Tuesday 24 February 2015


                                        ERC Demands Immediate Reversal

                                                                        Press Statement 

The authorities of the Afe Babalola University has carried out an outrageous hike in the fees of its Clinical students (400 level medical students) from the already whopping sum of N1.7 million to a stupefying sum of N2.6 million. Nothing on earth, except plain profit-making, can justify this exploitative hike.

By this fee hike, what the ABUAD authorities appear to be saying is that the University is open to only the children of treasury looters, corrupt politicians and oil bunkerers! The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) hereby calls for the immediate reversal of the hiked fee. Even the old rate of N1.7 million is extortionate and exorbitant. We insist that education must not and should not be a “debt” sentence.

We urge Nigerian people to publicly condemn this fee hike and prevail on the authorities of the institution to rescind its decision. Without the immediate reversal of the fees, many medical students already in their 400 level risk being thrown out of the University. This matter is therefore a matter of urgent national importance.

Contrary to the opinion of some that private institutions are meant to be funded from fees paid by students and therefore no one has the right to protest any astronomical tuition, the ERC believes that in so far as private Universities are service providers, the public including students and their parents have a right to protest any of their policies considered inimical to their future. Not only does the public has the right to determine the amount of tuition private schools can charge, the public also has the right to determine the quality of their services etc. This is because whether private or public, education is an inalienable universal human right.

This is more so because the idea that only the rich send their children to private Universities is no more true. As a result of the complete decay of public education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, many working class and middle class parents are increasingly compelled to enroll their wards in private schools which they can only afford by taking loans etc. This is because everyone wants the best education for their children which is no more possible to obtain at an affordable rate as a result of the destruction of the public education system. In addition to this is the inability of existing public tertiary institutions to admit all eligible applicants. Therefore whether they have the means or not, many parents are compelled to enroll their wards in private institutions. Increasing fees at such outrageous rate as ABUAD has done is therefore an unacceptable pressure on parents and if unchallenged, this fee hike can force many of the Clinical students to drop out of school.

Out of the N2.6 million, the tuition portion is just N950, 000. However what makes up the rest is simply stupefying. For instance, Clinical students are being asked to pay N350, 000 for clinical posting and another N200, 000 for community medicine posting. For examination and assessment, the students are to pay N125, 000. What manner of examinations cost this much? Despite N950, 000 already allotted for tuition, students are to pay another N150, 000 for practical/laboratory. So what exactly constitute tuition in the first place? Accommodation is N350, 000. Library fees which used to be N10, 000 was jerked up to N20, 000 while ICT was pegged at N30, 000. Course registration, a simple administrative exercise, attracts a cost of N10, 000! Also students are to pay N50, 000 as deposit against damages.

This outrageous hike however confirms our consistent opposition to the privatization of public education on the basis of IMF and World Bank dictate. We have often maintained the position that the privatization of education would not solve the problem of access but only deny an increasing percentage of the population access to knowledge. According to the Punch newspaper of Tuesday February 24 2015, statistics from the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board shows that only two per cent (or 18, 667) of the 1.6 million candidates applied to study in the nation’s private universities in the 2014 academic session. There are 50 private universities in the country. This shows that over 98 per cent of candidates preferred the 79 federal and state-owned universities to the private ones.

The fee hike in ABUAD is a confirmation that all private institutions offer is mega exploitation of the frustration being felt by Nigerians over the decay of public education infrastructure. In the case of ABUAD, many of the students who have been finding it difficult to afford the old fee of N1.7 million are now confronted with the reality of dropping out of school entirely given the new fee of N2.6 million. The ERC insists that the only socially-beneficial way to make education affordable and accessible to all is for the government to invest massively in public education by utilizing the enormous wealth of the country. 

Whether public of private education, the ERC stand opposed to exploitation. We join ABUAD students to condemn the fee hike. Unfortunately from the inception of the university, the ABUAD administration has illegally prevented student unionism in direct violation of the constitutional rights of students. We condemn this and demand that the authorities of ABUAD allow students to establish an independent and democratic students union through which they can protect their rights and interests at all times. However what this means is that at this critical time, ABUAD students have no union through which they can mount a stout resistance to the fee hike. Regardless of this however, we urge the students to take their destinies into their hands by organizing and mobilizing in peaceful protests and demonstrations until their demands are met. If they are prepared to do this, we are confident that workers, parents and ordinary Nigerians will stand by them.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                    Michael Ogundele                          
National Coordinator                                    National Secretary                        

Saturday 7 February 2015

Building Fight back against Imminent Austerity Attacks on Public Education

ERC Holds Public Meeting
Michael Ogundele (ERC National Secretary)
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) held a public meeting on the 31st of January 2015. In attendance were about 23 students. The Socialist Youth League (SYL) and the National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) sent a representative each. The #SaveLASU Campaign Movement - a broad campaign formed last year to prosecute the successful struggle against hiked fees at the Lagos State University (LASU) - was also represented. Also in attendance were students of the Ekiti State University (EKSU), Michael Otedola College of Primary Education (MOCPED) Epe who are currently in a struggle to fight for release of their results and certificates.
The meeting which started with introductory remarks from Lateef Adams, Deputy National Coordinator of the ERC.  Lateef Adams highlighted the necessity that warranted the ERC calling for the public meeting. This is to prepare the student movement to be able to confront the forthcoming austerity measures that will certainly be unleashed on students across Nigerian tertiary institutions.
HT Soweto, ERC National Coordinator
 Following this, the ERC National Coordinator, Hassan Taiwo Soweto, in his 40 minutes political lead-off explained the characters of the capitalist ruling class especially in this current situation of Nigeria's failing economy as a result of the decline in the global price of crude oil.
He emphasized that whosoever between Muhammed Buhari and President Jonathan wins the presidential election will definitely implement austerity measures as the current collapsing economy of the country due to decline in the crude oil price has drastically reduced government venue. This is because neither of the two would be prepared to go beyond the bounds of capitalism in the quest to find solution to the crisis.
As things stand today, nearly 80% of the budget solely depends on revenue generated from crude oil production. The current crisis bedeviling the world oil price at the international market will therefore push whichever section of the Nigeria capitalist ruling elites that comes to power to take to cutting down on expenditures ostensibly to save the economy. Already the capital expenditure in the 2015 budget has been reduced from N1.3 trillion to about N627 billion. This means that despite huge backwardness in public infrastructure, investment to improve facilities in schools, hospitals, roads, housing, electricity and water provision will be substantially reduced this year. In fact, Soweto in his lead-off laid a resounding effect of the forthcoming attack on the conditions of Nigerian students and public education in general.

Soweto also emphasized the fact that alongside the economic crises will come a flurry of harsh austerity measures to save the free market system from collapse. Public education, healthcare, social services and our already miserable living standards will be subjected to the most brutal cut irrespective of who wins the February 14, 2015 presidential election. On the whole, he submitted that as class-conscious individuals that represent mass majority of students and left groups, we should not be carried away by the deep political confusion currently ravaging the country and as such there is an urgent need for a strong preparation for a movement against austerity and other imminent attacks on Nigerian students.

After the lead-off, comments and contributions from activists in attendance emphasized the need to earnestly build a united mass campaign against austerity among ordinary rank and file of students as well as mass of the working people. And at the same time, there was a collective agreement for the formation of a broad platform that also seeks to involve different structures of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and other youth organisations in the fight against austerity. Such a platform, which is expected to also seek the solidarity of the labour movement, will also stand against all cuts in education budget, demand reversal of hiked fees, call for adequate funding to education and demand the provision of free and quality education at all levels. The meeting subsequently ended with an understanding to reach to NANS and other youth and student organizations and re-convene again soon.
The public statement of the ERC on the imminent austerity and public education titled, Austerity: An Open Call for the Building of a Movement to Resist Imminent Attacks on Public Education” was circulated at the meeting. One of the participants volunteered to produce more copies and post the statement massively on his campus, Yaba College of Technology in Lagos.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Strike and Mass Action by Osun Tertiary Education Workers:

Aregbesola Govt. Should Accede to Demands of Lecturers
·         We condemn the nonchalant attitude of the government to education
·         We call for united actions striking workers and students

Again, we in the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemn the attitude of the Rauf Aregbesola-led Osun State government to the demands of the lecturers of the state-owned tertiary institutions. Currently, the lecturers under the banner of Council of Academic Staff Unions of Osun Tertiary Institutions (CASUOSTI) are on two-day weekly strike action, calling for the implementation of previous agreements with the state government. These agreements include: end to rip off under the guise of the fraudulent Contributory Pension Scheme, which has led to chaotic retirement; immediate implementation of the collective agreement onstaffing, relief of tax burdens and payment of unconsolidated allowances; and end to illegal withholding of deductions from salaries. The other demand is the end to the culture of haphazard and delayed payment of salaries.
We in the ERC fully support the demands of the lecturers and call on the Osun State government to show responsibility by acceding immediately to the demands of the lecturers. We also support the strike and mass action being organized by CASUOSTI and COEASU to compel government to implement these demands.

We find it condemnable the care-free attitude of the Osun State government to tertiary education. This current industrial action of the lecturers in the state-owned polytechnics and colleges of education will be the third or fourth time the union will be fighting and striking over these demands. In most cases, the government promised and even reached agreement to implement the demands, only for the government to again shirk in its responsibility. This does not show a serious government interested in the wellbeing of workers and development of education. The last strike of lecturers under CASUOSTI over these demands lasted over five (5) months before government could do anything. Clearly, unless the government is stopped in its current path by mass action of workers and students, its inactions may again dislocate tertiary education in the state. 
The failure of the Aregbesola government to resolve once and for all the demands of the lecturers again shows that the government is anti-poor, just like its PDP predecessors. While the government has refused to implement simple agreements with tertiary institutions’ lecturers, workers in the state public and civil service are owed months of salary arrears, while pensioners are suffering due to unpaid pensions and gratuities. 
The worn-out of the government that there is no fund to provide the basic rights of workers and improve education fundamentally is lame. The reality is that the government has been wasteful, committing public funds to private coffers. 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 only four schools, out of over 2, 100 (two thousand and one hundred) schools, being reconstructed and completed after four years. Worse still, public education has continued to deteriorate; reeling from one 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. 

This is why we welcome and support the mass action being organized by CASUOSTI to mobilize public support. We enjoin CASUOSTI to continue in this direction, and move a step further by mobilizing not just their members but students, parents and other workers in the state for more mass actions. Wealso call on students, parents, civil society and labour movement in the state to support the lecturers. We also call on labour movement to address the welfare issues of their members. It is clearly condemnable that labour movement leadership in the state will keep quiet when workers’ salaries are not paid for months, pensioners suffering from unpaid and accumulated pension arrears, while public and social infrastructures are in terrible state.

Oluwole Engels
Coordinator, ERC Osun State