ERC CALLS ON THE BUHARI GOVERNMENT TO AVERT IMPENDING ASUU STRIKE BY MEETING ALL OUTSTANDING DEMANDS
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) hereby calls on the Buhari government to avert impending nationwide strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) by meeting and resolving all outstanding disputes with the University lecturers. Outstanding areas of disputes include the refusal of the Federal Government to sign and implement the Renegotiated 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement, adoption of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), funding of State Universities, non-payment of withheld salaries, check-offs and promotion arrears. Blackmail will not work. We hold that ASUU has been patient enough. Meeting the demands is the only way to avert the coming crisis in the University system.
For us in the ERC, we believe that the funding of public education is the responsibility of the government, because quality education is primarily a social need. It is on this basis that we are in solidarity with ASUU to demand better funding of the public universities, especially payment of the revitalization funds and improvement in the pay and working conditions of lecturers. Without this funding, quality education cannot be guaranteed from the underpaid and over-worked lecturers or from the under-equipped libraries, laboratories, hostels and other facilities on campuses.
We commend ASUU for its steadfastness over the decades in the struggle to defend university education and particularly for embarking on public activities like rallies, protests, strike bulletins, etc. to sensitize Nigerians ahead of the planned strike. We do hope government will take heed of this and strive to meet all outstanding demands. However should the strike have to go ahead because of government intransigence, this pre-strike sensitization activities will help to show to students and Nigerians as a whole that the union is not at fault and that the consequential disruption of academic activities is due to the irresponsibility of the government.
After all is said and done, the struggle to defend public education is not that of ASUU alone. Indeed, ASUU’s longstanding demand for adequate funding of education, payment of revitalization funds and improvement in educational infrastructures deserve the unflinching support and solidarity of the mass of students and parents. At the moment, ASUU has rejected government’s plan to introduce a tertiary education loan scheme which is a gimmick for government to totally hands-off funding of public education by committing students to a lifetime of indebtedness. These are issues the students’ movement is supposed to be campaigning about but for the ideological collapse of NANS. Meanwhile, Nigerian students are already facing the most vicious consequence of the crisis of public education in Nigeria. Fees are being increased beyond what students from poor and working class background can afford. Teaching and learning facilities are obsolete while the complete decay of hostel and medical infrastructures has cost several students their lives in the last one year alone.
Just this month of February alone, a female student of Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife (Heritage Ajibola) lost her life due to poor and privatized hostel facilities, students of Adekunle Ajasin protested incessant road accidents involving trucks in front of their school after their colleague (Micheal) was crushed to death, and a student of Health Technology at UNIBEN (Williams) also died at the hospital due to negligence caused by poor staffing of the UBTH.
All of these show that Nigerian students have to essentially see ASUU’s struggle as their own despite the unfortunate disruption of academic calendar that will follow this strike if it goes ahead. In fact, should the ASUU strike go ahead, what Nigerian students should do is to organize simultaneous demonstrations and boycotts on their campuses to demand that government must meet the lecturers’ demands so that academic activities can resume while also putting forward students-specific demands on issues of fee hike, condition of teaching and living facilities and attacks on democratic rights.
Furthermore, we urge that the ASUU extends its demands to condemn the increment in fees across campuses and make the clear position that public education should not be driven by the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) mostly gotten from the increment of school fees, acceptance fees, and other unjustifiable fees of students. We urge the ASUU to stand on the demand that for public education to be of good quality, it has to be free. This is because the motivation to maximise profit will only continue to lead to underpayment of lecturers and poor welfare for students, and therefore poor quality of education.
We call on students associations and student unions to mobilize their numbers to organize and join protests and public activities to fight for the above demands. We call for a joint struggle of all education unions including ASUU, NUT, NASU, SSANU, COEASU, ASUP etc. to save the public education sector. We also call on the NLC and the TUC to give solidarity to the struggle of the striking lecturers.
Ogunjimi Isaac Ayobami
ERC Deputy National Coordinator
ERC National Mobilization Officer
ERC email: [email protected]