Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

ASUU STRIKE UPDATE: JAF, ASUU and NANS Zone D Lead Protest against Education Underfunding

ASUU STRIKE UPDATE: JAF, ASUU and NANS Zone D Lead Protest against Education Underfunding

ASUU Should Name a Day of National Protest as Next Stage of the Struggle

Chinedu Agbebire

JAF banner - photo DSM

JAF banner – photo DSM

The national “Save Public Education” protest organized by the Joint Action Front (JAF) had its kick-off on Tuesday 13th of August 2013 in Lagos. The protest was actively supported and participated in by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), College of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) and National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Zone D, comprising of schools in the south-west Nigeria. The similar protests are billed to take place in Kano, Abuja, Owerri, Calabar and Ibadan on yet to be announced dates. The protest is to demand improved funding of education and for government to implement the agreements it has reached with all the staff unions. It was also a solidarity action with the University lecturers who have been on strike for over one month to demand the implementation of an agreement reached with the Federal Government since 2009.

The protest which took off from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Secretariat in Yaba, Lagos State offered an opportunity for workers and students to express anger against anti-poor education policies of under-funding, commercialization, privatization, fee hike, etc being jointly implemented at state and federal government of Nigeria.

By and large about 500 students, lecturers, pro-labour activists and concerned parents participated in the protest Lagos. Members of the ASUU and ASUP came to the protest in their unions T-Shirts while mass of students led by NANS Zone D added colour and vibe to the procession.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto ERC Coordinator - photo DSM

Hassan Taiwo Soweto ERC Coordinator – photo DSM

The presence of students and involvement of the NANS Zone D (SouthWest) in the planning and mobilisation for the August 13 protest is very commendable. This is more so given the capitulation of the Yinka Gbadebo-led national leadership of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) to the Federal Government and its hostility to the strike. But by joining the August 13 protest, students are effectively saying the NANS national leadership does not represent them in their opposition to the strike. This is a positive development as it shows the possibilities of building a rank and file movement of students to push NANS in a radical direction and challenge the rightwing leadership. Activists and socialists within the student movement have the duty of deepening this development. This can be achieved not only through discussion with the leadership but also, and more importantly, mobilisation and the arming of rank and file students with the ideas, perspective and method to reclaim NANS and build a democratic student movement that can fight education attacks.

Speakers at the protest included the JAF Deputy Chair Achike Chude, JAF Secretary Abiodun Aremu, the NANS Zone D Coordinator Monsuru Adeyemo, the National treasurer of ASUU Demola Aremu and the ASUP President Chibuzor Asumogba. The ERC national coordinator Hassan Taiwo Soweto and others gave solidarity speeches.

Various banners of different organizations were displayed with various inscriptions but with central messages on the need to save public education. From the speech of the ASUP president at the protest, the recently suspended strike of polytechnic lecturers may soon be resumed as the Federal Government has failed to utilise the one-month “ceasefire” period to meet the demands of the union.

Protestors - photo DSM

Protestors – photo DSM

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) was visibly present in the protest. Right before now the ERC had been at the forefront of the campaign to back the strike. The first solidarity protest was called by the ERC at the University of Lagos on July 17. We had a banner at the protest and circulated 1,000 leaflets. Our members discussed actively with the new layer of students who are being drawn into struggle as a result of the strike. A public meeting is being called by the ERC for this coming Saturday 17 August 2013 to provide a forum for activists to discuss collectively the current stage of the struggle and tactics and strategies to win.

So also was the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) which had a large banner and its manifesto at the demo. The SPN also issued a press statement calling on ASUU to declare a nationwide mass protest as the next step in the strike. The SPN also used the occasion to call for a socialist alternative to capitalism through the building of a mass-based workers political party to take power.

The cluelessness of the capitalist ruling elite and the urgent need for the working class to take power is demonstrated by the current crisis of public education. All public universities have been shut down for over a month now over the failure of federal government to implement the agreement it voluntarily entered with ASUU in 2009. For similar reason all polytechnics were closed for about 3 months until academic and non academic staff unions suspended their respective strikes. But the ruling elites are not bothered since their own children are in private schools in and out of Nigeria. The condition of Nigeria education sector today is worrisome. The degeneration is so bad that none of Nigerian universities could feature the first 20 out 100 best universities in Africa. Aside education under funding, there are other attacks confronting education sector such as fee hike, attack on students unionism etc.

SPN and ERC banners - photo DSM

SPN and ERC banners – photo DSM

It is this ugly development that informed JAF’s decision to support the ASUJ strike and also raise demands for proper funding of education up to 26%, restoration of banned unions, autonomy of education sector, better pays for education workers among other demands.

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) fully supports the above demands. But the demands should not be restricted to ordinary funding of education alone it must be pushed further by demanding for free and quality education from nursery to tertiary level and the democratic running of schools by elected committees of education workers, students and communities to ensure judicious use of monies allocated to education.

JAF Deputy Chair Achike Chude - photo DSM

JAF Deputy Chair Achike Chude – photo DSM

As the JAF secretary Abiodun Aremu pointed out, similar protest rallies are to take place in designated centres across the country. No doubt having mass actions take place in other states will be crucial to build the movement further onto the next stage. However to hasten this process, we call on ASUU to name a day for a nationwide mass protest. As a socialist organisation that is totally committed to the defense and struggle of the working masses we in the DSM are ever ready and willing to practically solidarise with ASUU and other education workers anytime such day is named.

We also call on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC ) to declare a 48-hour general strike and mass protest to back ASUU and the struggle to save education from collapse. This is crucial to pile enough pressure on the government to meet the strike’s demands.