osun State Chapter condemns the indifferent attitude of the Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola-led Osun State government to the ongoing strike of the teaching and non-teaching staff unions of tertiary institutions in Osun State. The failure of the Aregbesola government to accede to the genuine demands of the striking workers has again knocked a big hole in the much touted education reform of the government. It has actually exposed the barrenness of the so-called ‘education wonder’ of the government.

The strike, which started more than three months ago, has brought tertiary education in Osun State to standstill. More than this, this strike, which is second in the last three years, shows that the Aregbesola government has deep-seated hatred for tertiary education and workers. It is more repulsive that the same demands which caused the previous strike are still unattended to by the government, prompting the current strike.

Moreover, we condemn the directive announcing resumption of schools and ordering striking workers to resume without meeting any of the demands of the workers. This action of the government is to say the least ridiculous. For a government that touts the principle of democracy to resort to anti-democratic method, associated with the jackboot military rule, shows the desperation of the government. This method, which is aimed at inciting students against workers, will surely fail, as it was based on a very poor premise of ‘might is right’. We call on Aregbesola’s government, if it still has any iota of self-dignity to accede immediately to the demands of the striking workers, and allow the schools to resume.

We commend the striking unions, under the banner of CASUOSTI (Council of Academic Staff Unions of Osun State Tertiary Institutions) and non-academic unions, for rejecting the arm-twisting method of the Osun State government. We call on them to take the struggle forward by organizing mass actions including protests, along with students, parents and the poor, across the state. This is the main strategy needed to defeat the government. The attempt of the government to break the strike by threatening striking workers shows that concerted actions are needed. This is why the striking workers need to organize mass activities including public enlightenment through leaflets, posters, etc, rallies and protests across the state.

We also call on student unions in various tertiary institutions in the state not to be hoodwinked by the propaganda and divide and rule tactics of the state government. They should organize, along with striking workers, mass actions to compel governments to accede to demands of the lecturers. This is because the demands of the workers are part of the demands needed to improve tertiary education in the state, which is currently in parlous state. For instance, demand of lecturers for improvement in facilities in tertiary institutions and employment of more teaching staffs are demands that students should be raising, as part of the holistic demands for improvement in education in the state. Students should align with striking staff unions to build a solid force to compel government accede to demands of workers and students. Students should also raise their own demands, especially those relating to adequate funding of education and reduction of school fees in the state tertiary institutions.

In conclusion, the failure of the Aregbesola government to resolve the demands of the striking workers for over three months shows that the government is anti-poor, just like its PDP predecessor. While the Oyinlola/PDP government left education in a state of monumental rot, the current Aregbesola government has only been using propaganda and token policies to divert public resources to private ends. For instance, while government handed over almost one billion naira to a private firm, under the guise of procuring free school uniforms for pupils in the state, the reality is that the government actually duped the state. Currently, parents have to procure the uniforms at a price that is more than twice of the market price. Also, the so-called mega-school project of the government, which has gulped as much as N14 billion, has only seen less than thirty schools, out of over 2, 100 (two thousand and one hundred) schools, being rebuilt. Worse still, tertiary education has continued to deteriorate; reeling from one industrial crisis to another. All this shows the pro-rich character of the government. Only mass struggle of workers, students and the poor can compel the government to concede to genuine demands of the working people.

Oluwole Engels
Osun State Coordinator

OAU Students Hold Protest against Obnoxious Fee Hike

By Sogo Oladele
DSM OAU Branch

The students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, numbering about 5, 000, trooped out on 20 May 2014 to protest the astronomical increment of fresh students’ fee from N17,000 to about N80,000, (excluding the acceptance fee of N20,000) and the proposed increment of old students’ fee. Though, the management has issued a statement that the old students would not be affected by the fee hike, the Students’ Union leadership claimed to have seen a document at a meeting with the management that shows the plan to increase the fee from N10, 000 to about N50, 000. 

After a period of illusion in urging the university management to reconsider its stance, reality of the need to struggle eventually dawned on the students’ union leadership, which has declared for a struggle against the vicious increment. After the failed dialogue, the union president convened for a congress of students, in which Action and Publicity Committees, headed by union leadership, but having representatives of the congress (including members of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), were set up. Before now, our comrades and the organization have been the arrowhead of the campaign against the fees. The organization had called, in its various statements, on the union leadership to call student congress and declare struggle. In fact, Education Rights Campaign (ERC), a platform where our comrades are playing leading roles, issued the first ever leaflet against the fees. Aside this, the DSM and ERC members have been very active in this struggle.

Consequent upon the resolution of the Students’ Union Congress on 19th May, students embarked on a protest march to Ife town on Tuesday, 20 May 2014 to register their displeasure and mobilise popular support. Students marched to the Ife/Ibadan Expressway where stranded travellers showed solidarity and understanding on the demands of students. For instance, a parent rained curses on the university management because her two daughters just gained admission into the university, and paying the fees has become nightmare for the family. Even, rank-and-file of the police force, expressed some tactical solidarity, showing the class character of the issue. However, this does not mean that the same police officers will not be used to attack students and workers when the movement subsequently. This shows the nature of the armed forces in a capitalist society. During the protest, students distributed some leaflets, and educated passers-by. The ERC leaflets were also exhausted. 
OAU students on a protest march in Ile-Ife town
The protesters thereafter moved from the motorway to Ife township, where the leadership of the union addressed the representatives of the Ooni of Ife, the paramount king in the town, at his palace. The gathering proceeded to the local radio station in Ife, where the union leaders granted interviews to journalists. The movement eventually terminated at the Sabo market in the town

The protest and message of the students actually struck a chord with the mass of working and poor people in town, who expressed visible anger against serial attacks on working and poor people by governments and their representatives like Prof. Tale Omole-led OAU authorities. 

In continuation of the struggle, the union has planned to go to markets in the town to enlighten and mobilise the support of traders and artisans against the fee hike. Also, the union has also planned to picket the corporate headquarters of banks to stop them from collecting the fees.

Ultimately, the latest attack on right of students to education in OAU has further underscored the fact that the Nigerian ruling elite is incurably anti-poor and bankrupt. It is ironic that just five months after the ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) secured a yearly subvention of N200 billion for universities, the Nigerian government, through its agents in universities will still be thinking of increasing fees. This is in a country where 70% of the population live below poverty line while the national minimum wage of N18, 000 is hardly implemented by any government across the country. Previous hike in fees in the Lagos State University (LASU) has turned the university to a ghost of itself. Yet, the OAU authorities are embarking on the same ruinous path that will spell doom for students of poor and working class background. 

We in the DSM call on workers, students and parents across the country to give solidarity to the struggle in OAU, which is being used by the Federal Government as a laboratory for full commercialization of education across the country. We call on all staff unions, especially in OAU, ASUU, NASU, SSANU and NAAT, to come out against the ruinous policy of the OAU authorities and with solidarity actions in support of students. We also call on Nigerian students’ movement, especially, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Zone D, to organise mass solidarity actions in support of the struggle.

We call for protest text messages and petitions statements against the fee increase to the authorities of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, through:

The Vice Chancellor,

Tel: 08037211502


You can send copy of your message and petition to the:

ERC national secretariat,

Tel: 07033697259


President, Students’ Union                                                                          

Tel:  07063875335