ASUU STRIKE: GOVERNMENT MUST MEET DEMANDS IMMEDIATELY
ERC URGES STUDENTS AND WORKING PEOPLE TO SUPPORT THIS STRIKE
NLC AND NLC MUST ORGANISE ACTION IN SUPPORT OF ASUU AND FOR A FUNCTIONING EDUCATION SYSTEM
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) blames the Buhari government for the one month strike action that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has had to embark upon starting from February 14. We acknowledge that the strike became inevitable following the refusal of the anti-poor government to implement agreements already signed with the Union and meet other legitimate demands. We call on the government to meet the demands of the strike immediately in order for students to return to classes rapidly.
The dispute with the government centres on adequate funding, university autonomy and welfare of the lecturers. Specifically, this includes the renegotiated 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement, adoption of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), funding of State Universities, non-payment of withheld salaries, check-offs and promotion arrears.
We hold that the implementation of the demands of ASUU, together with democratic management, will improve funding and quality of university education. We therefore call on students, parents and working people in general to support the demands and the strike meant to force the government to implement them.
We wish to assert that no quality education can be gotten from schools where classrooms and lecture halls are not conducive for teaching and learning, libraries, computer centres and laboratories are ill-equipped, health facilities and other utilities are in shambles, and lecturers and other staffs are overworked and underpaid.
Sadly, in the last three months, two students have died at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, as a result of poor health facilities and poor and privatized hostel facilities respectively. Similarly, a student of Health Technology at University of Benin (UNIBEN) also died due to negligence caused by poor staffing of the UBTH. This is as a result of underfunding by the government and misappropriation by university managements. While these fatal consequences of underfunding have reared ugly heads in OAU and UNIBEN, the menace is universal in all public universities.
We commend the students of UNIBEN who took to streets to protest in solidarity with ASUU strike and also used the moment to put forward their own demands. We call on students in other universities to emulate their UNIBEN counterpart. They should call on the government to meet the demands of ASUU and implement agreements with other staff unions and also raise issues that affect them including high fees and poor welfare provisions.
Unfortunately, while the issues of poor welfare because of underfunding of education have become fatal, and students are responding with protests, a purported President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) was quoted to have threatened ASUU saying that “whatever we are going to do to make sure we return to class is what we are going to do. And I assure you in the next 24-hours, you are going to see action around this country” according to news reports. This only further shows how disconnected the so-called leadership is from students some of whom already carrying placards in solidarity with ASUU’s demands. We of the ERC very much want students to return to classes immediately and that is why we call on the government to meet their demands immediately. However, students must not make mistake that the NANS leadership is genuinely defending the interest of students. In most cases, from past experiences, any struggle for them is a bargaining chip with the government for their own self-serving interest. It is not accidental that they do not fight for adequate funding of education and welfare of students on campuses.
We urge ASUU to continue the public sensitisation activities that culminated in the strike declaration with protests, rallies and leaflettings across different cities of the country. We hold that, unlike a sit-at-home approach, such public activities could help mobilise public support for the strike and demands. ASUU should also be prepared to openly include opposition to outrageous fees in their current agitation and always identify with students whenever they are attacked by the managements.
We also call on the NLC and TUC to openly declare and hold solidarity actions in support of ASUU in order to help force the government to meet the demands of ASUU. By and large, we call for joint struggle of education workers unions and students, with the solidarity of the wider labour movement, to demand adequate funding of education at all levels together with democratic management of schools in order to ensure judicious use of their allocations and finances as well as respect of democratic rights of staffs and students.
However, it is important to link the struggle for adequate funding of education with the need for a mass working peoples party on a socialist programme that could wrest power from the thieving capitalist elite. This is partly because the education is underfunded not primarily due to lack of potential resources but because of capitalist philosophy, drive for private profit and programme that promotes underfunding of education along with repeated general attacks on social needs. To break this vicious cycle a socialist programme capable of transforming Nigeria needs to be implemented by a government that genuinely represents working people and not any of the rival factions of the ruling class. Such a programme would include public ownership of commanding heights of economy under democratic management and control of working people themselves, public office holders on average workers’ salaries, and democratically controlled public works for projects, not the prevailing fraudulent contracts system. All this is to ensure that adequate resources are available and mobilized to provide for the needs of the society and the vast majority, as against the greed of a few.
Ogunjimi Isaac Ayobami
Deputy National Coordinator, ERC
National Mobilization Officer, ERC
ERC email: firstname.lastname@example.org