Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM


ERC Holds Public Symposium.

Participants Agree Student Loan is No Solution.

Demand Adequate Funding of Public Education.

By Davy Fidel

On Saturday March 9, 2024, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) held a public symposium over the attack on public education including the wave of fee hike and the student loan policy. The ERC has helped expose the students loan scheme which is promoted by Tinubu led APC government as a solution to the crisis of public education funding as scam. The loan scheme is a smokescreen for the recent wave of fee hikes in tertiary education.

Part of the audience

So, the symposium was another step in the efforts of the ERC to create mass awareness over the danger of the policy and to further campaign for adequate funding of public education. The ERC has consistently held media engagement and published a pamphlet titled “10 Reasons Why The Tinubu Student Loan is a Scam”, which was publicly presented in December last year. The continuous shift of the launch of the scheme, the latest being necessitated by the need to finetune the policy according to the government, is an indication the effort of the ERC and other groups are having impacts. This suggests that with mass actions the obnoxious policy can be defeated. Building forces for such mass actions is a major objective of the ERC in this campaign.

Prof. Adelaja Odukoya, Lagos Zone Coordinator of ASUU

Among the speakers at the event held at Textile Labour House in Lagos were Prof. Adelaja Odukoya, the Lagos Zonal Coordinator for the Academic Staff Union of  Universities (ASUU) who represented ASUU President Professor Emmanuel Osodeke and Akinade Solomon, Students Union President, College of Nursing, the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTH) Ile Ife.

Barakat Idowu, ERC-LASU

Others speaking were Zikora Ibeh – Policy and Research Officer at the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Barakat Idowu – representative of ERC-LASU; Ngozi Promise for Lagos Activista, Temitope – representative of Take It Back, University of Lagos, Olivia B (President of Independent Socialist Group (ISG) club, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA) and Hassan Taiwo Soweto – National Coordinator of ERC.

In attendance were 63 persons including students, socialists, activists from different organizations and journalists. The theme was “PUBLIC EDUCATION ON THE BRINK: WHAT IS TO BE DONE?” and the sub-theme “Is Tinubu Students Loan a Solution to Soaring Education Cost?”

Hassan Taiwo Soweto – National Coordinator of ERC

Soweto started the symposium with a welcome address. He talked about the danger of student loans and highlighted the steps ERC has taken including the valid arguments of the ERC on how public education can be funded without student loan. He emphasized the need for students to organize, with the support of education workers, to defend public education. He ended by linking the crisis confronting public education to the failed programme and policy of capitalism and underscoring the need for a socialist alternative.

Prof Adelaja spoke in light of the ASUU’s consistent defence of public education and why the Federal Government is making a tireless effort to commercialise public education and make it not accessible to the children and wards of the working people. In Zikora Ibeh’s view, she x-ray the consequences of the loan and the damage it is going to bring to students from working-class families especially in the face of the current economic hardship since the removal of petrol subsidy,

In addition comrade Olivia, President of Independent Socialist Group (ISG) Club, Clark University Worcester, Massachusetts, USA addressed the symposium through a pre-recorded video. She talked about the devastating impact of student loans in the US. She also talked about how the student loan causes lifelong indebtedness for American students leading to many falling into depression due to inability to make progress in life or start a family because of the repayment burden. She ended by saying that if a student loan could have such devastating consequences in the US, how much more a neocolonial country like Nigeria.

Akinade Solomon, President Students Union OAUTH College of Nursing

The president of Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTH) College of Nursing, Akinade Solomon, gave an illustration of an exorbitant hike of tuition fees in the institution from N140,000 to N840,000 a session. He shocked every person present at the public symposium with the disclosure that the management still has the plan to further increase the already outrageous fees next academic session. In addition to the new fee hike, it cost each students of the college at least N1000 per day to transport from hostel to the teaching hospital. He added that some students have dropped out of school and more may follow because their parents can’t afford to pay the new fees. He disclosed that some parents called him on phone crying over their inability to raise the fee. Some parents had to sell their properties to pay the fee but as is usually the case, they may not have more property to sell to pay for another session.

Speakers at the symposium

There were reactions, questions, comments, and practical suggestions on what to do. Part of the practical suggestions was building a social media campaign and also urging students to commence independent actions on campuses. However, the symposium recognized the current low level of consciousness among students and generally, the working people. However, the summary was that campaign against student loans and for adequate funding of education should be intensified with initiatives and organized actions. In addition, students should begin to discuss on campuses what to do and how to key into the campaign. The need for solidarity action by education workers was also emphasized.  Good enough, ASUU is vehemently opposed to the loan scheme. So, there is prospect for joint struggle of education workers and students to defeat the policy and fight for adequate funding of public education.

ERC email: [email protected]