NO TO MERGER OF TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS IN OSUN STATE
NO TO MERGER OF TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS IN OSUN STATE
Workers’ Unions and Students in tertiary institutions (ASUP, COEASU, NASU, SSANIP, etc.) together with communities must reject these policies
We reject all Austerity Measures of the Aregbesola Government
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) Osun State Chapter condemns in absolute terms the planned merger of polytechnics in Iree and Esa-Oke and Colleges of Education in Ilesa and Ila by the Aregbesola government. This policy, if allowed to stand, will see thousands of young people denied access to functional tertiary education; lead to full scale commercialization of education and increase of fees; lead to mass retrenchment of academic and non-academic staff; destroy means of livelihood of communities and collapse the already sick education sector in Osun State. We find this latest onslaught on education a reflection of the retrogressive character of the Aregbesola government.
Collective Mass Resistance is needed
We call on labour movement especially academic and non-academic staff unions of the four tertiary institutions in the state, including Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), College of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and Senior Staff Unions of Polytechnics and Colleges of Education to reject this policy and begin the process of organizing mass actions together with students and affected communities through congresses, symposia, rallies, protest demos, pickets and strike, to drive home the point that education should not be a victim of Aregbesola government’s austerity measure. This becomes necessary now as there is information that the government is compiling list of those to be sacked; while admission into these institutions has been pended. Also, there is a report that the government is carrying out staff and departmental audit in these institutions as a step towards this obnoxious merger policy.
The workers’ unions in these institutions must not wait until the deed is done before they take practical actions. If no immediate action is taken to collectively resist this policy, most workers will resolve to self-help and individual actions, which will divide the ranks of the workers and make collective action and resistance more difficult. The same spirit of struggle the staff unions under Council of Academic Staff Unions of Tertiary Institutions (CASUOSTI) mobilized for their struggle against the obnoxious pension policy and non-payment of salaries, must not only be employed now, but be built upon, as the current policy of school merger will lead to mass layoff of staff. Moreover, if government is allowed to have its way, many victories won by the workers will be eroded away, as workers who will survive retrenchment will face serious threat to work and working conditions. This merger policy is also an attempt at breaking the fighting spirit of workers.
We also call on students and their unions to reject this atrocious merger policy. This policy will deny students’ access to education, while those who will remain in school will receive poor quality education. Academic staff strength, already in short supply, will be reduced drastically. It will also lead to full commercialization of education and steep rise in school fees. This is why the DSM calls for joint mass actions of staff, the affected communities and students. Without this, government will divide the ranks of students and staff.
Government excuses are untenable
Aregbesola government hinged the planned merger of tertiary institutions on a so-called reorganization of the institutions. By this, Aregbesola government plan to reduce the number of courses and departments in the four institutions, which, aside leading to loss of jobs for several staff, will also reduce choices for students. Moreover, some of the institutions will be turned into mere “remedial centres”, a euphemism for pre-varsity coaching centre. This approach of the government shows its contempt and hatred for tertiary education, and education in general.
The same government that now wants to ‘reorganize’ tertiary education has chronically underfunded tertiary education in the state for the past five years. Even when the state was more affluent in resources, tertiary education received little or no attention from the government. For instance, no project was undertaken by the government in the four institutions in the past seven years of Aregbesola government and that of his predecessor, Oyinlola/PDP government. This has meant that in spite of over N250 billion that had accrued to the Aregbesola government, the four institutions still lack adequate facilities like functional lecture rooms, laboratories, libraries, workshops, computer facilities, etc. Similarly, the institutions are chronically understaffed as most departments in the four institutions have one or two regular academic staff. These institutions have had to rely on part-time lecturers, who are employed as casuals and are paid peanuts of less than N20, 000.
How can a government that has left these institutions in this dilapidated state now talk about ‘reorganization’ for effectiveness? If the government is serious about making the institutions more effective, it should improve funding of these schools, provide needed infrastructures and employ more teaching, technical and non-teaching staffs. In reality, what the Aregbesola government is doing in the education sector, especially tertiary education is to introduce austerity measures that will lead to collapse of these institutions. It should be recalled that the same merger policy introduced by the government at the primary and secondary levels led to near collapse of education at these levels, with Osun State coming distant 34th in WAEC pass rate this year.
Government has also claimed that the number of tertiary institutions in the state is not sustainable. This is false, and it reflects the backward thinking in governance in Osun State. Firstly, the number of teaching staff in the two colleges of education in Ilesa and Ila is less than that of the College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti, while the number of academic staff in the Polytechnic Ibadan is more than the combined academic staff in Osun State Polytechnic, Iree and Osun State College of Technology, Esa-Oke. Therefore, the excuse that Osun has too many staff or institutions is clearly false. In addition, it is hypocritical for the Aregbesola government that committed billions of naira to building a white elephant Airport, to claim that there are too many educational institutions in the state.
Furthermore, for a state which has population of more than four million, with more than half of this (over 2 million) being young people, the excuse that there are too many institutions is backward. Osun State population is more than that of many countries such as Lithuania, Gabon, Gambia, Lesotho, Lebanon, Liberia, Jamaica, etc., yet some of these countries have better educational system and facilities than Osun State. If just one percent of over 2 million young people in the state seek tertiary education in a year, the four institutions, plus the Osun State University, cannot absorb half of them. Therefore, what a forward looking government should be planning is how to improve and expand facilities in these tertiary institutions, and not to further reduce these institutions.
No to Austerity Measures
The planned merger of tertiary institutions is part of the neo-liberal austerity project of the Aregbesola government. The government, after wasting the revenue running to over N250 billion, now want to put the burden of its mismanagement of the economy on the working and poor people. While government’s policies have seen rise of emergency multi-millionaires and billionaires among politicians, political appointees and contractors, working people and young people continue to carry the burden of wasteful spending of the Aregbesola government. Currently, the government has introduced cut-throat austerity measures such as introduction of school fess in primary and secondary schools, introduction of land use charge, and payment of half salaries for workers. More austerity measures are on the way if the working people and youth do not resist these policies.
The government has hinged these austerity policies on low revenue of the state. While we in the DSM agreed that Nigeria’s economy is facing serious crisis which has reflected in the low crude oil revenue, we maintain that this is caused by the capitalist governments at all levels and in the main ruling parties including PDP and APC. When the country in the last few years earned so much from oil, there was very little to show in terms of improvement in the living conditions of the people. For instance, in Osun State, while Aregbesola earned over N250 billion as revenue in four years, conditions of education sector continue to worsen. On the other hand, the government through its projects such as the building of airport, continue to divert public resources to the pockets of contractors and politicians. To add insult to injury, the State’s debt profile has increased by over 400 percent to N90 billion.
Therefore, we hold the government responsible for the terrible state of the economy. If government is serious about revamping the economy, it should recover billions handed out to contractors and politicians in the past five years. The government should also reduce the salaries of political appointees to the level of civil servants. Government should as well end the fraudulent contracting system that has led to financial hemorrhaging of the state. As an alternative, the government should make the Ministry of Works and Departments of Works in local councils functional by equipping them with necessary equipments, machineries and manpower to undertake most of the projects in the state. These measures will drastically reduce waste and make available the needed resources to provide infrastructures, improve social services and provide thousands of decent and regular employment. By investing in modern agriculture and agro-allied industries through establishment of modern and large state farms, providing support facilities to farmers’ cooperatives (such as access roads, cheap credit, storage facilities, fertilizers, machineries and extension services), and exploiting mineral and natural resources in the state, through democratic public ownership and management, the government can seriously turn the economy of the state around.
But the capitalist orientation of the Aregbesola/APC government will not allow all these to be done. Only a government committed to the working and poor people can seriously take these measures. This is why the working people in Osun State must reject all austerity measures that the government wants to impose on us all. We must not allow the government to make us the sacrificial lamb of the mismanagement of the economy.