EDUCATION RIGHTS CAMPAIGN CALLS ON FG TO MEET DEMANDS OF STRIKING SSANU, NASU AND ASUU MEMBERS
WE CALL FOR A UNITED FRONT OF ALL EDUCATION WORKERS’ UNIONS AND STUDENTS BODIES TO RESIST GOVERNMENT ONSLAUGHT ON PUBLIC EDUCATION
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) supports the declaration of a 14-day warning strike starting from October 5 until October 19, by the Joint Action Committee of the Senior Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non Academic Staff Union (NASU). We hereby call on the government to immediately and unconditionally meet all demands of SSANU and NASU. We also call for the immediate meeting of the demands of lecturers under the aegis of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) who have been on an indefinite strike since March 2020.
We urge all the striking unions, SSANU, NASU and ASUU inclusive, not to make their strike a sit-at-home action. Physically-distanced public activities like mass meetings, leafletting and demonstrations should be organized in order to popularise their demands among the mass of students and the public. Most importantly, the ERC calls for a united action of all education workers unions and students bodies to fight to win the current demands and also fight for improved funding and democratic-management of public education at all levels.
The litany of strike actions in the education sector is a clear indication that the October 12 date for reopening of all schools announced by the Minister of Education is just an empty declaration. The Government had a total of six months since the pandemic started to resolve these issues, but they did not. In this kind of situation, students cannot be neutral. If a government can fail to fulfil collective bargaining agreements with workers, how can such a government be trusted to guarantee the health and safety of students if schools reopen in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic? We therefore call on the mass of Nigerian students to unite with SSANU, NASU and ASUU to compel government to meet their demands as part of the preconditions for school reopening.
The 14-day warning strike of SSANU and NASU is a result of the government failure particularly the inconsistencies of IPPIS, failure of the government to fully implement the payment of N30, 000 minimum wage in tertiary institutions, non-payment of retirement benefits to retired workers etc.
We in the ERC believe this and many more of the demands of the striking workers have clearly revealed our how insensitive the federal/state government has been to the plight of workers and parlous state of public education in the country. From all these, it is clear that the major objective of this government, being a capitalist government, is to create the economic conditions for accumulation of wealth by the few for their own selfish gain at the expense of the vast majority.
It is possible that this strike might seem unreasonable to many students who have been away from the four walls of the university due to the coronavirus pandemic and have been happy with the declaration of the government to reopen schools. The ERC urge the mass of students to draw the appropriate conclusion from the litany of strikes that have taken over the education sector today. These strikes, which border on issues of staff welfare, funding and infrastructures, show that the government is sincerely not ready for school reopening.
We in the ERC believe many provisions that could have prevented the exposure of the mass of students and staff to coronavirus, such as renovation and building of lecture theatres and other facilities that could ensure that physical distancing is observed, have mostly not been put in place. Many of our institutions lack adequate running water, constant supply of electricity etc. This is coupled with the failure of the government to fully implement the payment of 30,000 minimum wage which, in fact, is not enough to bring succour to working families already suffering from the economic woes this government has imposed on the people through its policies during this period of pandemic. All these facts have shown beyond doubt that the government is not prepared for the reopening of school. So, it is important for student bodies to support this strike of the workers and begin to organise for a mass struggle to force government to make available adequate provisions to ensure students and staff are safe and not at risk of COVID-19 when school reopens.
For this struggle to be fought to conclusion, it is important for workers’ unions across institutions and students bodies to come together to work out a charter of demands to unite students and staff in a joint campaign against the neo-liberal, anti-students/workers policies of the capitalist government at all levels.
Deputy National Coordinator
Acting National Mobilization Officer