Fashola Must Meet Workers Demand!
Fashola Must Meet Workers Demand!
For a Joint Struggle of Workers, Parents and Students to Save Education from Collapse
Education Rights Campaign
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) supports the strike action of staff unions in Lagos State owned tertiary institutions which has so far led to the closure of Lagos State University (LASU), Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), Michael Otedola College of Primary Education MOCPED and Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AOCOED).
WHY THE STRIKE?
To start with, education workers cannot be blamed for this strike. The education workers embarked on indefinitely on September 30 after three different ultimatums issued had been blatantly ignored by the Raji Fashola government. The workers are demanding the implementation of agreements, reached between the respective staff unions in tertiary education and government nationally, which mandate better funding of education, provision of functional facilities for learning, improved working conditions and better pays.
We therefore place the responsibility for this strike squarely at the doorstep of the government that has remained brazenly unyielding to the just and legitimate demands of the education workers without considering the suffering of students and the sorry state of facilities in all campuses.
It is unfortunate that students have had their academic activities disrupted for about 11 weeks now as a result of this strike. Yet, there is no end in sight. Indeed, law students wishing to go to Law school and graduating students wishing to go for youth service have been made to suffer a major setback in their careers. This is aside the fact that the LASU students lost about six months during a similar strike last year.
The decay in the education sector has become so alarming that drastic steps are needed to be taken to save public education which is the only opportunity available for children of poor working class parents to get educated.
The decadence in the education sector is such that no Nigerian University can be found among the first 5000 in the world and the first 50 in Africa and over 12 million children of school age are out of school. Just this year, there were 98% and 74% mass failure in the 2009 National Examination Council (NECO) November/December SSCE examination and 2010 May/June WAEC examination respectively! Also worrisome is the current situation in the Lagos State University (LASU) where the National Universities Commission (NUC) recently dis-accredited 9 major courses and Law because of lack of required facilities and skilled manpower.
Contrary to the lies being peddled by the government, the strike of the staff unions is not just about salary alone, indeed what provoked the on-going strike is the refusal of the Lagos state government to implement the 2009 agreement signed between the federal government and the staff unions last year after a 4-month nationwide strike action. This agreement provides for improved condition of service, yearly increased budgetary allocation to education targeting 26%, university autonomy and academic freedom which if implemented by government could lead to the gradual repositioning of the collapsing public education sector in the interest of students and poor working class parents who cannot afford the cost of private universities which the rich and corrupt politicians patronize.
EXCUSE OF FEDERALISM
Apparently, unperturbed by these disturbing indices of decay in the education sector, Governor Fashola has been claiming that the agreement is not binding on Lagos state because Nigeria is practicing federalism. This is a lie! This argument is merely a ruse being used by the Lagos state government to avoid meeting obligations on workers welfare and education funding.
Firstly, representatives of Pro-Chancellors of state universities and the Council of States of which the state governors are members gave their consent to the agreement before it was finally signed in October 2009. Besides, Nigeria operates one university system with one set of academic standard. Therefore, the agreement is binding on all operators of universities in Nigeria.
Secondly, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) is a federal government agency that determines the salaries scale and allowances of all public office holders at federal and state levels. This means that Governor Fashola and the State legislators irrespective of the state’s resources receive the same salary scale and other jumbo allowances as their counterparts in other states. Despite the fact that this arrangement is unitary and not federal, no protest has ever been heard from the Lagos State government since they benefit from it. But when it comes to the interests of ordinary Nigerians, the argument is always used to short-change workers and ordinary people.
Besides, the Lagos State government has the resources to fully implement the agreement. For instance, Lagos State ranks third in the record of federal allocation. It receives about N7.358 billion monthly from the federation account and generates N18 billion monthly as Internal Generated Revenue (IGR), yet it could not commit the resources to fund education and other social services. Meanwhile, Nassarawa, Gombe, Ekiti, Adamawa, Benue, Yobe and Edo States which rank 34th, 33rd, 29th, 30th, 20th, 21st and 28th respectively on the record of federal allocation have already started implementing the ‘salary component’ of the agreement.
FOR A JOINT STRUGGLE OF WORKERS, PARENTS AND STUDENTS
We therefore call on the striking unions to consolidate this protest march with more rallies and other mass actions including mass circulation of leaflets to reach out to poor working class parents who are also concerned about the consequence of the strike on the academic pursuit of their children. We also call on students, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the general public to support the striking unions in order to put pressure on the Lagos state government to fund education adequately such that will guarantee provision of adequate facilities for quality education for students and better pay and improved working condition for education workers..
However, the demand for adequate funding of education, to be achieved on a lasting basis, must be linked with the need to fight for a pro-poor government that will commit society’s resources to provide free and functional education. This will involve building a genuine, mass-based fighting workers political arty committed to leading the working class to achieve its historical task of taking over political power from the capitalist ruling class and establishing a democratic workers and poor peoples’ government with socialist plan of production with the aim to massively invest in education to provide free and functional education for all Nigerians in addition to other basic infrastructure and social services.
(1) Immediate implementation of the 2009 agreement by the Lagos State government so that students can resume.
(2) Adequate funding of education to guarantee free and quality education for all
(3) Payment of N40,000 Cost of Studying Allowance (COSA) to all Nigerian students in tertiary institutions.
(4) Democratic running of schools through involvement of elected representatives of students and staff unions in all decision making organs in the education sector.
(5) Public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under the democratic control and management of elected bodies of the working people.