Socialist Workers and Youth League (SWL) fully supports the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in its strike for the implementation of the 2009 FGN-ASUU Collective Agreement bearing on enhanced remuneration for the lecturers and improved funding for the development of tertiary education.
There can be no gainsaying the fact that education plays a very pivotal role in economic growth and social development. The result of failed capitalist policies has been a parlous economy for working-class people, while the few rich revel in the wealth labour creates. A severe social crisis marked by rising crime, mass disillusionment and hitherto unthinkable spread of suicides further reinforces the depths of the abyss poor people in Nigeria have been thrown into.
The collapse of our education system is one of the major reasons for this dire situation. The political elites and the bosses are care free about the education of the wards and children of poor working people. The interests of the political elites and the bosses’ class as a whole, is maximizing profit. They care less about the needs of the masses or even the growth of Nigeria as a nation.
The anti-workers’ socio-economic policies and political manipulation of the ruling class bears witness to the aforementioned fact. Available wealth in the country is more than enough to provide free and quality education to all and sundry. Education must be a right, and not a privilege. Unfortunately, the Nigerian state always allocates paltry portions of the annual national budgets to the education sector year in year out while, huge percentages of the nation’s commonwealth are used to service the politicians, including the outrageous salaries and allowances of legislators yearly. To put it more correctly, Nigeria legislators are criminally remunerated. The most unfortunate part is that this is a nation that has one of the lowest minimum wage in the world.
Clearly there’s an ocean of distance between the rich few and the working masses, there are just a handful of millionaires and billionaires, compared to over a hundred million pauperized working people. An average law maker for example earns not less than N29m monthly, while the minimum wage in Nigeria remains a meagre sum of N18,000 monthly. This means a worker must work for at least 100 years to earn what a law maker will take home in a month, this is so outrageous.
Clearly, if lawmakers’ salaries are reduced by at least 70% the lawmakers earning will still be one of the highest anywhere in the world. If this amount is ploughed into the needed funding of the education sector which has just 6% of the 2017 budgetary allocation there will be an amelioration of the crises in the sector.
Public education in the country is in shambles. This is because of years of neglect on the part of the government. The 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement borne out of ASUU’s demands for improvement of funding for the sector was meant to address this worrisome situation. It is important to note that within this 8 years, the government at all levels introduced some anti-student policies/reforms or the other into the education sector.
The most dangerous of these reforms is the that aimed at the “self-sufficiency” of the institutions of learning as if they deal in trading of goods or services for profit. What this actually translates into is the commercialization of education, thus outpricing it out of the reach of wards and children of poor working-class people.
This is done at all levels of the education sector. From 2010 down to 2016, governments have sporadically increased the tuition fees of the public institutions of learning. In 2016, the secondary level unity schools’ fees were increased. Similarly, higher institutions such as OAU, UNİPORT, IMSU, etc. suffered the same fate. Despite all these; there has been no fundamental improvement in the quality of education, rather, the situation is worse than what was obtainable before 2009. This failure is as a result of the selfish material interest of the few rich comprising the political elites and bosses’ class in general.
It is now very clear that the federal government did not enter the 2009 agreement in good faith even as it bowed to the collective workers’ power of the ASUU strike. ASUU fulfilled its end of the agreement by immediately calling off its strike action that year. This was borne out of the lecturers’ concern for the students, which was why they did not call for implementation by government before calling of the strike, despite the federal government’s infamous history of reneging on agreements.
Eight years after, the Federal government still fails to fulfil its end of the 2009 agreement, thereby pushing ASUU back into another political action and putting the learning activities of students in jeopardy. Despite the terrible situation of the education sector, the best solution the elites can come up with is the total commercialization of the education.
This is evident in the Economic Programme for Recovery and Growth (EPRG) of the federal government that calls for the privatisation of the remaining public asset including education and health. Putting things in perspective, if the education sector is privatized, at least 70% of the currently enrolled students across the nation are likely to drop out.
We, in the Socialist Workers and Youth League (SWL) condemn the insensitivity of governments at all levels toward the education of the wards and children of the working class. We thereby demand that the federal government should prepare an emergency supplementary budget allocation to education sector and settle all the provisions of the 2009 agreements.
We call on NLC, TUC and their affiliate unions including the students to give maximum support to ASUU’s ongoing actions. This is not a fight for ASUU alone, it affects our collective destinies because it is evidently an attack on all the masses. This ASUU strike is not unconnected to the numerous socio-political attacks on the poor working people. An injury to one is an injury to all, and victory for ASUU id victory for the working-class as a body.
We call on ASUU to stir up the momentum of its collective action, and take it beyond a sit-at-home strike. It should rather be backed by rallies and popular protests across the country. We welcome the intention of other unions in the universities including SSANU and NASU to join on strike. Indeed, all unions in the sector should collectively fight to salvage education for the poor. ASUP, COEASU, NUT, SSANIP and progressive students’ unions should stand as one on strike and in mobilising popular support for the strike with demonstrations in communities where schools are situated and nationally.
Frances Akinjole Lai Brown
National Chairperson National Secretary