... Nigerian students prepare for resistance!

by Lai Browne

OAU-Students-Hijack-Campus-In-BringBackOurFees-BattleThe Buhari-led federal government has introduced some reform programmes in response and reaction to the current economic crisis in the nation, many of which are largely anti-workers. These anti-poor reforms include the electricity bill hike which the government will be introducing at the beginning of 2016 and the removal of the fuel subsidy. A major anti-poor reforms, which will have devastating effects on families of working class-people is in the form of further attacks on public education.

We must not forget that the past government equally made terrific attacks on education by increasing the school fees of all federal institutions of learning. These made many Nigerian youths with brilliant minds from working class backgrounds to drop out of school. This wicked situation does not only affect the youths thus forced out of school. It also hinders social, economic and political development of society as a whole.

Already a teeming number of graduates are not gainfully employed yet. With more youths dropping out of universities and colleges drop with little or no skills to apply for jobs, robbery, cybercrime, and many other social vices amongst the youth will further increase. This is a chain reaction and inevitable consequentiality when the system/government fails in it social responsibilities to the students and youth.

This lack of concern of the government to the needs youth/students has been largely resisted, with huge protests and rallies in protest against hikes in school fees in various campuses across the nation.  Even as at now many organised youth/students’ organisations and platforms are still taking political action. The Socialist Youth League (SYL) has been at the fore of championing this cause, demanding the total reversal of the school fees and unconditional reinstatement of suspended student activists including Olawale Owolabi (Ogunruku) from OAU. We have equally been relentless in fighting for the reinstatement of all proscribed students’ unions, including OAU Students’ Union.

As if the situation which we have been fighting against is not bad enough in preventing the children and wards of the poor working masses from getting quality education, the APC federal and states governments now intend to embark on more attacks on public education. This time around the attacks promise to be more devastating as they not only apply to higher institutions, but to education at all levels.

All federal universities and colleges have staff schools which provide qualitative education to the children and wards of workers in these institutions, even many at times these staff schools accept wards and children from outside the university community. The schools provide qualitative education at relatively subsidized fees. But recently the federal government has embarked on moves to deregulate these federal institutions of learning by making the host institutions of these staff schools their private proprietors.

This anti-working people action is indefensible. If we allow the government to get away with this, the staff schools will be run as private investment of the host institutions. And as many federal institutions run their private investment, in which they put profit before the needs of the working people and students, same would be done to the staff schools. In order to make more profits the management of the host institutions will reduce all the teaching and non-teaching staff in these schools and introduce harsh measures and furthering casual employment of new workers that will accept low payment.

With the high rate of unemployment, there will be many poor working class-people that will be ready to take up such low-paying casual jobs. These could be devastating as non-qualified hands could be employed and the quality of education provided by these institutions would drop. Also many pupils and students would drop out of school when they can’t afford the school fees anymore.

SYL and other radical students’ organisations will join the trade unions of workers in the staff schools in resisting these anti-people measures. The needs of the masses must be put before the profit-interest of the bosses. The students and working people have never gained from the system so we must not pay for the failures of the system. This attack on education is dangerous not only to the Nigerian students but to the working people as a whole. There is need for all Nigerian students, workers, parents and guardians to organize with us to join in the fightback against these absurd reforms and neoliberal attacks on education.