Tertiary Institution Workers and Students Fight Education Underfunding

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by Victor Lijofi

 

The academic and non-academic unions of state colleges organised under the Council of Academic Staff Unions of Osun State Tertiary Institutions (CASUOSTI) and Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) have in the last two years embarked on various actions to promote and agitate for better funding of education.

Their demands as provided in the various press releases issued by the unions include: rejection of the contributory pension scheme policy which has led to chaotic retirement of tertiary institution workers; immediate fulfilment of agreement on staffing (with priority for permanent employment of existing part-time and contract staffs); tax relief on consolidated allowances; immediate-payment of salary arrears and allowances, and; immediate remittance of all illegally withheld deductions from salaries which have resulted in penal interest on bank loans, paralysis of the workers’ credit societies and trade unions.

The workers in conjunction with the tertiary institution students have embarked on a series of political actions to educate members of the public about the underfunding of education. These actions have included press releases, mass protest and leafleting.

These helped boost popular support for the nine-month strike by polytechnic workers that ended in July 2014. The conscious neglect of the education sector by the Government has led the workers to another face-off with the Osun Government. For close to three months now, the State tertiary institutions workers have been on strike action.

In one of the protests led by the national leadership of the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) at Ilesa College of Education, the deputy national chair lamented on the uncaring attitude of the government.  He called on the union members to reinstate action over their demands. Students were also in attendance as a sign of their solidarity with the striking workers. Organisations like the Africa Movement for Freedom & Justice (AMFJ), Socialist Workers League (SWL) and Education Rights Campaign (ERC) were also in attendance.

Buhari has promised to increase the proportion of the government budget to be spent on education to 15%.  Mass struggle will be needed to achieve even this promise which is still well below the figure of 20% recommended by UNESCO.

Osun tertiary institution workers gained concessions on salary scales
implementation, recruitment of casual staffs through their struggles. The Osun striking workers should not sympathise with a section of the ruling class, for example, those PDP members defecting to the APC. The striking workers must step up efforts towards reaching out to the public to explain their demands for better funding of education.  These actions should be supported by the students.

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