UNIBEN: Newly Registered ERC branch holds symposium
UNIBEN: Newly Registered ERC branch holds symposium
The newly registered branch of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) held its maiden program on Wednesday 28th July 2010 at the Twin Lecture Theatre 11, Social Sciences of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) Benin Edo State. The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) was formed by the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) as a platform to campaign against the government’s neo-liberal attacks on education.
The symposium was held after a determined struggle by members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) to meet with all the requirements needed to register the ERC. This included getting three patrons (who must be members of academic staff), submission of names of at least 20 members and a whole lot of other strenuous conditions. It is expected that with the registration of the ERC, the comrades will in the coming period acquire a position of strength to register the DSM.
In attendance at the symposium were about 60 students. This is significant in a campus where culture of debate and struggle has vanished for almost a decade. The success of the symposium has again shown that it is possible to organize even on campuses where reaction is in the ascendance and students lack a radical and fighting culture. The topics for discussion at the symposium are: (1) effects of education under funding on Nigerian students and (2) Goodluck Jonathans’ administration: any hope for Nigerian students and workers.
The programme started at about 12:45pm with a speech by Mr Obakehedo (a patron of the organization) who described students as directionless grasshoppers that cannot differentiate between their left from their right. He talked about our leaders who spend the country’s money on fruitless projects taking the case of late President Yar’Adua whose fruitless battle against personal ailments cost the nation about N50 billion that ought to have been spent for the development of education and health of the entire citizenry. He advised that students should wake up and stand to defend their rights. However, Comrade Adewale Barshar (a member of the DSM), added that activism does not make one dull but brings the best out of you. Intellectually, everybody should be involved in unionism positively because the union should be the first platform where students can air their yearnings.
Friday Ogieiakhi (a former Vice President of NANS) and a legal practitioner said Nigeria has no excuse not to have the right standard of education because of the natural and human resources we are blessed with. Under-funding is not the only problem of education but poor leadership is a great factor. He made a case for struggle when he opined that “what cannot be gotten in the court room can be gotten by other means”. According to him, it is criminal to be law abiding in a lawless society and Nigerians are yet to have patriotic leaders. He concluded by saying that the ERC and Nigerian students should not lose hope, one day we shall overcome.
The factional president of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Mr. Jude Imagwe was represented by Mr. Armstrong. In his own case, Mr. Armstrong said that the consciousness of Nigerians is falling because people do not know their right. The people that are supposed to fund the educational sector are the people who own private schools or institutions. The way forward should be demanded by Nigerian students through struggle. And nobody should be afraid but stand for their right.
According to Mr. Omoregie (another Patron of the ERC), the state shares 50% of the blame for educational problems. For there to be a viable society, a viable and durable educational structure must be put in place. There should be a viable health programme, security, respect for human rights, physical infrastructure. The Nigerian people are not speaking because of lack of knowledge, poverty, and the bad system, and advised that knowledge should be sought for with all vigour.
Mr Emma Akov (also a patron of the ERC) on the other hand said that the ERC should not solely concern itself with Nigerian students but also the Nigerian youths and the Nigerian child. According to him, 75% of Nigerian youths live in rural areas and have no access to education. Finally, Hassan Taiwo Soweto (ERC National Coordinator and a member of the DSM) said that there is need for political movement for change. We have rulers that do not believe in the resources to provide for the masses. There should be revolutionary struggle for the change of the system from capitalist to socialist system. It is time for Nigerian students to organize and fight for their rights but to start a struggle, there must be an ideological principle acting as guidance: such an idea is Marxism.
Out of 60 students in attendance, 48 students signed up to join the ERC. Also, four DSM perspective documents titled “Nigeria on the brink, three pamphlets titled “Nigerian on a cliff edge” and 10 Socialist Democracy were sold. The task in the coming period is to organize and engage all 48 new members in the activities of the ERC, educate them in the ideas of Marxism and encourage them to take the path of the struggle for socialist change.
Iyobor Peace Ogbewe
ERC, Uniben Chapter.