NUT/ASUSS: TEACHERS MUST UNITE FOR IMPROVED LIVING CONDITIONS
On Wednesday 10th February 2021, the national leadership of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, in the person of Mike Ike Ene, the Secretary-General of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, organised a Press Conference at the Secretariat of the Lagos State Council of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, Ikeja, Lagos. The press conference was used to address the raging issue among teachers over a new trade union, described as the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools’ Teachers (ASUSS) that split from the Nigerian Union of Teachers.
The background of the feud between the Nigerian Union of Teachers and the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools’ Teachers (ASUSS) started two years ago. It was led by Samuel Omaji, who with other teachers initiated ASUSS over issues that centre on elections, administration and other trade union matters.
It will be noted that the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS) lost the matter filed at the Federal High Court Abuja challenging the creation of the union while the appeal by ASUSS suffered dismissal at the Court of Appeal, because of the trade union law that recognizes NUT as the only body organising teachers across the country.
And as a consequence, NUT National Leadership assured that it will continue to put teachers interest first before any other.
BUILDING A UNITED STRUGGLE OF RANK AND FILE TEACHERS
The Movement for A Socialist Alternative, or for group of workers to form a union, but what is needed that such a union to be democratically controlled by the rank and file of workers.
However, in this situation where splits are led from the existing trade unions by the same trade union bureaucrats without involvement of a majority of rank-and-file teachers to upholds that it is a democratic rights to belong to a UNION. This will not help the health and growth especially in the face of attempts by the state to divide the rank-and-file workers in the teaching profession.
The question to ask in the event of splits is that, does it address the challenges of poor underfunding of public schools or improve teachers living condition? Where the honest answer is NO Marxists posit that the rank-and-file teachers in both primary and secondary schools must unite and reclaim their union as a democratically-run and fighting working-classorganisation to resist anti-worker government policies.
Rank-and-file teachers in primary or secondary schools should not see themselves as superior to the other. Rather, they should give priority to how the union raise concrete demands for the best interest of teachers against overburdening workers, poor facilities, unpaid allowances etc directly affecting the profession. That said, the MSA challenges rank-and-file teachers to view the recent Court of Appeal decision in favour of the NUT as an opportunity to fight for union democracy.
STRUGGLE NEEDED TO SAVE PUBLIC EDUCATION
This will be with the view of forging a united rank-and-file teachers’ campaign against neo-liberal policies of underfunding of public education. In the 2021 budget, education was allocated a meagre 6.3%.
The crisis of public education in Nigeria is heart-rending. Recently, the Lagos State Government commenced the process of recruiting 2000 teachers out of the 18000 applicants. This sounds like a relief for the already overburdened teachers, but the real truth is that it is not. The 2000 recruits are not even enough for one local government, compared to the statistics of teachers retiring every year.
Statistically, according to Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, in Primary schools alone, there are shortages of 277, 593 teachers in Nigeria. The same report raises the issue of underfunding of saying “73% of teachers in public” schools are overburdened.
There is also the out the report of school children dropping from 10 million to 6 million in 2020. However, UNICEF speaks the otherwise saying “about 10.5 million children aged 5-14 years are not in school. Only 61 per cent of 6-11 year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6% of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.”
Realistically, in many of the public schools, the classrooms are overcrowded. The government no longer erect new structures. What they simply do is rehabilitation, which in budgetary allocation is equivalent to erecting new schools. Even the ones that the government claim to build, lack adequate infrastructures and modern laboratory facilities.
It is only by uniting the working class in the trade unions and forging a political alternative on a socialist programme that public education will be saved.
In this light, workers in the teaching profession should also see the importance of taking full control of the union, to democratically manage it by initiating campaigns, setting up action and plan committees to organise themselves in challenging the neo-liberal policies of capitalism.
And also to forge a working-class political alternative on the socialist programme of democratic management and control of the commanding heights of the economy under the control of workers and the oppressed masses like in the education sector.