ASUU VICTORY A PRODUCT OF STRUGGLES
ASUU VICTORY A PRODUCT OF STRUGGLES
Joint Action of All Education Workers and Students Needed to Compel Government to Implement Agreements.
Segun Sango, DSM General Secretary
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) welcomes the signing of the agreement between the Federal Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). This is a victory for struggle that the union had waged for over 3 months. It has also further proved that the government cannot willingly ensure improvements in living and working conditions for workers except forced by workers themselves. As we write, it is reported that the government is about to also sign agreements with other university workers unions.
The fact that ASUU and other unions embarked on an over 3-month action and were able to sustain the public support and solidarity is a testimony to the correct method of struggle employed by the unions. Unlike in the previous strikes the unions, particularly the members of ASUU, did not limit themselves to a sit-at-home action. Rather, they embarked on a series of mass actions and enlightenments on their demands. More so, there were a number of unprecedented joint activities among the staff unions. The series of solidarity actions embarked upon by student groups, particularly the Education Rights Campaign led by members of DSM, whose roles were publicly acknowledged by the President of ASUU, also titled the balance of forces in favour of the striking workers.
However, like his predecessor, the Yar’Adua government has shown that the fact it has signed the agreement will not automatically translate to the implementation of same. We therefore demand the implementation of all agreements and urge the unions not to rest on their oars. The full contents of the agreement should be made public lest the government denies the whole or parts of it. It would be recalled that in the course of the struggle the government denied ever entering agreements with the unions. It can do the same when it resolves not to implement the agreement again.
One of the highlights of the agreement as reported in the newspapers is the promise by the government to allocate 26% of the budget to the education sector in line with the recommendation of the UNESCO. While the details of this are still sketchy, it is most unlikely that the government will implement this item of the agreement. It would require an end to the anti-poor, neo-liberal policies before this could happen. This, in turn, would mean an end to the Yar’Adua government. Even, if the government is forced to implement it in a year, it would not sustain it as a result of the anti-poor neo-liberal agenda which discourages social spending and also cedes the ownership of collective wealth of the society to a privileged few. To guarantee proper funding of education along with adequate provision of social infrastructure on the lasting basis there will have to be public ownership of the commanding heights of economy under democratic control of workers. This is the government that has taken as article of faith the deregulation and privatization of the key sectors of the economy and essential services like education and health care. Incidentally, the same day the agreement was signed, the government endorsed the establishment of seven additional private universities. This is to further underscore its commitment to deregulation and privatization of education at the gross expense of the poor.
Meanwhile, this promise of the government, put in black and white, has further strengthened the argument for proper funding of education; workers, youths and students must seize on this. We call on all education workers’ unions in public primary/secondary schools, colleges of education, monotechnics, polytechnics and universities as well as student bodies, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to evolve a series of joint actions that could force government to allocate adequate funds to public education at all levels and enable the provision and expansion of facilities for quality public education as well as adequate remuneration of workers. They must also demand immediate scrapping of all fees paid in public schools at all levels. The reality is that the public education particularly at the primary and secondary schools level have been abandoned and endangered. This must not be taken for granted. Rather, there should be sustained struggle to arrest the ugly situation so that children of the poor can have access to quality public education.
However, it is not enough to demand proper funding of education; such demand must go side by side with the demand for democratization of decision making processes with inclusion of the elected representatives of workers and students in committees, boards and governing councils in the institutions. This will ensure transparency, accountability and judicious spending of funds available in the institutions. This is highly imperative because beyond the prevailing crisis of underfunding of public education, the fact is that the limited available funds are often mismanaged or misappropriated.
It will be easier to turn stone to bread than for the Yar’Adua government and all the state government to ensure proper funding of public education. This is because it is antithetical to the anti-poor neo-liberal capitalist policies they have subscribed to and implement. This has called for the socio-economic transformation of the system and the dire need for this anti-poor, pro-capitalist government, at all levels, to be chased out of power. We therefore call on Labour and pro-masses’ organizations to build and reposition the Labour Party as a fighting, working class party with socialist programme to wrest power from the thieving ruling elite at all levels. This will ensure the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy under democratic control of workers in order to mobilize adequate resources to be committed for provision of basic needs of all (education, health, transport, housing, decent jobs), infrastructure and meaningful economic development.