Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM




By H02 Moshood

The ongoing free annual holiday coaching organized by the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) Ajegunle branch in Lagos rounded up its third week on Friday 26 August 2011. The free holiday lessons are part of the activities of the ERC, which campaigns for free, quality, and functional education throughout the country, to reach to the pre-university students. (see also August 24 report “Ajegunle ERC Commence Annual Free Holiday Coaching”).

Some parents walked in during the week to applaud the initiative of the ERC for organizing the free holiday coaching. Just nearby, another lesson being organized with the support of the education ministry in the Public Senior Secondary School goes for as much as N750 which is the least compared to others in the community which range between N1, 500 to N2, 000. Beyond the need to keep their wards academically engaged, the ERC has helped save for parents money they would have spent on holiday coaching. A demonstration of such gratitude was expressed when one of the parent brought three packets of chalk as her contribution.

The numbers of students on daily basis continued to increase as the news spread across the community. The total numbers of students that participated in coaching continued to grow. The number of public and private schools on the attendance list from the neighborhood schools in Tolu, Apapa, Amukoko, Badia and Orile increased from 25 last week to 36. 6 students schooling outside Lagos, but spending their holiday in the community, are attending the coaching, four of whom are from Ogun State and the remaining two from Enugu, in the Eastern part of the country.

The number of volunteer teachers swelled to 29 in the third week from 20, an indication of the goodwill which the initiative of the ERC is enjoying among layers of youth in the community. The coaching now has at least 3 teachers for all major subjects. The devotion and commitment of the volunteer teachers needs to be commended, given the fact that most of them expended large sum of their money in shuttling between the coaching and their work places/residence. Beside, some even have to expend their own money to produce some materials to aid students in understanding their subjects.

The Teacher’s Forum (FT) which is held twice a week to deliberate on what need to be done to improve the standards at lessons, also plays an important role in building a sense of solidarity among the volunteers teachers. Even at an ERC meeting held over the weekend, students had opportunities to equally observe some lapses which they brought to the attention of the ERC and volunteer teachers. This contrast sharply with the undemocratic management of government and private schools wherein teachers have little say, let alone the students.

Chronic underfunding, lack of teaching aids, dilapidated structures, congested classrooms, poor welfare packages for teachers and lack of democracy are the major contending issues plaguing public education. The ERC canvasses that the abundant natural and human resources of the nation, if democratically managed can guarantee the provision of free and functional education at all level to Nigerian adequately. To ensure proper use of funds invested by government on education, schools need to be democratically run through inclusion of elected representatives of students and teachers in all decision making organs.

The ERC free coaching has shown, although in a small way, just how things can be done. Unlike the generally parroted prejudice that education quality is low because youth of nowadays are not serious, at the coaching are many brilliant students who can excel in any career they choose if given the opportunity. Unfortunately the unjust capitalist system has put many social and economic obstacles in the path of working class youth. This is why the ERC continue to stress the necessity of the youth joining workers to struggle against government cut in education, neo-liberal economic policies and for a change of society.

“With solidarity … We can surmount all Challenges”

Two motivational speakers were on hand to take the students on the Friday’s career and counseling talk. Illaria Chessa, the CEO of Music Matters and one of the coordinators of the BORNTROWAY project which was recently held in Ajegunle, pointed out that the only way to succeed in life is for the students to redouble their effort on their studies. She said she could feel the force and energy in the students the moment she came into the class and this is what is needed to succeed. What need be done is for the student to channel their energies into the right direction. According to her, since coming to Nigeria from Italy the past 7 years, she has met with the abundant talent and creativity that abound in the country. She is therefore certain that the same applies to the students before her. With the necessary creativity, solidarity and helping one another along the way, we could surmount all the challenges confronting us.

This was followed by a lively question and answer session, taken up by Illaria Chessa, and Dagga Tolar. After it was over, large number of students still stayed around mesmerized by what they have heard from the speakers of the day, seeking for personal contacts and private exchanges with the guest speakers. Dagga Tolar gave out books to 18 students that came early to the coaching. Some students turned up around 7:24am, 2 hours before the commencement of the coaching.

Lively Discussion on Mass Failure

The ERC held its own meeting over the weekend on 27 August 2011. About 24 people were in attendance most of whom were students and teachers. The theme of the meeting “Mass Failure in Examination: Who is To Blame?” captured students’ immediate problem as they prepared for WAEC and NECO examinations.

Soweto (DSM member and National Coordinator of the ERC) analyzed the poor conditions in the education sector and the government’s lack of will to genuinely provide free, quality and qualitative education at all level to all aspiring students and youths in the country. The recent alarming revelation by the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) that only 20% of all University graduates (all with first class and second class degrees) that applied for job at the company passed an aptitude test is an index of the rot in the education sector. Also sharply illustrating the poor condition of the education sector is the low admission spaces in tertiary institutions which mean that annually, thousands of working class youth do not gain admissions even after meeting the normal requirements.

He dismantled the prejudice that is widespread that students are responsible for their failure by thoroughly giving details account about how capitalist society works all over the world and particularly in an under-developed country like Nigeria where collapse of education, lack of basic amenities, poverty and the harsh conditions under which the working class live combine to burden the youth with the challenges of daily struggle for survival. Consequently, many youth hawk around the street after school hours when they should be studying or resting. Even electricity is not available for the youth to read or do homework at home in preparation for school next day.

One other major factor contributing to mass failure, especially in the recent UTME, was the lapses arising from JAMB’s bureaucratic management of examinations. Soweto told a pathetic story of what happened during the last Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) in a remote village in Ogun State where, two hours after the scheduled start, candidates had to go out to buy writing materials and calculators when JAMB failed to provide them. Weeks before the examination, JAMB had warned them not to bring any along because the exam body would make provision for it. Students had to trek miles to buy pencils, pens and calculators required to solve difficult science questions. This was undoubtedly the scenario in most examination centres the country.

He however encouraged students to work hard as the challenges in passing examinations like WAEC, NECO can only be partially overcome by reading and working hard in their respective subjects. He also asked the students to strive to read and excel, know your rights and struggle for a better society. He urged students and teachers to join the ERC and be part of the struggle to fix the problem. This can take the form of organizing ‘ERC Clubs’ in their respective schools. The activity of such a club can include essay writing, literary studies, and poetry while also serving as a point of contact and a means of organizing campaigns for improvement in studying facilities in school, democratic running and adequate funding.

Contributions from students and teachers were interesting. A student gave insight into the reality in the community as she narrated the failure of one of her friends in her ambition to go to school. This was due to the prevailing discrimination against female children and sustained by government policy of education commercialization which, because it prices education out of the reach of the poor, forces poor parents when confronted with unaffordable school fees to favour the male over the female children.

Jossy Annahu (member of DSM) summarized that all these problems are not peculiar to education sector only but the ultimate solution is to struggle for system change and enthronement of a democratic socialist system under which the commanding heights of the economy will be nationalized and democratically managed and controlled by the working masses to provide the resources necessary not just for education but for a fulfilled life.