• NLC Must Declared for 48-hour General Strike.
  • 23.5% Pay Increased Unacceptable – NASU Chair

By Bestman Michael

The role of workers and students in the struggle to achieve better funding of public education in Nigeria was the theme of the symposium organized by the Ajegunle branch of the Movement for A Socialist Alternative (MSA).

The symposium was held on Saturday 17th of September, 2022 started off with a little pessimism of a sunny day and a fine weather laced with a tinge of hope for a possible mass turnouts by our invitees, which gradually disappeared just at the time the public symposium drew nearer with a sudden heavy downpour of rain.

But lucky was on our side both students and workers numbering 23 had already joined physically and virtually (zoom) inclusive of three of our guest speakers: Dr Felix Ajiola, a lecturer from the history department, University of Lagos, Comrade Oyediwura Adedayo (NASU chairperson, OAU) and AJ Dagga Tolar

The discussion centred on the strike actions by the University workers’ that have lasted for over 200-days due to the government’s failure to implement the agreement it entered with the university workers dating back to the 2009 strike action.

The lead speaker, Dr Felix Ajiola began with an overview of the poor funding and how this irresponsible act of government is responsible for the crises in the educational sector. Public education is endangered and may cease to exist in the coming years. Illustrating his points with historical evidence. He stated that this has led to a brain-drain in the country, especially among younger academics.

However, in 2011 and through 2022. The salaries of university workers have dwindled. There was no more dignity in the labour of university workers. Government is consciously acting to destroy public education; of course with the aim, he said is “to keep a people down. He continued. “It is to keep them uneducated and misinformed”.

Speaking on the budgetary funding to education by the government, Dr, Ajiola faulted the poor allocation to the education sector by successive governments.

The current budgetary allocation to public education by the Buhari government for instance is about 5.4% of the national budget, which is abysmally poor compares to the benchmark of over 20% to be allocated as recommended.

Speaking on the way out of this incessant strike actions. He urges the masses to support the Academic Staff Union of the Universities and challenge the government to fund education appropriately. That is by curbing corruption and wasteful spending of the country’s hard earn resources.

During his speech, the lecturer quoted the current Minister for Information Lai Mohammed when (they, APC) were still in opposition in 2013 who says “what we are saying is that if the Federal Government would reduce its profligacy and cut waste, there will be enough money to pay teachers in public universities, as well as fund research and upgrade infrastructure in institutions.”

Meanwhile, Comrade Oyediwura Adedayo, highlighted the state of poor and dilapidated infrastructures in public universities. The ASUU agreement dates back to 2009 (13 years now), and how the government has failed to implement it. He pointed out that the federal government is deceitful and unbothered about the state of public education in the country.

In addition, he clarified that NASU’s suspension of its strike was an attempt to see if the government will be sincere with the agreement by implementing the agreement. Up till date, he complained that the government is yet to fulfil its part.

According to comrade Oyediwura, ASUU is justified for the strike it embarked. And the FG has not shown sincerity to meet unions’ demands and implement policies adequate funding of education in Nigeria.

He also spoke about the undemocratic management of the resources over the years from Tetfund and access to the NEED assessment fund too. He called for the establishment of the desk offices of the NEED assessment and TETfund to be located in various institutions for easy access and management of it. 

The NASU chairperson condemned the proposed 23.5 per cent salary increase and said it is unacceptable. Added that, by the time tax and other deductions are made; workers will be left nothing tangible to sustain them.

He used the opportunity to call on the Nigerian students to join the struggle with the unions to call on the government to release the White paper on the visitation panel report and improve funding for the education sector.

He reiterated that the current ruling elites who occupy public offices are products of free and quality education. But now, they have their children schooling abroad while they are underfunding public universities in Nigeria. 

Comrade Dagga Tolar spoke extensively on the role of students/workers generally. That is in term of funding education and for a socialist economy. In his perspective, he interlinked the educational crises with other sectors of the economy on how everything is systematically connected and the deterioration is caused by capitalism. Adding the a national and global scale of capitalism.

He mentioned how in this state of economic vulnerability, the trade and labour unions should declare for 48-hour general strike. For him, politics is important and it has role in struggles . Thus: he also spoke about the Labour Party and the Peter Obi candidacy and how his programmes, as well as other candidates, is not different from what we’ve had over the years in Nigeria. This is in terms of the commercialisation and privatisation philosophy of the ruling class.

Ultimately, he concluded that there is a need to struggle and only through the united strength of the working class can the overthrow of capitalism be achieved especially in this global flux of imperialism, which according to Lenin, is the highest stage of capitalism. So, the need to raise the socialist banner and class struggle high is the way out. 

There were however contributions from comrades both online and physically. First, it was Comrade Olamide from Ife who had spoken about the death of industrialisation and rapid backwardness in Nigeria amidst extensive discoveries and space exploration.

In short, it shows that the country is geometrically moving into barbarism. And, adding to this statistically. Comrade Bilal spoke about the dwindling percentages allocated to the educational sector since 2010— proof that the Nigerian government is barely ready to improve or fund public education within the 26% budget benchmark as stipulated by UNESCO.

Meanwhile, Comrade Sylvester spoke about how poverty has been weaponised as a basis for keeping the masses below survival instincts. The educational crises, for him, are transcendental: say, how primary, secondary, and even tertiary education have collapsed. Little few or no teachers on the ground, overcrowded classrooms, and so on.

However, Comrade Adams briefly reiterated the need for a collective struggle among university workers: ASUU, NASU, and the other unions to unify the struggle for the interest of the Nigerian educational sector

As part of the tradition, the introduction of the SOLIDARITY paper of the Movement for a Socialist Alternative MSA and what we stood for was done and two copies of the paper were sold at the venue. And interestingly the sum of N1650 was raised as a struggle fund. The branch also has as part of its planned activities, another symposium in the community for October 1st to discuss the 2023 general elections and the hope of the ordinary masses in the options available.