A non-governmental organisation, Education Rights Campaign (ERC) has thrown its support to the current indefinite strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The group said it believe that the failure of the Nigerian government to properly fund the education sector and honour the agreements it freely entered with unions, as usual, are directly responsible for the present strike action.
According to a statement signed by Hassan Taiwo Soweto and Wole Olubanji, National Coordinator and National Mobilisation Officer respectively, state that, “We therefore call on the government to immediately meet ASUU’s demands in the interest of students. We urge students and parents to support ASUU once again in its persistent struggle to save the public university system against the anti-poor and pro-capitalist agenda of the government to make education a preserve of the rich few. They should not listen to government propaganda which is meant to merely hoodwink them.
“Students must bear in mind that without ASUU’s consistent struggle over the years, the public university system would have been totally destroyed. Therefore the best way to ensure the strike is not prolonged is by joining forces with ASUU through mass protests and demonstrations to compel government to meet the demands.
“Especially now that many public institutions are increasing fees beyond what students from poor working class background can afford, only the united struggle of students and education workers can prevail.
“We totally reject the statement credited to the Minister of education that the government cannot meet ASUU’s demands because of the economic situation. As far as we are concerned, Nigeria has enough resources to fund public education adequately if the commanding heights of the national economy are nationalised under democratic control and management.
“The bottom-line is that even if Nigeria’s makes ten times of its current revenue, the Buhari government may still not fund public education adequately because it is a capitalist government that sees education as a profit-making business rather than a social responsibility”.
The group stressed that the national leadership of ASUU has noted reasons for the strike the plan of the federal government to reintroduce education bank and tuition fees, and the persistent failure of the government to honour the terms of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement, including a memorandum of understanding signed in 2017 between the federal government and ASUU.
The ERC noted that the major component of the FGN/ASUU 2009 agreement was the need for upward funding of the education sector, including the commitment of the government to release over a period of six years a sum of N1.3 trillion as intervention fund to public universities nationwide as part of the required effort to save public education in the country.
“Unfortunately the federal government has acted in bad faith towards the implementation of these agreements, while the nation’s education sector continues to rot due largely to the poor funding of the sector and absence of democratic control and accountability.
“To shy away from taking responsibility for the near-collapse of public education in the country, the Nigerian government has sadly resorted to creating bogus and outrageous fee items to squeeze dry the pockets of working class parents and sponsors; and it is now planning to create an education bank (or loan facilities) just to avoid the critical need to directly fund public education. We strongly oppose such half measure to resolving the crisis of underfunding of education, which is only capable of aggravating the crisis by placing families on the brink of poverty caused by indebtedness.
“At present students of tertiary institutions are grappling with the wave of fee increment emerging across campuses. At Adekunle Ajasin University; Obafemi Awolowo University; University of Ibadan; Ladoke Akintola University and University of Ilorin, the character and pangs of increment in fees are essentially the same across these campuses.
“Confronted with a government that exhibits little concern for funding of public education, school authorities are wholly shifting the burden of funding public education on poorly-paid parents and sponsors through a litany of bogus and unaffordable fees.
“Despite the lip-services paid to declaration of state of emergency in the education sector by the Federal Executive Council, the Buhari-led FEC only proposed a miserly N605.8 billion or 7% budgetary allocation to the education sector in the 2018 appropriation bill. 7% budgetary allocation to education was a far cry away from the 26% budgetary allocation recommended by UNESCO.
“It is therefore commendable that ASUU’s reasons for this current strike action include the opposition of the union to the reintroduction of tuition fees and education bank. Poor working class families should never have to bear the burden of government’s irresponsibility!
“Over and over again, we have been vindicated in the ERC that it is in the best interest of the Nigerian society to fund public education from public purse; as this is the only practical way of building solid socio-economic foundation in a neo-colonial economy like Nigeria. In the 70s and 80s, the issues that are being raised by ASUU today, were championed by the Nigeria’s students’ movement.
“Unfortunately, the collapse of the national students’ movement has denied students the platform to articulate their demands for an education system that is quality and free, hence the litany of attacks on students in form of fee hikes and undemocratic clamp-down on their rights to organize in Students’ Unions. However, we shall continue in the ERC to mobilize vibrant students’ activists around demands for a properly funded and democratically-controlled public education. On this principle, we fully support and solidarise with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in this ongoing struggle to save public education”, ERC concluded.