ERC CONDEMNS PLANNED HIKE OF BOARDING SCHOOL FEEDING FEES AT THE LAGOS STATE MODEL COLLEGES TO N75, 000 PER TERM AS WELL AS PLANNED INTRODUCTION OF N25, 000 TUITION PER TERM FOR DAY STUDENTS
Calls for peaceful mass protests by parents, teachers and pupils
It has come to the attention of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Lagos State chapter, that the Lagos State government is planning to hike boarding school feeding fees at the 15 model colleges from N25, 000 to N75, 000 per term for boarding students. This planned increase will affect all classes of students from Junior Secondary School (JSS) to Senior Secondary School (SSS). Likewise, we are also being reliably informed by affected parents that a similar plan is being hatched to introduce a N25, 000 tuition fee per term for day students.
We reject this plan for the following reasons:
First and foremost, we believe that this anti-poor policy especially coming at a period of intense economic hardship for many working class and poor families is going to deprive many students of their rights to education. As things stand today, many parents can hardly feed their children or meet other basic needs let alone cough out between N25, 000 and N75, 000 for school fees. Mind you, the state of penury in which the poor working masses and many parents have found themselves is as a result of the mismanagement of the economy by the Buhari APC government in general and the Lagos State government in particular due to the implementation of anti-poor capitalist economic policies which continues to deepen mass poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Secondly, we are of the firm conviction that Lagos State being the 5th largest economy on the continent is rich enough not only to fund the 15 model schools adequately without having to introduce tuition but also to implement a system of genuine, properly funded free and democratically-managed public education with high quality at all levels in the state. The only reason why this is not the case now, unlike the previous attempts to accomplish improved education funding under the Jakande government between 1979 and 1983, is the untrammelled and shameful corruption, sleaze and criminal primitive accumulation that goes on among capitalist politicians and officials in the state government and the ruling party.
Thirdly, despite the fact the Lagos State government often claims to have in place a system of free education at the primary and secondary levels of education, the reality on the ground has always been different. In actual fact, the Lagos State government does not adequately fund any of its public schools be they primary, secondary or tertiary. And where funds are released, they usually end up diverted and mismanaged by corrupt ministry of education officials and officials of the schools (which is largely due to the lack of democratic management of these resources by elected representatives of stakeholders in the day to day running of the school activities). This explains why a majority of public schools including the so-called model colleges are generally in a state of disrepair with overcrowded classrooms and broken facilities.
In addition, the free education policy which the Lagos State government often extol is nothing but a ruse because of the several fees and charges that parents still have to pay right from the point of admission. Furthermore, in a situation where all the state government does in terms of education funding is to make available just enough funds to pay the wages of teaching and non-teaching staff, the responsibility and burden of providing the basic essentials to run the schools have historically fallen on poor parents who levy themselves through the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) to provide furniture, books, writing materials, disinfectants broom and other essentials. In this situation, any plan either to hike fees or introduce tuition will amount to placing even more burden on the poor parents and is to that extent unfair, unjust and unacceptable.
Given these and other reasons, we of the ERC do not find any justifiable reason to hike fees at all let alone to between N25, 000 and N75, 000. We therefore call on the state government to immediately shelve this anti-poor idea. Instead, as a first step the setting up of a democratic probe panel compromising elected representatives of parents, pupils, NUT and civil society to launch an investigation into how the budgetary allocation released by the state government to the schools and the fees and charges paid by parents over the years have been utilized. We are very confident that if this kind of probe is done, many revelations of stealing and corruption will be unearthed. So side by side with our demand for adequate funding of all the public schools we call for the democratic management of education ministry and schools involving elected representatives of teachers and parents in order to ensure judicious use of allocation to education and schools.
In conclusion, the ERC call on the parents, pupils and teachers to be prepared to organize themselves to resist this plan. We also call on the leadership of NUT and NLC to directly involve in organizing the resistance .This can only be achieved through mass struggle. This is why we call for immediate mass meetings to be held in all schools involving parents, pupil and teachers with a view to discuss and draw up a plan of action for peaceful marches and protests in order to compel the state government to reverse its decision and commit more resources to fund public education adequately.
Yusuf Nurudeen Alowonle (Omomewa)
COORDINATOR, ERC LAGOS STATE CHAPTER