GOVERNMENT MUST MEET THE DEMANDS OF STRIKING EDUCATION WORKERS
GOVERNMENT MUST MEET THE DEMANDS OF STRIKING EDUCATION WORKERS
For The Formation Of Joint Action Committee Comprising All Education Workers, Students And Youths
NLC, TUC and LASCO Should Declare a One-Day Solidarity General Strike
We of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) call on Labour, students, parents and the general public to continue supporting the industrial actions of university workers and reject the plan of the government to impose outrageous N180,000 as tuition fees in the universities. The workers are demanding signing and implementation of various agreements the government has reached with their respective unions. We hold strongly that if the agreements are implemented it would to a large extent ensure acquisition of quality education in the universities. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for instance is demanding improved funding of education, genuine autonomy, better conditions of service and academic freedom. We must all join hands with ASUU and other education workers to compel the government to fund education properly.
An agreement has existed between ASUU and the Federal government since 2001 covering the above highlighted demands. The government did not only refuse to implement the agreement bout also sacked 49 ASUU members at UNILORIN. In spite of this victimization, ASUU displayed enough maturity to enter into renegotiation of this agreement with the government in 2006 with the hope that it would be sincere this time around. After 2 years, the negotiation was completed and an agreement reached in December 2008. Yet again and just like in 2001, the government has started its game of deceit by refusing to sign an agreement they freely entered into.
We do not only support the demand for adequate funding but also the democratization of decision making processes with the elected representatives of education workers and students in all committees within and outside the institutions of learning. This will minimize the mismanagement of resources and tendency for administrative dictatorship which accounts for arbitrary dismissal of workers and students with radical or divergent views.
In the last one month, a number of trade unions have had cause to embark on one form of industrial actions or the other. All these actions are over the same issue of government refusing to implement agreement reached with unions or being insensitive to the plight of workers. This anti-poor government ought to be taught a lesson that the people own the country and not a handful of politicians who loot the treasury with impunity.
UNDERFUNDING OF EDUCATION: CRISIS OF CAPITALISM
The age-long underfunding of education in Nigeria is rooted in the capitalist market economy which the Nigerian ruling class has adopted as the way of running society. The attendant implication of this is private ownership of the commanding heights of the economy by a few vampires who in business to maximize profit. As a result, education, health and other vital social services are sold piece-meal to these elements under the neo-liberal policies of privatization and commercialization.
Only a few (businessmen, government officials and their cronies) benefit from this arrangement while millions of working people become poorer on a daily basis. Education has become the preserve of the rich few while the working conditions of education workers become worse by the day. As for students, astronomical increments in fees and worsening welfare conditions and infrastructures become their lot. This situation exists in every part of the economy including the health sector where health care provision, facilities and standard are compromised due to government under-funding.
From the foregoing, the global economic crisis is just the climax of decades of unbridled exploitation of the masses all over the world by multinational corporations and capitalist governments. Now, the myth of the efficacy of unregulated market economy is crashing on the heads of its advocate – Wall Street economists and capitalist governments all over the world. It is clear from the worsening economic situation in Europe, America and Asia as well as the cut-back of government of all countries in funding of social services, rising job losses and foreclosure on homes that capitalism is not the best way to provide standard public services to the people at affordable rate.
What is most instructive in the world situation today is that while the working people, students and youths are made to suffer the ravages of the global economic crisis, the rich and government officials ensure that their privileges are not affected in any way. That is why in Nigeria, the government claims that workers’ demand for N52,200 minimum wage is unrealistic and that poor parents must continue to shoulder the funding of education. Whereas, the entire salaries and allowances of 17,474 public office holders is put at N1.13 trillion, a sum larger than the budgetary allocation to education (N224 billion), Health (N103 billion), Transport (N38 billion), Works, Housing and Urban development (N208 billion) put together. This is why we cannot and must not accept the lie that government alone cannot fund education. The money is there, it is only being looted by the politicians and their cronies.
Only the public ownership of the commanding heights (top companies) of the economy under the democratic control and management of the working people can do away with anarchy and periodic crisis of capitalism. We therefore urge all education workers and all industrial unions to reject government neo-liberal policies of privatization and commercialization and fight for the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy under working class control. Workers, students and youths have neither hope nor future under this corrupt and anti-poor capitalist government. We must fight to wrest power from the thieving ruling elite and install a workers’ and poor people’s government composed of people’s representatives who are prepared to accept worker’s wages and invest our resources on education, health and other public services. This is one of the reasons we have been calling on the leadership of the NLC, TUC and LASCO to immediately build the Labour Party as a mass working peoples’ political party to lead workers and poor masses and poor in the struggle to take political power.
FOR A JOINT ACTION
The indefinite actions that have been embarked upon by the striking unions must not be sitat-home. To sustain an indefinite strike action requires constant activities like congresses, symposia and rallies to enliven the members as well as to sustain the continuous support of the public. In other words, an indefinite strike requires indefinite support. We therefore urge ASUU, SSANU, NASU to conduct this strike as a mass-based and popular action by organizing public activities like rallies, symposia, mass leafleting, picketing, joint solidarity actions with other unions, protest marches etc. in order to carry the public along with them.
To sustain active mass support and neutralize government propaganda and possible strong arm tactics, there is an imperative for a JOINT ACTION COMMITTEE that will involve all education workers, Nigerian students and youths through joint solidarity actions and protests. It was just joint action that defeated the well-advertised resolve of the authorities of Lagos State University to conduct examination for students. This Joint Action Committee must be composed of dedicated activists from all unions in the education sector (including students’ unions) and must be replicated at state, campuses and community levels to implement the program of the strike, distribute propaganda materials, organize solidarity actions and protest marches, picket schools where the strike is waning and get the demands and reason for the strike to the mass of people. Through the Joint Action Committee, it can be possible to draw a charter of demand that will cover the demands of all education workers, students and youths for a united struggle to save education from collapse.
We call on the NLC, TUC and LASCO to declare a one-day General strike in solidarity with the ASUU and other workers on strike. The one-day general strike must also be used to re-launch the demand for N52,200 National Minimum Wage and to defend workers at local and national levels who have taken the path of strike to press home their demands.