ON THE RISING HIKE IN FEES, STUDENT LOAN SCHEME, & YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT: WHAT WAY FORWARD FOR STUDENTS & YOUTHS?
ON THE RISING HIKE IN FEES, STUDENT LOAN SCHEME, & YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT: WHAT WAY FORWARD FOR STUDENTS & YOUTHS?
By Bestman Michael
Of the 24 years of ‘democracy’ in Nigeria, it is important to note that the lives of ordinary students, youths, and masses have been tailored towards grief and a vicious cycle of economic backlash. In a general and simple sense, the working masses— students and youths inclusively— are plunged into more degenerating crises from one regime to another.
Since the Tinubu presidency came into power, the effect of his neoliberal attacks on the working people has intensified. First, the removal of fuel subsidy that led to the outrageous increase in fuel pump price and transport fare; the 7.5% Value Added Tax on Diesel; the signing of the Student Loan Bill; and even an impending increase of the electricity tariff over 40% in July. Now, the cost of living barely keeps the living. Food items have drastically increased. Survival is slim. And, placing the weight of these attacks and economic crises on students and youths from poor working-class backgrounds, we need not much analogy to present the doom forced into their throats.
As if these crises were not enough, public universities nationwide have already increased tuition fees to over 100%, following the Student Loan Bill signed by the Tinubu regime. (https://saharareporters.com/2023/06/21/nigerians-condemn-outrageous-tuition-fees-hike-across-universities-unimaid-uniben-others)
If there is anything to learn from the Buhari regime’s backdrop, nothing fundamentally changes under the rottenness of the capitalist system. The backlash on students and youths has more than ever increased. Education, by the nature of these insensitive, anti-student and anti-poor policies, is commercialised and gradually pushed away from the reach of students from working-class homes— denying them access to free, quality, and functional education.
NANS and ORGANISED STUDENTS MUST resist ATTACKS ON STUDENTS ACTIVIST
Students living and learning conditions on campus and even in the community are nothing to write about. Nationally, we have seen continuous attacks by university management over students’ rights to unionism, activism, and even towards better welfare conditions.
In several institutions, the commercialisation of education takes a much clearer shape: you see working students and families pushed to the wall to pay heavily to attend a public institution, and when students defend the rights to education, they risk being expelled or asked to withdraw. In every aspect of the word, this should be resisted by students nationally.
In the University of Abuja, Cyprian Igwe was rusticated after calling for a demonstration and meeting over the fee hike; in Olabisi Onabanjo University, students have responded to the continuous attacks by the Agboola Johnson’s administration, who from the “no shoe, no entry” policy, increased transcripts fee from N8,000 to N40,000. Similarly, in the University of Benin, the Lilian Salami administration has pushed the same measure of dress policing on students; introduced rather tactically just days before the First Semester Exam 2023, a “No School Fees, No Exam” policy and just weeks into the Second Semester resumption, the school’s portal had stated an increase in tuition fee for freshers and returning students for the new academic session— amidst the economic crises working class families and students were forced into by the Buhari regime and intensified by the Tinubu presidency. However, students at the University of Benin must learn to consolidate their victory over the 20k late fee charge in 2021 and must organise to resist these continuous attacks by the management. In OAU, as well as other universities, students have protested the death of their colleagues over the degrading state of the health centres and hostels nationally. In UNILAG, students are forced to sign an indemnity form not to complain (protest) of any attacks whatsoever. We cannot hide from the trauma these vicious attacks have created on students and even families. In a more profound sense, some students fend for themselves. Those who work— paid peanuts or underpaid— as well as study at the same time to meet the demands of survival and even academic pursuits. This is a country with enough natural and mineral resources. Yet, over 133 million people live in multidimensional poverty as a result of the selfish interest and profit drive of the capitalist government.
Govt is Capable of Funding Education for Free at all Levels
While many of the university management have placed their reasons for increasing fees on lack of funding, it is important to note that it is not the duty of students to fund the university or should by no means lose their studentship for failure to pay fees or are they to pay heavily to access education. Besides, over the years, in the different periods that fees were increased, there has been little or no fundamental change or even improvement— the same chunk load of bad toilets, dilapidated classrooms, unconducive hostel and learning environment, rising insecurity on campus, poor infrastructures and laboratories that still dominate most public Nigerian universities, not to mention the state of public secondary and primary schools across the country.
In fact, we need not revisit the 2015 and 2019 manifesto of the Buhari regime to know that it was a complete failure over the eight years of his rule. Not even 30% of what was promised as it relates to education, health, and employment was ever done. Sadly, under the eight years of his regime, the economy has moved from one degrading mess into another. We have seen a series of strike actions from the Academic Staff Union of Universities, NASU,
Nigeria houses the highest rate of school dropouts in Africa— placing it on a 16.9% estimate. According to UNICEF, over 12.2 million children are out of school. And, if care is not taken, these figures are bound to rise geometrically with the current attack on public education. In 2016 alone, the WHO recorded 17,710 suicide cases. Now, statistically, it is estimated that 9.5% of 100,000 persons commit suicide— most factors are directly linked with a rotten economy that fails to serve the interest of the vast majority. This shows that in the coming period, these crises will have adverse effects both on the psychological, emotional, and even social state of working students, youths, and families.
The connection must be drawn: the government must adequately fund public education. It is much concerned with jamborees and wastes that it has left most of the commanding sectors of the economy to ruin by its continuous drive for profit and selfish interests. Recently, it was announced that the salary of “elected” public office holders would be increased by 114% amidst this crisis; senators were receiving holiday allowances accounting for millions. Yet, it is taking the government years to meet the ASUU demands to revitalise public education and the payment of workers’ salaries still owed by the government. While ASUU was on strike, state governors showcase their sons and daughters graduating from universities abroad.
Meanwhile, the budgetary allocation for education and health since the 24 years of democracy is barely up to 15%. Yet, the government spends trillions of dollars on debt-servicing, medical tourism, and towards their own selfish interest to loot and profit from the national treasury. At the same time, the economy crumbles and the working people rot. This is typical of a capitalist state and its international cohorts like the World Bank and IMF: a wheel of crises exploding at each steer.
The Students Loan Act Is Deceptive and Cannot Replace Adequate Funding for Education.
With the Student Loan Act, the implication amidst an economy not planned to cater for the basic needs of the working people more debt and debt crises will be accumulated and further pushed or inherited by the working class people. If education is free, qualitative, and accessible at all levels, which is possible, the need for a student loan to have access to education will not be there. Mind you, this is an economy on the brink of collapse as a result of the corrupt capitalist program — if it already has. This is a loan whose conditionalities before it is accessed are even beyond the reach of those from working-class homes. Students, youths, and working people nationally must awaken and resist these growing neoliberal capitalist policies. Get organised! With just a few months in power, the Tinubu presidency has shown it is no different from his predecessors in serving big businesses.
Working-class students, youths, and the masses should not be sold into the illusion that anything will or may improve under this system.
Any orientation toward the capitalist philosophy— of privatisation and commercialisation of the economy— offers only to serve the interest of big businesses and is only a pathway to doom. It is the resultant effect of the growing unemployment crisis in the country. With graduates churned out year in and year out, boasting of better living and working conditions is out of place in this economy.
Workers Must Organise to Take Democratic Control and Management
The economy’s wealth is under the control of 1% over the majority of people. It means profit over meeting the needs of the vast majority. It means more and more attacks will fall on students, youths, and masses, in general, should they fold their hands and watch. We have nothing to lose more than our chains. We, students, youths, farmers, and the working class in general, must take on the revolutionary road: we must organise, fight, unify our strengths and overthrow the system of capitalism towards a well-planned economy managed and democratically managed by workers— towards socialism. Thus, labour leaders must lead the struggle and take responsibility to harness all the issues confronting working-class students, youths, and the masses.
Therefore, the need for a broad student and youth platform to build, organise, struggle and unify their strength—as ENDSARS showed— becomes much clearer. It is a step in preparing students and youths—ideologically and politically— for why a systematic problem like capitalism is layered with so much rottenness. And, without a systematic change— that is, unifying the strength, building class consciousness towards the working class struggle and class militancy for socialism— the crises will further degenerate.
Hence, the Movement for a Socialist Alternative, through its student and youth front— Campaign for Student and Youths Rights— calls on all genuine change-seeking students and youths to join and build its campaign, demanding
1. Complete Reversal of All Fee Hike; Condemn any Increase in School Fee or Charges in whatever guise.
2. Immediate Reinstatement of All Rusticated Students by the School’s Management
3. Free, Quality, and Properly Funded Education
4. Better Welfare Conditions for Students & Youths Nationally
5. Immediate Payment of Teaching and Non-Teaching Academic Staff’ Salaries
6. Unemployment benefits, Students Studying allowance and Job Opportunities
7. Review and Implementation of the Minimum Wage
8. Nationalisation of the Commanding Heights of the Economy under Democratic Workers’ Control and Management.
9. For a Socialist Economy!