Article from www.nigeriasolidarity.org --- Campaign for Democratic and Workers' Rights in Nigeria


Below is the text of a leaflet that was distributed during the ERC Day of Action took place in two campuses (University of Ibadan, Oyo State and Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State) and in two communities: Agege and Ajegunle, both in Lagos, on July 20.

The College of Education Ilesha, Osun State held their own activities on July 21, while ERC activists in Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife will hold their major activities: a symposium, tabling and "room to room" and "class to class" circulation of leaflets, on July 25. Dr. Dipo Fashina, the immediate past national president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU); will be a major speaker at the OAU symposium.

The second phase of this campaign will be held soon in University of Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State; Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Ondo state; University of Port Harcourt, Rivers state and Ambrose Ali University, Benin Edo State.



Education in Shambles

Arrest the Decay: A Clarion Call on Students, Workers and Youths for a “Rescue Mission”!

Leaflet of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC)

22 July 2006


Education is in shambles! Yes, this is no news. But we must not worship this accomplished fact. What is imperative is to arrest the decay. This is the clarion call on students, youths, workers and pro-masses individuals and organisations to save public education from total collapse. The situation is not yet beyond redemption, what is required is the concrete action from all to wrest its control and improve it. Today we are mourning the ailing education sector, no thanks to the unwholesome policies of privatisation and commercialisation of successive governments, but heightened by the current Obasanjo regime. A “siddon look” approach or mere lamentation could only worsen the situation. We must rise up today, lest the situation becomes “crying over spilt milk”.

Unfortunately, however, Nigerian students, at present, lack a fighting organ. The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has become moribund. Today, the once vibrant national student body, which used to be a bulwark of resistance for students and masses, has not only become “homo mortus”, but also, there are about five irritant factions that currently scavenge on its carcass. These different groups, who look more monstrous than “five fingers of a leprous hand”, are mere mercenaries at the disposal of different self-serving politicians or anti-poor political parties. Thus, it is not accidental that the so-called NANS, irrespective of factions, cannot genuinely defend the rights and interests of students and poor masses.

As part of this campaign to save education from the stranglehold of anti-poor policies and corrupt politicians and administrators, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls on students to agitate for a new fighting, democratic national student body that truly defends the rights of students and poor masses to quality education at all levels and other basic needs of life. Such student body that must not be susceptible to the influence of corrupt politicians should consistently initiate and support struggles of workers, students, youths and poor masses against anti-poor neo-liberal economic reforms in all its forms.

SORRY STATE OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

All indices on the state of Nigeria's education continue to show red signals, let us see just the tip of the iceberg:

The allocation to education in Nigeria is only better than that of Somalia, a war-devastated country with no central government. Less than 20% of candidates seeking university admission are admitted. There is 52% shortfall of academics in universities. There are more Nigerians teaching in universities in America than in Nigeria. No Nigerian university is ranked among the first 50 in Africa, let alone the first 6000 in the world. Most primary and secondary schools are over-crowded with more than 100 pupils per class/teacher, as against 35 recommended by the UNESCO. As at 2005, about 62% of Nigerian children of primary school age were out of schools; while 17% of those in school could not complete primary education.



A typical classroom
But why the defining feature of education sector of a country, which has not only accrued well over $400bn from the sales of crude oil alone in the last three decades but also at present makes as high as $190million from the same commodity, is so terrifying? The reason is no mystery. The anti-poor neo-liberal economic reforms, imperialist domination and chronic corruption are largely responsible. The neo-liberal economy philosophy that entails privatisation, commercialisation, cuts in social spending, etc has meant that government does not adequately fund education and other basic social needs like health care despite the availability of the required resources. Rather, government commits huge public resources to gratification of the insatiability of the world imperialism and the grasping instinct of various sections/elements of the parasitic ruling elite, and wastages like globe-trotting, Nigeria Image Project, Tokunbo (fairly used) presidential jet, etc. For instance, Nigeria which is dotted with despicable or non-existing infrastructure, recently paid to the Paris Club a huge sum of $12.4 billion besides the outrageous and dubious consultancy charges running into several millions of dollar. This for a relief on a largely fictitious debt, originally put at $13.5 billion, but which had earlier attracted repayment of $42 billion.

Besides the under funding of education, the little available resources either “evaporate” on transit or grow wings right in the schools/institutions. The twin monster of under funding and corruption has meant that most schools lack adequate and well equipped facilities like libraries, laboratories, classrooms, hostels, etc. There is also problem of little or no provision of essential needs like potable water, constant power supply, good health care, etc. As a result students are made to cough up outrageous fees to procure the facilities for the schools and pay obnoxious charges for the provision of the essential services. Yet to the government the contribution of parents, who are daily sapped by its anti-poor economic reforms, is not enough. The National Universities Commission (NUC) has said that by 2008, tuition will be added to the already long list of prohibitive fees being charged. The morale of education workers, both teaching and non-teaching, is low due to poor welfare package and absence of necessary working tools. The situation is such that if they are not on strike, they are beating the drum of imminent industrial action, in order to press home their legitimate demand for improvement in living and working conditions.

PRIVATE EDUCATION NOT THE SOLUTION

Having rendered public education prostrate, the government provides enabling atmosphere for mushrooming of profit driven private schools/institutions that charge exorbitant fees. Some of the private educational institutions, particularly the tertiary ones, are established by government officials (Obasanjo, Atiku, etc) and lackeys from the looted public funds. But the private concern in education has not represented quality and functional education. Indeed, most of them are worse than public schools in terms of facilities and personnel, despite charging prohibitive fees. Most private secondary schools only attract enrolment or patronage because of their policy thrust that supports examination malpractices. At the tertiary level, the situation is not different. The Sunday Sun Newspaper of July 9, 2006 in its editorial, relying on the outcome of the recent accreditation exercise conducted by the NUC, wrote that the status of the academic staff of many departments in most of the privately owned universities could be aptly described as “bottom heavy”. Quoting the paper, “This implies that such departments lack the requisite number of experienced senior academic staff, from the rank of senior lecturer onwards, to teach the various courses”.

ADEQUATE FUNDING OF EDUCATION - A SOCIAL OBLIGATION OF GOVERNMENT

With the anti-poor neo-liberal economic reform, Obasanjo government has made education a “cash and carry” commodity. Whereas, it is universally acknowledged and a proven fact that education is a basic social need and an essential lever for the full development of individuals and the society. Thus, funding of education from the collectively owned resources of the nation by a state is a wise investment in its growth and development. In other words, funding of education is a social responsibility of the government.



NANS Zone D/ISR May 15 2002 Day of Action: Mass Action
Needed to Save Education
Apparently accepting education as a social obligation, the Nigerian Constitution in the Chapter 2 Section 18 provides for free education at all levels, however with a dubious proviso, “as and when practicable”. The ERC strongly avers that with huge resources at disposal of government the provision of not only free but also functional and quality education is possible and imperative. The obstacle, as earlier argued, is the neo-liberal economic philosophy espoused by Obasanjo government and ingrained corruption characteristic of its functionaries.

However, the government has been feigning commitment to education at least with the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme which promises to provide free and functional education up till the junior secondary school level and the related United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that is aimed at achieving primary education for all children by the year 2015, among other targets. In reality, though, the UBE since its inception in the first term of Obasanjo government has recorded no fundamental achievement. Aside one or two blocks of classrooms built in completely dilapidated schools, the UBE has been best serving as a public relation stunt for the government and another avenue for some members of ruling parties, as the case may be, to have their own share of public loot through fictitious or inflated contracts. The failure of the programme was so pervasive that the Federal Ministry of Education was forced to confess in September 2005 that about 7.3 million children, 62% of primary school age, were out of the primary schools. Chinwe Obaji, the immediate past Minister of Education added at a United Nations function in Beijing, China in November 2005 that even 17% of those who go to school do not complete Primary 6.

CONCERTED ACTION NEEDED - JOIN THE CAMPAIGN

In order to rescue this ugly situation of our education sector, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) in fulfilling its mission has launched a SAVE EDUCATION CAMPAIGN with rallies, protests, enlightenment exercise, etc to argue for both independent and joint actions of workers, students, pensioners, civil society organisations, pro-masses political parties, etc. with aim to struggle for adequately funded, democratically managed, free, functional and qualitative public education.

CARDINAL DEMANDS INCLUDE:

·    Massive funding of the education sector that could guarantee free, qualitative and functional public education at all levels
·    Democratization of decisions making bodies in all educational institutions and agencies to include elected representatives of education workers and students to ensure democratic management and equitable distribution of available resources
·    End to culture of victimization of worker and student activists.
·    A new fighting, democratic, independent zonal and national student movement that could genuinely defend and uphold the rights and interests of not only Nigerian students but also workers and poor masses.
·    Independent students' unions on our campuses without interference from school authorities and government.
·    Improved working and living conditions for education workers and enabling atmosphere conducive to learning for students.
·    End to neo-liberal policies of privatization, commercialization, retrenchment, liberalization, etc, all of which have made life more miserable for the vast majority of people.
·    Public Ownership of the commanding height of the economy under democratic control of workers and poor people in order to provide needed fund for free and qualitative education and other social services, as against such money going to private pockets of the rich and multinationals.
·    Working people party to wrest power from present self-serving thieving ruling elite at all levels and guarantee for the poor masses the basic needs of life such as education, health care, decent jobs, electricity, potable water, etc.