Students’ Struggles break out over Strikes in Public Universities
Over the past 2 weeks, a series of small but determined protests by students have broken out across Nigeria. The main issue is the ongoing strikes of the staff unions of public universities namely, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT). The strike by University lecturers under the aegis of ASUU started on February 14, 2022, and has lasted about 4 months. The grievances of the striking unions include funding, university autonomy, failure by the federal government to respect collective agreements, staff welfare, complaints about the payment system IPPIS and many others.
Due to the strike actions, public universities in Nigeria are practically shut thereby leading to students idling away at home. Yet the ruling APC-led Federal government continues to operate as if nothing is amiss. Protests have taken place at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in Lagos, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile Ife in Osun State, University of Ibadan (UI) in Oyo state, University of Benin (UNIBEN) in Edo State, Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State and the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) in Ondo State. Similar actions have been organised elsewhere.
The current mobilizations are being organized by students and students’ groups who recently launched at the University of Ibadan (UI) a new coalition called the “Fund Education Coalition”. While the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) is not formally a member of the new coalition, we are in solidarity with it which explains our participation in the actions organized by it in Ife, Lagos, Ibadan and Ijebu-Ode. At the same time, the ERC is running its own independent campaign and initiative to give solidarity to the strike action of the education workers. This includes a public online symposium on 9th April 2022 from which a call to action was issued but which unfortunately was not followed up by the NANS Zone D leadership. At the moment, we are campaigning for the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to fulfil their threat and name a day for a nationwide solidarity and mass protest in support of the striking unions.
Apart from frustration, a major factor fuelling the students’ protest is the lack of concern and absolute disregard by the capitalist ruling elite. The flurry of preparation for the 2023 general elections in the midst of the total shutdown of public universities and the fact that ministers directly in charge of the government’s response to the ongoing strike actions like the Minister of Labour and Minister of State for Education have presidential ambitions and have paid the whopping N100 million for the ruling party’s expression of interest and nomination forms are the kind of issues being discussed at the grounds of the protest by angry students who from this discourse are drawing political conclusions. Members of the DSM and ERC have been intervening in these actions. We publish below an eyewitness account by ERC OAU branch reporters of the protests in Ile Ife.
ERC AT STUDENT PROTEST AT OAU CAMPUS GATE, ILE-IFE, AGAINST UNIVERSITY CLOSURE
Members of the Education Rights Campaign, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife Chapter, were active in the 12th May protest staged by concerned OAU students and Fund Education Coalition at the University’s main gate.
Also, Comrades Kola Ibrahim, Osun State Secretary of the DSM, and H.T Soweto, National Coordinator of the ERC, joined the students in the protest.
Comrade Kola led protesting students and youths in solidarity songs and gyration on the barricade.
Comrade Soweto addressed the protesters twice and extensively explained to the students the demands of ASUU and other labour unions. He also engaged in discussion on the benefits of a Socialist government.
Seven copies of Socialist Democracy, DSM paper, and a pamphlet were sold for N900 at the barricade to students and other members of the public.
OAU STUDENTS’ UNION LEADERSHIP ROLE:
The union leaders, both the union executives and the SRC leaders, were not present at the protest ground to take a significant role in the struggle.
ASUU OAU ROLE:
The Chairman of ASUU OAU branch, Dr Egbedokun, addressed the protesting students and youths. He explained explicitly the demands of the University lecturers’ union, particularly for the implementation of the 2009 ASUU- FGN agreement. He explained the need for parents and other stakeholders in the education sector to join the struggle and rescue university system from total collapse.
PROTESTS CONTINUE FOR A SECOND DAY
13th May saw members of the Education Rights Campaign, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife Chapter, again were active in a protest staged by concerned OAU students and the “Fund Education Coalition” at the University main gate and Oduduwa University junction.
PROGRESS OF THE PROTEST
Following the resolution of the Congress of Concerned Students on the previous day that the protest should continue on Friday 13th of May, the protest kick-started on Ede Road and Ibadan Road at 9 am after which we proceeded to OUI. Many concerned students had to risk their lives by transporting themselves on a rickety trailer because of the nonchalant treatment of the educational system by the government. We blocked all roads around OUI for over 5 hours but gave room for health emergency passage. This enjoyed the support of road users some of whom encouraged us that we are doing the right thing. At 3 pm a Congress was called where the concerned students agreed that the protest should continue on Monday the 16th of May and on and on till our higher institutions are open.
OAU STUDENTS’ UNION LEADERSHIP ROLE:
Again, for the second time. the union leaders, both the union executives and the SRC leaders, were not present at the protest ground to take a significant role in the struggle.
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