Mass movement against education cuts, mass unemployment, pro-rich looting and obnoxious electoral laws
The Education Rights Campaign, a front of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (a newly formed pro-working people’s political alternative)/Democratic Socialist Movement in the students’, youth and education workers’ movements is currently mobilizing for a National Day of Action on Education and Jobs on June 19, 2013.There is no other period but now that workers, students and youth must unite and resist the waves of attacks on education and the beast of poor wages and mass unemployment.
WORKING CLASS FIGHTBACK IN THE EDUCATION SECTOR
Education in Nigeria today is in shambles. Less than 26 percent of the country’s total budget is allocated to education. In the current 2013 budget, a meager N71.9 billion naira is allocated to the entire education sector. This cut in social spending on education is part of the neo-liberal programme of the ruling class to entrench privatization, commercialization and liberalization. The outcome is cuts in pay and remuneration for education workers, collapse of infrastructure n government-owned educational institutions and collapse of the education sector in general.
The challenge before education workers, students and youth is to organize and resist this degenerate situation and demand full funding of the education sector under the democratic control of education workers and students’ themselves.
Interestingly, the workers’ unions in the education sector have taken the lead in the mass fight back. For instance, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) embarked on a seven-day nationwide warning strike to press demands for improved way and the rehabilitation of polythenic education. Most of the polytechnics, which should be the breeding ground for expansion of technology, are in a state of disrepair. Students and youth in the polytechnics as well as other tertiary institutions must give concrete support to the strike action of Poly lecturers and mobilise mass actions in support.
Another arena of developing struggle is the growing opposition against the planned scrapping of NECO and UTME. This is itself is part of the Orosanye Committee, which came up with a report with a bundle of obnoxious reforms in the education sector including the introduction of N500,000.00 tuition fees in tertiary institutions in Nigeria!
The initial step of proclaiming the proposed scrapping of NECO and UTME is a preparation to launch the salvo of tuition fees introduction. Working people, students and youth must be prepared to resist this onslaught. Interestingly, the Nigerian Union of Teachers has publicly denounced the proposal. It has equally put out a strike notice against defaulting states that are yet to pay the Teachers’ Salary Scale agreed to by all the states and Federal Government with NUT.
The NUT must be prepared not only to threaten government with strike notices but mobilise its members in mass actions to resist these attacks. Equally, the branch of Non-Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities and Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) in NECO and JAMB have cried out that 3,000 jobs will be lost if the two institutions are scrapped.
To initiate the beginning of a solid mass fight-back against these education attacks, the ERC calls on education unions, workers, students and youths to join the June 19,2013 National Day of Education and Jobs as a starting point of a united mass movement to transform society.
ATTACKS ON DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS OF STUDENTS
The ongoing attacks on education is also taking place alongside wave of education is also taking place alongside wave of attacks on the democratic rights of students. Pro-state university managements acting the script of their ruling class paymasters in implementing policies of hostel privatization and denial of students’ rights have subjected students’ activists to heartless victimization.
The most tragic is the latest unlawful and unjustifiable suspension of Michael Ogundele, a young student activist and Secretary of the Democratic Socialist Movement in University of Ibadan. The university authorities in an heartless demonstration of willful injustice, suspended the young man, who has been a leading student activist, campaigning against the mass closure of hostels against students for the purpose of privatization. The suspension was based on the trumped-up charge of “examination malpractice” without any record in that regard whatsoever. In fact, the letter inviting him to the Panel that handed down the inhuman verdict was to question him on the roles he played in the protest against hostel privatization.
Another disheartening scenario is at Obafemi Awolowo University where the university authorities have developed the hobby of witch-hunting students’ activists campaigning for the restoration of the Students’ Union. Students must be prepared to build a mass campaign for the reinstatement of victimized students’ activists and for the restoration of their unions as mass fighting platforms against education attacks. Equally, the proposed N500, 000 tuition fees drawn up by the Oronsaye Committee, which is being partially introduced by the planned scrapping of NECO and JAMB must be resisted. Therefore all genuine change-seeking students and activists should join the June 19 National Day of Action for Education and Jobs to initiate the mass fight back against all these attacks.
FIGHTING FOR DECENT JOBS
Another emerging front of mass struggle is the growing mass resistance against the explosive rate of unemployment. For instance, early April, youths in Bayelsa State organized mass protest actions for jobs in Yenagoa, the state capital. However, they were arrested and harassed by the police. Recently, a particular group, Group of Unemployed Nigerians organized mass protest for jobs in Abuja. All this shows the over-ripen mood for mass struggle for decent jobs.
This must be linked to a comprehensive political programme of building a working people’s political alternative that will put the commanding heights of the economy under collective ownership and implement a massive public works programme to create decent decent jobs on a living wage.
The National Day of Action for Education and Jobs on June 19 will attempt to draw change-seeking youths protesting for jobs as a starting point for all-rounded mass movement to kick out all the sections of the looting elite from power and enthrone a revolutionary working people’s government to take the economy into collective ownership and generate genuine and decent jobs.
BUILDING A GENUINE WORKING PEOPLE’S POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE AND RESISTING OBNOXIOUS LAWS
This mass movement must be linked with the building of a genuine pan-Nigerian working people’s political alternative rooted on a democratic socialist programme embracing workers, education unions, students, youth and the poor. Education unions and the entire trade union movement must build a new, mass-based fighting genuine working people’s political alternative on a socialist programme. This must be with the preparation of rank-and-file workers to reclaim their unions and channel its resources into building such a new, broad-based, mass-oriented working people’s political alternative.
As a step in this direction, the Education Rights Campaign as a front of the Socialist Party of Nigeria, calls on workers, youth and the poor to join the Socialist Party of Nigeria in linking the struggles of education unions and workers, students and youth for democratic rights, fully-funded and free education and jobs to the struggle to take political power. Further in this direction, workers, youth and students must be prepared to resist the obnoxious provisions including the new 1 million naira exorbitant fees for party registration, deregistration of political parties, stiff conditions for party registration among others.
This is with the view of expanding the democratic and electoral space for working class candidates to stand in elections on a clear democratic socialist programme. Workers, students and youth should therefor join the SPN to build it as a mass fighting pro-working people’s political alternative.