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5 January 2019

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ERC REITERATES HER PRINCIPLED SUPPORT FOR ASUU, ASUP STRIKES

Condemns NANS for opposing a nationwide strike against Education Underfunding

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) wishes to reiterate her principled support for the ongoing strike of ASUU and ASUP. We believe this strike, which is about compelling government to fulfill its social responsibility in terms of funding public education and improving the conditions of education workers, deserves the principled support of students, parents and the labour movement as a whole.

To this extent, we condemn the position taken by the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) towards the strike which consists of issuing ultimatum to ASUU to call off the strike without any regard for the crucial issues of education funding which the strike was called to address. Now with the recent visit of NANS to President Buhari at which a big birthday card was presented by NANS to president Buhari, it is clear that all of NANS recriminations about this strike has nothing to do with protecting the interests of Nigerian students who are suffering at home due to the strike but actually dictated by the interests of the hungry locusts in the leadership of NANS to get close to the corridors of power in exchange for money.

As we in the ERC have labored to explain, the best way to protect the interest of students and ensure this strike comes to an end as soon as possible is for the students' movement to rally behind the strike in order to mount pressure on the Federal government to meet the demands of ASUU and ASUP. Any other method is opportunistic and a tongue-in-cheek endorsement of the anti-education and anti-student policies of underfunding and fee hike being implemented by the President Buhari APC government.

ERC members have campaigned over the last decade for adequate funding of the education sector, on the basis that quality education is crucial to economic growth and national security. Regrettably, this dogged issue of funding has remained the bane of strike actions in tertiary institutions since 2009.

The agreements the federal government willingly entered with the unions were foregrounded by a NEEDS assessment report, a report that was conducted, sanctioned and adopted by the federal government. The pictures from the NEEDS assessment report of the overcrowded lecture rooms and unequipped laboratories, have worsened today. Instructions, in the sciences and medical sciences, ought to be demonstrated; but today, science and medical courses are largely taught abstractly. The ERC therefore believes that the material conditions that justified the several agreements with the unions are, not only still existing, but have worsened.

We are witnesses to the fee hikes that rocked tertiary institutions in the first half of 2018. Fee hikes are convenient for school authorities to augment inadequate funding, and grossly unfair to parents and guardians that a recession had pushed closer to poverty. Underfunding of education hold students and parents as victims as much as education workers. We therefore find the position of NANS on the present strike unfortunate and self-annihilating, because NANS's position failed to recognise the interest of students for comfortable hostels and quality education in the struggle of the education workers.

When students were protesting fee increment in UNIBEN and UI last year, NANS lost her voice and only just discovered her voice of scurrilities over ASUU and ASUP struggles. That smacks of opportunism! The ERC holds the opinion that NANS is existing in the firmament, and cut off from the realities obtainable on campuses, and therefore incapable of leading advocacy in the interests of Nigerian students. Just to prove this point further: at the press conference where NANS cast aspersion on the demands of ASUU and ASUP, it also seized the moment to endorse President Muhammadu Buhari, despite the intangible contribution of the latter to the education sector.

Meanwhile, the Buhari-led federal government keeps drawing the same conclusions independently as the striking unions about the crisis in the education sector. But it keeps stopping short of funding the sector, even when it agrees that the conditions creating demand for funding are there. We note the revelations of ASUU concerning the Wale Babalakin committee, which was set up by the government to renegotiate the terms of the agreements that previous governments had entered into with ASUU. ASUU is demanding the removal of Wale Babalakin as the chairman of the committee, because he is fixated on fee hike and education loans, according to the ASUU leadership. The ERC believes that the federal government has demonstrated obvious insincerity on the central question of education funding that created the perennial strikes, and evades that question through nebulous means.

We believe that the government has the wherewithal to fund education, even beyond the current demands of the education sector unions for a one-off funding intervention in the sector. Less than 11, 800 political appointees are fleecing this country, through their outrageous remuneration and inflated cost of contracts or outsourcing of government's projects. The same government rushes to bail out a bank that was plundered by her chief executive, to save the money of a few stinkingly rich people who own more than 50% of the deposits in Nigerian banks.

The ERC holds that the capitalist system that this country runs is responsible for most of government's misplaced priorities that deflect from funding sectors important to vast majority of the people, in order to save funds for looting. This is why the struggle against education underfunding and improvement in workers welfare can only win permanent victory when linked with the general struggle of the working class to put an end to capitalism and enthrone a workers and poor people's government armed with socialist policies.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto
National Coordinator
Wole Olubanji
National Mobilization Officer
Blog: http://educationrightscampaign.blogspot.com
Email: edurightsforall@yahoo.co.uk