CRISES OF PUBLIC EDUCATION IN THE ERA OF ECONOMIC RECESSION
CRISES OF PUBLIC EDUCATION IN THE ERA OF ECONOMIC RECESSION
By F.A. Kafu, ERC, UI Branch
Last year, many Nigerians had their hopes raised that change had come with the coming to power of Muhammadu Buhari APC-led administration. Now it is clear that Nigeria’s economy can never be restructured in favour of ordinary Nigerians by the Buhari/APC administration because it is a capitalist government which prioritizes the interest of the rich to the detriment of the working class and masses.
As with other sectors, economic recession has had serious negative impact on the condition of public education. The collapse of electricity generation, increase in fuel price as well as inflation has led to higher running cost of universities and other academic institutions. This has led to students’ protests recently at the University of Lagos. Inflation and foreign exchange crisis also means the cost of several publications needed for libraries as well as laboratory equipments will be beyond the means of many academic institutions. To get out of this situation, many institutions will decide to increase fees. This if it succeeds may force many students from poor working class background to drop out.
Also the economic recession has become a veritable excuse of government to justify the underfunding of schools, increase in students fees, poor funding of the university system, victimization of student activists among many other anti-poor measures unleashed upon Nigerian students and education workers at both federal schools and state schools. In the 2016 budget, only a paltry 8% was allocated to education. This means the crisis will only get worse.
For instance, at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in Ile-Ife, the living condition of students and the university generally have declined terribly. Students are being offered admission and made to stay outside school for about a year before resumption into the university. Upon resumption, a four year course can become prolonged to 6 years or more because of incessant disruptions of the academic calendar due to protests and strikes. The accommodation is in rickety condition and the lecture theatres are not in any way better.
After making students pass through hell on campus, the management do not end there but employ the victimization of students who stand for their rights and making the truth known by making such students face disciplinary panels. They also go as far as deactivating students activists e-portal pages in violation of the disciplinary procedures as laid down in the University’s rules. A very typical and recent case is that of Comrade Omole Ibukunoluwa – a 500 level student of Civil Engineering and secretary of OAU branch of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) who had his e-portal page deactivated for allegedly posting something on facebook considered to be insulting by management.
The case of the Federal University of Agriculture (FUNAAB) is not in any way better as it well portrays Nigeria with undemocratic capitalist leaders who are ready to suppress the fundamental rights of students. In FUNAAB, security of lives and properties of students is regularly under threat as a result of incessant armed robbery attacks on students’ hostels. Despite repeated incidents of this nature, the police consistently failed to respond adequately. On August 18, 2016, the students’ patience snapped after another robbery incident and they trooped out for a protest. But instead of meeting their demands, the police descended on them with teargas and life ammunition. As a result, a student was shot dead and the ensuing pandemonium led to destruction of properties.
Ladoke Akintola Uniersity of Technology (LAUTECH) is another school in crisis. LAUTECH is a school located in Oyo state but under the joint ownership by Oyo state and Osun state. Both state governments are owing the institutions about 20 months of subventions and consequently have refused to settle workers’ wages. As a result, the University has been shut down for months now.
At the University of Lagos (UNILAG), about 11 students leaders and activists have been suspended for their involvement in students protest in April 2016 against poor welfare condition. One of them, Femi Adeyeye, was rusticated simply for posting a comment on his facebook wall which the University considered insulting. Also the Students Union has been proscribed while the mass of students were compelled to sign undertakings and indemnity forms.
Equally at the University of Ibadan, it is disheartening that students are made to face disciplinary committee for absurd reasons like Mr. Kunle Adebajo; a pressman on campus was issued a SDC letter for writing an article condemning the management’s cosmetic repair of roof in the University. Also the Adekunle Ajasin University (AAUA) Akungba Akoko in Ondo state was under lock and key for several months until recently when it was re-opened. As with other cases, the reason for these disruptions and closure are failure of the government and authorities to meet legitimate demands of students and staff.
It is very clear that the victimization of students is an attempt by the management to cow students and intimidate them from resisting the anti-poor and neo-liberal attacks being unleashed upon the education sector. These measures are being blamed on the economic recession but this is merely an excuse. The reality is that during the previous period of boom in crude oil sale, the fate of public education was not different. This contradiction is only possible on the basis of capitalism, an economic system that prioritizes the interests of the rich few over that of the vast majority.
Only mass struggles of students, education workers and the labour movement linked with a programme to build a political alternative to capitalism can begin to turn the tide. This is why the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) is campaigning for a one day lecture boycott and mass protest for students to begin to fight back.