AJEGUNLE ERC HOLDS 2011 FREE HOLIDAY COACHING
AJEGUNLE ERC HOLDS 2011 FREE HOLIDAY COACHING
By Ho2 Moshood
The Ajegunle, Lagos, branch of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) has concluded its 2011 free holiday coaching. The ERC is a campaign initiated by the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) – CWI Nigeria – since 2004 to campaign against education underfunding, fee hikes and for provision of free and functional education at all levels and also respect of the democratic rights of students and education workers. Annually the Ajegunle branch of the DSM and the ERC organize free holiday coaching lessons for secondary school students of the poor communities of Ajegunle and its environ.
The coaching held daily in the premises of the Nawair-Ud-Deen primary school located in the midst of a sprawling collage of matchbox buildings, burst sewage and dirt roads of Kojo Lane, off Layinka Street in Ajegunle. The school itself sports a big notice in front saying it has been newly renovated by the Local Government but a look inside the brightly painted classes shows sagging ceilings, desks and chairs requiring repairs, broken windows etc.
The turnout at the coaching which commenced on August 1st was therefore not surprising. Just nearby, another lesson being organized with the support of the education ministry in the Public Senior Secondary School went for as much as N750 which was the least compared to others in the community which range between N1, 500 to N2, 000.
On a daily basis, the numbers of students increased. Over all about 220 students participated from 36 schools, private schools included, from Tolu, Apapa, Amukoko, Badia and Orile areas of Lagos. Equally 6 students schooling outside Lagos, but spending their holiday in the community, attended the coaching.
For key subjects like English and Mathematics, there were as many as 3 teachers, something hard to find even in some private schools in Nigeria! Members of the DSM as well as about 29 volunteer teachers shuttled between their jobs and the coaching centre to teach various subjects. The volunteer teachers were particularly interesting. Most of them were attracted by the urge to contribute something to the poor youth of the community amongst whom many talents abound. Such is the case in rejected and abandoned slums and poor communities that the best always come from amongst them.
The lesson attracted support and interest from individuals and groups. Some parents walked in to applaud the initiative of the ERC for organizing the free holiday coaching. A demonstration of such gratitude was expressed when one of the parent brought three packets of chalk as her contribution.
The Teacher’s Forum (TF) which was held twice a week to deliberate on what need to be done to improve the standards of the lessons, also played an important role in building a sense of solidarity among the volunteers teachers. Even at an ERC meeting held at weekend, students had opportunities to equally observe some lapses which they brought to the attention of the ERC and volunteer teachers. This contrast sharply with the undemocratic management of government and private schools wherein teachers have little say, let alone the students.
The ERC free coaching has shown, although in a small way, just how things can be done. Unlike the generally parroted prejudice that education quality is low because youth of nowadays are not serious, at the coaching were many brilliant students who can excel in any career they choose if given the opportunity. Unfortunately the unjust capitalist system has put many social and economic obstacles in the path of working class youth. This is why the ERC continue to stress the necessity of the youth joining workers to struggle against government cut in education, neo-liberal economic policies and for a change of society.
“WITH SOLIDARITY â€¦ WE CAN SURMOUNT ALL CHALLENGES”
Every Friday, career and counseling talks held. This provided an opportunity to introduce the students to the idea of struggle. In one of the talks, Hassan Taiwo Soweto (DSM member and National Coordinator of the ERC) was at the lesson to speak to the students. Also in attendance was Mrs. Gogo of the “Keeping it Real Foundation” NGO. Mrs. Gogo inspired the students with her life story in which while growing up, she confronted different social and economic obstacles. This includes having to hawk in the street, nearly being raped by an older man, a life of drinking and smoking. This, unfortunately, is still the scenario which millions confront daily in Nigeria.
On his part, Soweto emphasized the importance of students organizing to fight back at the capitalist system which has condemned them to live of misery at the slum. He talked about the 60% and 70% mass failure in the two entrance examinations (UTME and WAEC) this year as a feature of the decay in the education sector and how things will get worse if a mass struggle for improved funding of education is not started now from communities linking school students with university students, teachers and the trade unions in joint struggle. He also talked about the lack of adequate admission places in higher institutions and how this ensures that millions of students are unable to secure admission annually.
The discussion was particularly very lively. Soweto described the horrible condition vast majority of youths and working people are placed in Nigeria due to capitalism. This includes lack of basic amenities in communities, near collapse of the public health care system, excruciating poverty, hunger and slum dwellings, huge fees in schools only to graduate without jobs.
He urged students and youth to play active roles in struggle to fight cuts in education funding as well as to change society instead of trying to find shortcuts (internet fraud a.k.a ‘Yahoo Yahoo’, crime, prostitution, drugs etc) out of a systemic crisis.
Also at one of the career talks were Dagga Tolar (DSM member) and Illaria Chessa, the CEO of Music Matters and one of the coordinators of the BORNTROWAY project which was recently held in Ajegunle. She pointed out that the only way to succeed in life is for the students to redouble their effort on their studies. According to her since coming to Nigeria from Italy the past 7 years, she has met with the abundant talent and creativity that abound in the country. She is therefore certain that the same applies to the students before her. At the end, Dagga Tolar gave out books to 18 students that came early to the coaching.
The ERC also held a meeting over the weekend on 27 August 2011 with prospective members. About 24 people were in attendance most of whom were students and teachers. The theme of the meeting “Mass Failure in Examination: Who is To Blame?” captured students’ immediate problem as they prepared for WAEC and NECO examinations. A special ERC bulletin was also published and mass circulated to students, teachers and members of the community.
This year holiday coaching was finally wrapped up with a symposium with the theme: “Free Education: Is it Possible in Nigeria?”