Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

ASUU STRIKE 2013: Lessons for Activists and Unions in the Education Sector

ASUU STRIKE 2013: Lessons for Activists and Unions in the Education Sector

Vigilance Must Be Maintained To Ensure That The 2013 MOU is Implemented and the Promised Funds Are Not Looted.

(By Hassan Taiwo Soweto, National Coordinator, ERC)

Starting from July 1st 2013, University lecturers downed tools in a crucial struggle to reposition the public university system. The key demand was the implementation of the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement. At the height of the strike, the Federal Government claimed the agreement was not implementable!

However, few months after making this declaration and two weeks after issuing sack threats to University lecturers, the same Federal Government bowed to the power of struggle by agreeing even if partially to begin to implement the agreement.

There are lots of lessons activists and other unions like students unions as well as ASUP and COEASU that are currently on strike can learn from the ASUU strike.

The most important lesson to be learnt here is that the corrupt capitalist ruling elite gives nothing on a platter of gold, the oppressed can only win any demand if they are willing to fight tenaciously for it not minding the sacrifice or consequence.

No doubt ASUU has demonstrated how the rest of the oppressed masses of this country should organise to fight for their right. It is now our responsibility in the students movement, youth movement and the labour movement to practicalise this important lesson by beginning to overhaul the dead bones of each of these movements so that they can play a role in the struggle to liberate Nigeria. More than ever before, students must be prepared to mobilize to reclaim their students unions and NANS from the pro-government cabal that has taken them over. We need a NANS that can fight courageously like ASUU for the interest of its members. This requires replacing the current rightwing leadership of NANS at all levels and making NANS democratic and accountable to its members. Also imperative is building of left organizations like ERC and DSM on campuses that will help give directions on struggles and regenerate radical activists for leadership roles in students union and NANS.

However, this victory of ASUU is merely a dress rehearsal for bigger battles to save public education. The N200 billion released is still too little if one dispassionately considers the terrible crisis of decayed facilities and infrastructures afflicting our public universities. This notwithstanding, if the N200 billion is judiciously utilised, there is reason to hope that a little of the problem can at least be solved. But even this can only be possible with democratic control and management of the education sector. As the ERC has severally argued, without the democratic control and management of schools and the entire education sector by elected committees of workers and students, any effort to improve education funding will not have much impact on the conditions of the public university system.

More than ever before, ASUU, students unions and all other categories of education workers must now be on guard on campuses nationwide to ensure that the disbursement and spending of the N200 billion to Universities is strictly monitored in order to prevent misappropriation by university managements. This also requires that the budget monitoring committees which are a part of the 2009 agreement be immediately set up where they do not yet exist and every efforts made to ensure that only real representatives of students, staff unions and the University community are elected to sit on these committees and make regular report back to the university community.

No doubt, the ASUU strike was the greatest struggle of the year 2013. In a way the strike marked a dramatic close to the year 2013 just as the struggle against fuel subsidy removal marked a dramatic opening of the year 2012. It is our conviction in the ERC that the echoes of the victory of University lecturers over a recalcitrant government may yet serve as inspiration for working masses and youths in the year 2014 to take their destiny into their hands and fight to save the public education system and reclaim Nigeria.