ASUU STRIKE AND CRISES IN THE EDUCATION SECTOR
A United Struggle of Students and Workers Needed
Over the years, Nigeria’s budgetary allocation to the education sector continues to vacillate below 10%, which is even a far-cry from the UNESCO recommendation of 15%-20% budgetary allocation for developing countries like Nigeria.
By Michael Lenin, DSM Branch, Abuja
For instance, the percentage allocated to the education sector this year is a paltry 6.7%, which includes N48 Billion for capital expenditure. This is a patent case of underfunding, despite the purported highest budget since independence, which amounts to N10.33 Trillion. For 2018, education sector got just 7.04%, while 2017 had 7.4%.
The blame for this precarious underfunding of the education sector must be placed at the door step of the APC/Buhari led administration and the entire Nigerian capitalist ruling class. This is because they subscribe to the profit-driven system of capitalism which places profit above the wellbeing of the people.
The underfunding of the education sector has produced myriads of problems in the education sector at all levels. For instance, every tertiary institution speak loudly of these problems. Buildings begging for revamping litters various tertiary institutions, as libraries and laboratories are eyesores. All these, coupled with astronomical rise in fees paid by students, have led to a great reduction in the quality of education.
ASUU STRIKE; MEET WORKERS’ DEMANDS NOW!
Due to the failure of government, ASUU strike is fast becoming a yearly ritual in the country; each of the indefinite strike action lasts for months. For instance, ASUU ended a strike action on February 7, 2019 after three months, only to be forced to embark on another strike action on 23rd of March, 2020. This is despite several warnings to the government. The government, instead of making moves to address the demands raised by ASUU turned deaf hear to their yearnings.
Of course, such act of negligence is not a surprise. It summarizes the attitude of the government to the education sector and other social services. It is a government that is ready to commercialize public education at the detriment of the poor working masses.
The demands raised by ASUU are revitalization of funds, lecturers earned allowances and funding of state universities, opposition to IPPIS among other demands. Obviously, these demands bother on lack of proper funding of the education sector. The paltry amount budgeted for the education sector, shows clearly that government is not ready to take any serious step to address the decaying state of public education. It would not, unless forced by a united struggle of educational workers and students.
GOVERNMENT’S MOCKERY AND DECEPTION
In mid-May, the Minister for labour, Chris Ngige, accused member of ASUU for ‘sitting at home and playing Ludo’. In similar reckless manner, the minister asked the striking workers to suspend the strike as the only condition to resume negotiation with them. This further confirms the unwillingness of the government to respond to the yearnings of the workers.
If the government had been willing, the strike ought not to have happened. Even at that, a serious government ought to have taken immediate steps to respond to the workers’ demands. The attempt to force ASUU into suspending the strike without any show of commitment from the Government, is nothing but an attempt to cage ASUU in its (government) net of failed promises.
The APC/Buhari administration, just like previous pro-capitalist regimes, have displayed a stark level of insincerity. The demand for proper funding of the education has been the backbone of the demands of ASUU over the years. For instance, a look through the demands of the current strike shows that there is no fundamental difference between its demands and that of previous ones. This is because, government, whenever it made an agreement with the Union, instantly throw it to the dustbin. The memorandum of 2001, which led to the signing of another memorandum in 2009, is yet to be implemented! Similarly, the 2013 memorandum of Understanding, which ended a six months strike in 2013, is yet to be fully implemented.
MORE THAN STRIKE ACTION NEEDED TO GET VICTORY!
Against the background of the history of deception of government, ASUU must come to the realisation that more than strike action is needed to defeat the Government and ensure victory. This is not to say that strike actions are not effective or needed. In fact, strike action is a great step forward. However, to move further, ASUU must be ready not to make the strike a sit at-home affair, rather, it must be prepared to mobilise workers and the masses for mass actions. This must also come with a call on the Labour centres (NLC, TUC and ULC) to wake up from their slumber and embark on solidarity actions to support the strikes of ASUU and demands of other staff unions and students. A national Day of Action against anti-poor educational policies led by the labour and students movement is long overdue and can help to revitalize the struggle to save public education.
FUNDING AND DEMOCRATIC MANAGEMENT
Importantly, ASUU must include in its demands the need for tertiary institutions to be democratically managed through active participation of students and educational workers through their unions. This is to end the regime of corruption by administrators of tertiary institutions and ensure that funds are truly used to revamp the decaying facilities and provide the needed ones.
For instance, the paltry implementation of the 2013 agreement led to the disbursement of N200 Billion in 2014. This fund, as fought for by ASUU, was meant to revamp facilities in Nigerian universities. Today, it is difficult, if not impossible, to point to any institution where the fund was used appropriately. In fact, many institutions then, and later, went on a spree of astronomically increasing the fees of students. Some of the funds were mismanaged and some went missing in the pockets of nefarious university officials. This is why there is a need for democratic management of institutions through the involvement of elected representatives of students and staff in all decision-making organs.
FIGHT FOR SOCIALIST CHANGE!
Free and quality education is possible, but we have to fight for it. Commercialization of education is the idea of the profit driven system of capitalism. For capitalism, education is a commodity to be sold. It is an economic system meant to serve the interest of the few rich while throwing the vast majority into penury.
Socialism advocates for free and quality education at all levels. Alongside our day-to-day struggles against education attacks, we need to build a movement to struggle against capitalism and for a socialist society under which public education will be free, functional and democratically-managed.