PRIVATISATION OF UNITY SCHOOLS? NO WAY!
National Conscience Party (NCP)
Lagos State Chapter
PRIVATISATION OF UNITY SCHOOLS? NO WAY!
Students, Youths and Workers Should Resist Neo-Liberal Attack on Public Education
As always expected from an irresponsible government, the 102 unity schools nationwide have been slated for privatisation. The Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili, made this announcement recently. The reason she gave was that “the capacity of the 40-year-old model to achieve the noble dreams of earlier decades in the light of modern Nigeria’s impinging constraints has caused the vision to fossilize”. She went on to lament that many of the schools were now in sub-standard conditions, with the absence of basic infrastructure and amenities and have become sorry sight in the landscape of secondary education. The Minister continued: “our greatest concern however, is the fact that ministry spends an inordinate amount of time and resources on these schools that constitute only 30% of the secondary schools in the country. Out of the 6.4 million secondary schools students, only 120,718 are in the 102 unit schools. This number cannot on any account be justifying the disproportionate amount of staff and budget allocated to these schools”.
We wish to state from the beginning that the “constraints” referred to by the minister are the direct consequences of anti-poor, neo-liberal policies and programmes of cuts in social spending and under-funding which have been implemented for a long time by successive governments that have made it impossible for additional infrastructures (schools, hospitals, roads etc) to be put in place.
It is an indictment on the government and in fact, a declaration of woeful failure of the Obasanjo led PDP government that makes $190million from crude oil sales alone everyday not to be able to cater for 120,718, which are in the 102 unity schools and other over 6.4 million students in the secondary schools. Allocation to education in Nigeria is only better than that of Somalia, which presently has no government. The average allocation to education is less than one-fifth of UNESCO recommendation, which is 26%. The United Nations estimated that 300,000 children live in the street in Nigeria. Out of about 33million Nigerian youths within the secondary school age bracket that are supposed to be in secondary schools, only 6.4million are in schools which are now in a sorry state as a result of conscious total neglect of the educational sector like every other public sector compounded by corrupt prone bureaucracy created by the absence of democratic control by the workers. Rather than upgrading the existing schools and building more, the federal Government is handing over schools to private shacks/profiteers.
The Minister position that the Federal Government spends an inordinate amount of time and resources on these schools is far from the truth. These unity schools in question like every other school have no functional facilitiesâ€“ libraries are outdated, laboratories are unequipped, classrooms are overcrowded while teachers are underpaid. The unity schools that used to have high standard can no longer meet the purpose today because of the conscious neglect of educational sector, which have corruptly benefited the thieving ruling class. Having therefore destroyed qualitative and functional education, the ruling class and the rich now send their wards abroad for education and very expensive private schools locally. For example, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Okonjo Iweala, in an interview with a Guardian reporter, Kanel Tayo Oropo, which was published on Sunday July 2, 2006, said that she paid $40,000 (N5.6million) a year for each of her three children. No wonder Okonjo Iweala demanded an annual salary of $240,000, paid in US dollars, before she agreed to become Finance Minister in 2003! It is not impossible that the present Minister of Education also has her children in some of the best schools abroad, where they pay exorbitant amounts of money.
It is only when our collective wealth is adequately planned and invested in social infrastructures like education that the economy can move with everybody or the majority having access to these basic necessities of life. The philosophy that suggests that only the private sector can move the economy forward or that anything private is better handled is erroneous and fraudulent. A philosophy that allows a very few individual to own and control our collective wealth at the expense of the poor majority is corrupt and unfair. The collapse of ENRON, the energy giant and the 7th biggest company in United States; Pamalat of Italy and many other blue chip companies are testimonies to the failure of private sector run economy postulation. Besides, it is an obvious fact that the same private investor can never guarantee education to the vast majority of the masses because it is based on profit primarily and therefore going to be very prohibitive the large population that is abjectly poor. Privatisation has also been characterized by mass retrenchment workers, poor service delivery etc. Privatising the 102 unity schools nationwide will end up like the 49 public schools handed back to private owners by the Tinubu led AD/AC party in Lagos state which have become shadow of themselves because of poor service delivery, further deteriorated facilities etc.
Lagos NCP hereby calls on the federal government to put a stop to the planned privatisation of the unity schools. Rather, the governments at all levels should begin massive investment and funding of the education from pre-primary to the tertiary levels such that will ensure that more schools are built, teachers are well trained and remunerated, laboratories are put in good and proper shape, libraries are not lacking in books and the various other facilities are adequately put in place. Lagos NCP believes that the only way out of this problem is for public resources to be utilized to meet the needs (education, health, roads, etc) of the all and sundry. And this can only be done effectively only when the commanding heights of the economy is nationalized and placed under democratic control of the working people.
Lagos NCP also commends and solidarises with the Association of Senior Civil Servant of Nigeria (ASCSN) October 9 planned strike action to protest the planned sales of the unity schools. We also call on ASCSN not isolate this struggle but to work in harmony with ASUU, NUT, ASUP, NLC, TUC and even the Electricity Union that is presently battling against privatisation to be able to defeat this planned privatisation. We also call on all pro-people organisations and political parties like the NCP, DSM, UAD, etc, to also join the struggle and campaign to defeat all neo-liberal policies (privatisation, commercialization, liberalization, etc), that are responsible for the continuous attack on the living conditions of the poor working people. If this proposed privatisation of unity schools is not fought and won, it could be used as a precedent to whole privatisation of all public secondary schools and universities at state level.