Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

Education Workers’ Strike: Government Must Honour Agreements

Education Workers’ Strike: Government Must Honour Agreements

By Adewale Stephen
Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife

Right since 1978, under Obasanjo military junta, when the tuition and feeding fees were introduced and government got ensnared in crippling IMF/World Bank loans, the lot of education have gone from bad to worse. As a result of non-funding, all the Nigerian schools lack adequate and well-equipped facilities like modern libraries, laboratories, classrooms, hostels, portable water, constant power supply, etc. Schools are understaffed while morale is low among the existing staff due to poor welfare package and lack of necessary working tools.

In apparent bid to reverse this, the ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT succeeded in forcing the federal government to sign an agreement with them in October 2009. The agreement basically centres on funding and improved working conditions. But unfortunately since that time, the federal government has refused to implement the agreement. It was this government’s blatant refusal to implement the agreement that led ASUU into declaring a one-week lecture strike last week. This week the unions of the non-academics have taken over the baton with a one-week action. And if care is not taken, the crisis may soon degenerate into a full blown industrial strike.

The governments at all levels must meet the demands of the striking university workers and honour the agreement it willingly reached with the Unions in 2009. The government’s refusal to adequately fund education has created basis for the authorities of institutions to impose various obnoxious charges on the students. This has been making education the exclusive preserve of children of the few rich, the privileged and treasury looters. Moreover, the decrying state of our institutions, from the primary to tertiary, is not a concern to the governments since members of the capitalist ruling class can afford to send their wards to private schools or abroad to acquire sound education.

This is further buttressed by the fact that while government claims there is no money and the universities are left to decay, public officials (elected/unelected) live fabulous ostentatious lifestyles with fat salaries and allowances with a coterie of aides, special advisers, special assistants, and hangers-on, while billions of naira are daily looted, squandered and wasted on frivolous activities that do not fundamentally affect on the living conditions of the working people for the better. Apparently, it is not a case of non-affordability but lack of sincerity, political will and sensitivity to the welfare of the people.

However, as ASUU and other staff unions, along with the students, are fighting for the proper funding of education, the sight must not lost on the fact that corruption and mismanagement is another phenomenon that compounded the crisis of the education sector. Therefore, we must equally demand democratic management of our institutions with the elected representatives of education workers and students.

And while it is instructive to state that the struggle of ASUU is necessary and commendable, the task of revamping of education must be shouldered by the every staff union in the sector (i.e. ASUU, ASUP, COEASU, SSANU, NASU, SSATHURAI, NUT, NAAT, etc.) along with the Nigerian students. There should be joint action among the staff unions and the students. This will lead to the formation of a formidable force that can give the required strength to the struggle. In the meantime, ASUU and other unions should take the struggle beyond the four walls of campuses by organizing public rallies and symposiums in order to enlist physical participation of the working people and to mount pressure on the government.

It should be noted that the neo-liberal attacks are not peculiar to education but cut across all the social services and sectors of the economy. The anti-poor governments at all level have even resorted to various subterfuge to debase the small concession workers have won in the form of N18,000 minimum wage which only amount to a meagre N600 per day while workers are being threatened with massive retrenchment!

It is therefore imperative for all working class elements to unite under a common ground and with the knowledge that nothing can be given freely by the exploitative capitalist state. It has to be fought for. That is how the capitalist state has always been and that is the way it will remain. The state will remain the state just as a leopard cannot change its spot.

As the University workers continue their campaign for adequate funding of education, the workers and students must not just strive to fight for improvement in the condition of education and living condition, they must link the struggle with the necessity of forming and building a pro-working people political party in which Labour is expected to play a central role. This should be with the sole aim of chasing away anti-poor capitalist government and putting in their place a government that is prepared to commit adequate public resources to the provision of public education, health care and other social services as well as infrastructural development. It is only with such approach we can boldly peep back into this dark moment in history of our nation and say that after all “the struggles and campaign for the better funding of education were never in vain”.