Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

ERC Free Holiday Coaching Ends with Symposium

Ajegunle, Lagos

ERC Free Holiday Coaching Ends with Symposium

The 6-week Free Holiday coaching for secondary school students organized by the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) finally came to an end on the 14th Wednesday September 2011 with a symposium inside the school compound of Nawa-Ur-Deen primary school at Arumoh Street, Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government in Lagos.

The Free Holiday Coaching ran successfully for 6 weeks with over 220 students from both private and public schools in attendance. Altogether, 29 volunteer teachers rendered their services free of charge. The closing ceremony was a colorful one with over 300 persons and pupils in attendance. Also in attendance were Mr. Jide Cole, representative of the Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government, Segun Sango, the General Secretary of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Dr O. Robinson, a community leader, H.T Soweto, the National Coordinator of ERC, and Mr Adewale Adeogun, the Educational Secretary Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government.

In his opening remarks, comrade H.T Soweto congratulated all students and teachers that participated in the free holiday coaching. He pointed out that the basis of the program is to intensify the campaign for publicly-funded education with democratic management from primary to tertiary levels in Nigeria. He commented on the decadence of education in Nigeria and condemned the lip-service being paid by government to the funding of education. While the Minister of State for education revealed some weeks ago that about 50 million Nigerians are illiterate and 22 million children are out of school, the present administration continues to implement the same anti-poor education policies that have destroyed the education sector over the last 20 years. An example of present government irresponsibility to education funding is the low amount budgeted to education in the 2011 appropriation act which falls far below the 26% recommended by UNESCO.

Consequently education standards and quality has taken a sharp dip this year, something that will get worse in the years to come if present trend continues. For instance all key entrance examinations so far conducted by WAEC, UTME and NECO recorded an average of 70% mass failure. The 2011 WASSCE result recorded about 75% mass failure while only 25% made the mandatory credits in English and mathematics in the just concluded NECO examinations. These are red signals which the politicians and government officials are not paying attention to. He went further by commenting on the Universal Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) where over 500,000 students that passed the average score are not guaranteed admission due to the shortage of admission spaces. He called for adequate funding of education and immediate crash program to build new schools and renovate existing ones in order to create more admission spaces. However only the provision of genuinely free and functional education at all levels can begin to address the crisis of quality and standard in the education sector and achieve mass literacy.

Comrade Segun Sango (DSM General Secretary) spoke on the theme of the symposium: Free Education-Is it possible in Nigeria? He commented on the collapse of education system in Nigeria. While commenting on the present fall in the standard of education, he narrated the condition in educational system in 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. According to him, no matter how bad the situation then was, some Nigerians were still able to acquire quality education, especially in the western part of Nigeria where free education was declared by the western regional government. This was due to the peculiar position of capitalism internationally and in Nigeria at that period. In order to reconstruct Europe in the post-second world war era and frightened by the possibility of American and European working class taking the road of revolution under the impact of the rapid economic development in the former deformed workers state of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, capitalist governments tolerated for a period a measure of massive state spending on education, health, social security and other basic services which improved living standards.

In Nigeria too the local capitalist ruling elite, especially in the Western region, having just taken political power from the British colonial authority felt obliged to permit some massive state involvement in the expansion of access to education, health care and other basic services which for a period led to rapid development. Throughout this period, the education sector recorded major developments, new schools were built and access massively expanded. In fact many of these institutions could compare favorable well with those in Europe at the time. Segun Sango lamented that his generation still benefitted from the subsidized feeding program which was a key and memorable feature of University education then.

However since then successive governments have torn down the state welfare system and embraced full neo-liberal capitalist policies which prices education out of the reach of the poor working class families. It is now impossible to find any tertiary institution in Nigeria ranking in the first 40 in Africa or the first 5,000 in the world. He also commented on other sectors of the economy. Everywhere we consider, whether electricity, water or health, nothing appears to be working because of neo-liberal capitalist policies of privatization.

Segun Sango concluded that free education is possible not only in Nigeria, but also in Africa and all over the world, if only the commanding high sectors of the economic are publicly owned and run on a genuine democratic basis through management and control by committees of elected representatives of the working masses who must equally be recallable by the people who elected them. He charged the students to read their books and spread the news of the ERC program. He also charged them to join the ERC and participate in the struggle for free education, an end to neo-liberal policies of privatization and for genuine socialists Nigeria.

Mr. Jide Cole and Mr. Adewale Adeogun who is the Education Secretary of Local Government commended the effort of ERC for organizing the free coaching lesson for the benefit of the less privileged students in Ajegunle. Judith Nwambia, a secondary student from Alakoto Senior Secondary School who did the recent Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) was full of praises for the volunteer teachers for the quality of teaching.

Comedy shows, drama presentation and of course dancing ended the symposium as students rocked to the beats of music blaring from a speaker nearby. But that was not until the volunteer teachers were duly honored for their sacrifices over the last 6 weeks. Certificates of appreciation were presented to each of them to the applause of students. Dagga Tolar gave the closing remarks where he again commended the volunteer teachers and encouraged the students not to relent in their academic activities.

By Aderemi Ismaila
DSM Ajegunle