The strike embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) has entered its 11th week. For many people, particularly students and youths, this summarizes the failure of the Buhari-led regime. The Non-Academic Staff Union and Allied Educational Institutions (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) have also extended their warning strike due to the Federal Government’s continued silence over the unions’ demands. The lackadaisical attitude of the ruling class or to better put it, their perversity to neoliberal reforms in public education has put the lives of many in jeopardy.
Clearly, education (for the popular masses) is not a priority for the Nigeria Government at all levels. That is self-evident in the approach of successive governments to education funding particularly in the 4th republic era.
Each regime from 1999, has done everything to impose neoliberal programs of gross cuts in funding to public education. That has forced many children and wards of poor and working-class families out of school.
Also, the furtherance of such anti-student programs by the Federal Government often led to the closure of campuses where such attacks have been met with mass resistance. The grand negligence of public education by successive governments shows that the ruling class organized in the ruling parties is never interested in developing the country. Clearly, education is the bedrock upon which we build any sustainable society.
It is noteworthy to point out that the government is responsible for the recurring nature of the strikes in the higher institutions. For instance, the ongoing strike actions by ASUU, SSANU, and NASU can be largely attributed to failure of the current regime to honor previously reached agreements. The Buhari-led regime similar to its predecessor lacks a commitment to improving the education sector. The current regime has consistently demonstrated its lack of strength and will to end the strike.
At the heart of the current ASUU disagreement with the Federal Government, is the question of payment system for the university teachers. The preferred University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) was prepared by ASUU.
The Federal Government’s hostility to the UTAS system, reveals the disingenuity of a regime that shut borders at poor working-class people on a faux claim; “promote local production and consumption”. But more importantly the UTAS system scored average of 97% in integrity tests conducted by the government, that makes more credible over the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
The IPPIS system will be a dent on university and academic autonomy. The IPPIS system is not only problematic to academic staff but also to students and the Nigeria education system as whole. It will further put public education in shambles. Where the IPPIS has been implemented, there are reports of irregularities, third party deductions and delay in payment. The IPPIS system also present a conduit pipe to further enrich the bosses. The fact that the Federal Government is adamant on IPPIS is a clear indication that the ruling class will always place their profit over the need of workers and youth as far as we allow it.
The students in universities, polytechnics and colleges have also embarked on several protests and demonstrations against anti-student policies and negligence by the school management or government in the seven years.
The power in working-class people’s unity and solidarity come to bear, when mass of University of Benin students struck against imposition of a #20,000 late registration fee. It must be noted that, it is not just the reality of our struggle that demands unity in action of the workers and students. Our history has demonstrated how crucial is the unity and solidarity of students and workers.
The education workers and particularly ASUU are perhaps the last forte of poor and working-class people’s resistance against neoliberal impulsion. The ASUU strike will be effective as much as we rally at the workers agitation for proper funding public education, adequate welfare for the education workers, and academic autonomy among others. Socialist Workers and Youth League (SWL) remain in solidarity with the striking workers, and as we do say, Workers and Youth! Unite and Fight!!
by Lai Brown