Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



Students Must Resist this Onslaught

By Kola Ibrahim

The recent hike of fees in all the state-owned tertiary institutions by the Osun State government is highly condemnable and further reflects the anti-poor character of the government. Currently, fees in the state tertiary institutions (Osun State Polytechnic, Iree, Osun State College of Technology, Esa-Oke and the State Colleges of Education in Ilesa and Ila) have been mindlessly hiked with students paying nothing less than N30, 000 which is about 500 percent increase. This has come on the heels of the recent introduction of a highly provocative fee in the just-established state university (UNIOSUN) with a student paying up to N300, 000. In a state where the majority of the population are teachers, peasants, artisans and pensioners, the actions of the Oyinlola-led Osun State government is nothing but utter contempt for the people of the state.

Without mincing words, the Governor Oyinlola government has no tenable excuse for increasing fees in the institutions. Huge millions of Naira has been voted for education in the past five years coupled with abnormal levies collected from students, yet there is continual decadence in the condition of facilities in these institutions.

For instance, a lecture room recently collapsed in the College of Education in Ila. Also, students of the state polytechnic in Iree some months ago had to protest against paucity of medical facilities in the school. Rather than fulfil students genuine demands, the school authorities simply rusticated the student leaders and then proscribed the union. However, this action is a follow-up to the various cases of gross abuse of fundamental rights of not only students but also the general populace in the state. It will be recalled that the same state government once colluded with the Prof. Michael Faborode-led Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) management to ensure the illegal arrest and detention of three union leaders using the instrumentality of the police and state judiciary.

Contrary to its propaganda, Osun state hardly budgets to education up to half of UNESCO recommendation of 26%. Its claims have always been that the government has no enough resources to fund education properly. Yet, the same government could not account for the over N9 billion (N4billion and N5billion for state and local governments respectively) collected last month or billions accrued as excess crude oil windfall. Despite the fact that the monthly accruable revenue to the state exceeds the budgetary estimation, basic social facilities in the state are in poor state. The roads are in terrible state; medical facilities are deplorable; there is high level of youth unemployment as the Oyin-Corp was just a means to casualise and exploit the unemployed youth (who are paid less than N4, 000 per month and employed for just six months!). On the other hand, the state politicians are living opulently and parasitically on the state treasury with a councillor collecting over N300, 000 per month while members of the just-constituted boards of parastatals and agencies are to collect hundreds of thousands as monthly pay for doing practically nothing.

Although little amount is budgeted for education in the state, this is again drained off through over-bloated contracts and direct looting among other routes. For instance, according to government officials, over N300 is said to be spent on a pupil’s feeding per meal when in actual fact, the caterers are only given about N30, 000 to N40, 000 per week to provide food for over five hundred pupils (an estimation of less than N20 per pupil!). When one considers the fact that the caterers are expected to recoup their profit from this meagre amount, the quality of food given to the pupils is easily predictable. Therefore, one is not surprised that the state is listed among those state that misappropriated over N2billion Universal Basic Education (UBE) fund. At the secondary and tertiary levels where tens of millions are budgeted for infrastructure with nothing to show for such, the corruption could only be imagined. It is under this scenario that the state government is asking the poor students to pay huge amount of money as fees in a state where minimum wage is less than N9, 500 and where pensioners are hardly paid their emoluments. The fact is that the state government wants to tax students and their poor parents in order to have more money to loot.

We in the DSM and ERC believe that the state government has enough resources to provide not only free and quality education at all levels in the state but also embark on industrialization projects (especially establishment of agro-allied industries) that can absorb the youth churned out by these institutions. But the main factor militating against this is the system of capitalism being practiced which enriches a few at the expense of the immense poor majority. In order to satisfy the interest of the few rich, the government introduces anti-poor, neo-liberal education policies of under funding, commercialization and privatization, all which makes education accessible only to the highest bidder. Equally responsible is unbridled corruption in which huge resources accruing to the state purses are being looted by politicians while the poor working masses suffer.

From the above, it can therefore be understood that what the Osun State government is doing is a general reflection of the national policies of the President Yar’ Adua government on education vis-Å•-vis commercialization and privatization of education at all levels coupled with cut in social spending. Virtually in all federal government-owned institutions, fees are also being hiked. All this has led to free fall in the standard of education at all levels.

Aside from one block classrooms being constructed across the country, most primary and post primary schools lack basic learning and teaching facilities as teachers improvise to provide illustrations to pupils. The recent industrial action of the teachers under the NUT against inhuman remunerations is a pointer to how insensitive the government is to education. In fact many of the state governments are already saying they cannot pay the new salaries, yet, according to UNICEF about 200, 000 teachers are needed to allow over 8 million children currently out of school to have education. How can a government that under pays teachers and commercialize education do this?

Students in Osun State must reject the attempt of the state government to make education inaccessible to the children of the poor. They must resist the policy. Radical student activists must build a vibrant opposition to this policy. It is unfortunate that most of the students’ union leaders in these institutions are either bought over or are lily-livered. This explains why none of them has taken any action against the fee hike, despite the fact that most of their student members have not paid the fees because they could not afford it. In fact, some of the students still owe previous semester fees!

The NANS Zone D (the south-west zone) and NANS/Osun JCC (the state section) have not deemed it fit to organize practical campaign against the fees. It is the only JCC that has held a press conference. But since then nothing has been heard or done. Nonetheless, with the commitment of genuine activists, this anti-poor policy can be successfully resisted.

The Education Rights Campaign has already started a national campaign against education commercialization and fee hike. We are demanding massive funding of education and democratic management of the education sector. We call for joint action by students in Osun State to defeat this obnoxious onslaught on student rights to quality education.