JUNE 16 DECLARATION: THE STATE OF EDUCATION IN NIGERIA AND WHAT IS TO BE DONE
JUNE 16 DECLARATION: THE STATE OF EDUCATION IN NIGERIA AND WHAT IS TO BE DONE
A statement issued by the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) to address the state of education in Nigeria in commemoration of June 16, 2011 which is the anniversary of the 1976 massacre of black students in South Africa by the then apartheid regime and the day of the African child.
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) joins the rest of the world on June 16, 2011 to commemorate the day of the African child and the anniversary of the brutal massacre of black students on June 16, 1976 by the then ruling Apartheid regime in South Africa.
On June 16, 1976, black students and pupils from South Western Town (SOWETO) in South Africa rose in thousands to protest against anti-black/poor education policies and to press for an end to the hated apartheid regime. However, heavily armed policemen loyal to the apartheid regime opened fire on the peaceful protesters made up of mostly teenagers and youngsters. The brutalization of these pupils attracted world-wide solidarity of students, youths and workers of different countries and races and thereby signaled the beginning of the end for the apartheid regime in South Africa.
We describe the education policies of the government in Nigeria as class-apartheid educational policies because all past and current policies of government on education continue to deprive public schools the vital facilities for learning, heaps heavy burden of fees on students and poor working class parents while ensuring through the neo-liberal policies of privatization that only the children of the rich and wealthy who can afford the huge fees of private schools have the benefit of real and functional education.
We declare the condition of education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels in Nigeria as abysmal, dilapidated and sub-standard. We reject in its entirety the recently amended 2011 budget that allocates N356.5 billion (about 7.5%) to education. We demand that at least N26% (N1.1 trillion) of the total budget should be budgeted to education by all tiers of government if the present deplorable state of education is to be arrested.
As far as we are concerned, the 2011 budget is nothing but a budget of consolidated poverty. Contrary to President Jonathan’s false assurances, it will not make Nigeria one of the 20 most advanced economies by year 2020. Instead this budget will make Nigeria a country with the worst education sector and one of the highest numbers of illiterate youths/adults. Also this budget constitutes a breach of the October 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement and the recent judgment of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice sitting in Abuja on the right of every Nigerian child to free and compulsory education.
While the ERC applauds the establishment of additional 6 federal universities, we demand an immediate crash program to immediately overhaul and substantially expand the facilities of the existing institutions through massive injection of public funds. As far as we are concerned, a government that can afford to pay political office holders at the federal level alone over N800 billion for their maintenance, allowances and salaries is rich enough to establish six universities while at the same time injecting massive funds to rehabilitate the old ones. The ERC demand that the wages and allowances of political office holders across the country should be reduced to an average wage of skilled workers and the difference should be invested into key sectors of the economy. We demand the full implementation of the October 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement to avert another wave of strikes as recently indicated by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). We reject the federal government policy to privatise all 102 unity schools with the excuse that it wants to focus on the tertiary institutions, this policy will further deepen the crisis at the pre-tertiary level of the education sector. ERC call on the Goodluck-led federal government to establish more unity schools across the federation in addition to the existing ones rather than privatizing them.
The ERC strongly condemn the astronomical hike in school fees across the federation. The idea that students and their parents should be made to fund education is an attack on the living standard of the people. The net effect of this mindless fee hike predictably is drastic increase in the rate of dropout mostly by students from poor working class and peasant family background. We condemn the attacks on Nigerian students who have been protesting courageously against fee hikes and other anti-students policies on their campuses. We pledge our support for them and join them in demanding the reversal of all hiked fees as a step towards eradicating fees without discrimination as to students’ state of origin.
We challenge the newly-inaugurated ACN governments in Osun, Oyo, Ogun and Ekiti States to distinguish themselves as real progressives and education-friendly governments not in mere words and media grandstanding but in immediately reversing, not just mere reductions, all fees increased by the preceding PDP-led administrations and physically providing free, quality and functional education coupled with drastic upgrading of the facilities of schools in their domain up to a level that can compete with the best in Africa and the world. Anything short of this will attract students’ protest and demonstrations as we in the ERC will not measure any government by words alone but only in terms of what they are able to do physically to reposition the education sector from primary up to tertiary levels.
The ERC also condemns the shamelessly corrupt and pro-state leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) for their abandonment of the defense of students’ interest in exchange for cash gifts from government officials. We specifically condemn the factional presidents of NANS most especially Messers Jude Imagwe, Ini Emomobong and Etuk Bassey for fraudulently using the names of Nigerian students to collect cash gifts worth millions of Naira in exchange for their support for the candidacy of President Jonathan and other anti-poor candidates during the April general elections. As far as we are concerned, their primary duty as NANS leaders is to defend the right of students to education. On this, they have failed woefully. We call on Nigerian youths to rebuild and reclaim NANS into a democratic mass platform of students that fundamentally defend the interest of students and youths.
We commiserate with all the victims of the post-election violence in the Northern part of Nigeria most especially slain Youth Corp members. We place the responsibility for their deaths on the heads of the Nigerian anti-poor ruling class and corrupt politicians whose rotten economic policies and divisive politics have bred decades of ethnic and religious hostility, the violent sparks of which burst forth occasionally in bloody ethno-religious massacre and sectarian bloodletting not just in the North but also in the West, East and South of the country. On this basis, the ERC calls for immediate review of the NYSC act to make participation optional coupled with improvement in the welfare and allowances of Corp members.
Conclusively, we use this occasion to demand for the provision of free, functional and public funded education at all levels to be managed by democratic committees comprising elected representatives of students, workers, parents and government officials. To us in the ERC, the current trial of the immediate past speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, as well as past revelations of corruption of political of office holders has again confirmed our argument that the resources to fund education has always been available, what is lacking in government is a pro-poor policy and strategy to ensure that society’s resources is harnessed to better the lives of ordinary people. We therefore call on Nigerian students on all campuses and youth in communities to defend their interest in an organized manner.
(1) Increased allocation to education up to 26% of the budget.
(2) Setting up of budget monitoring committees by Governing Councils of all Universities in accordance with 2009 FG-ASUU agreement. These budget monitoring committees must comprise elected representatives of students and staff unions with the sole purpose of monitoring government allocations tertiary institutions and ensuring judicious use of resources.
(3) Reversal of all fee increments as a step towards cancellation of all fees. Immediate re-opening of all campuses closed as a result of students protest.
(4) Unconditional reinstatement of all victimized student and staff activists and the restoration of all banned Students’ Unions.
(5) Downward review of the salaries and allowances of public office holders and their placement on the same minimum wage level of civil servants and professional workers.
(6) Payment of N40, 000 Cost of Study Allowance (COSA) to students of tertiary institutions to offset the cost of books, accommodation, transportation etc.
(7) Review of the NYSC act to make participation optional and improvement in salaries in line with N18000 minimum wage.
(8) Immediate employment for all graduates and youth seeking jobs. For a government-funded social security benefit program to ensure the payment of a living allowance to all unemployed youth as a basis of eradicating the use of youth, over 70% of whom are jobless, for violence.
(9) Provision of free, functional, public-funded education. All schools to be controlled and managed by democratic bodies made up of elected representatives of students, workers and parents.
(10) Immediate payment of N18000 minimum wage to all workers by all states, local governments and the federal government.
(11) Nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy under the democratic control and management of the working people.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto