We Support the Strike and Call on Government to avoid further disruption of academic calendar by meeting all demands
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) fully supports the decision of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NASU) to embark on a 5-day warning strike from Monday 16 January 2017 to compel the federal government to fully implement the tenets of the 2009 FGN/ Non Teaching Staff Union agreement.
In a press statement signed by Hassan Taiwo Soweto and Ibukun Omole, the National Coordinator and National Secretary respectively, ERC calls on the Buhari government to immediately meet the demands of the unions in order to stem this dangerous cycle of incessant closure of campuses and disruption of academic calendar which have become permanent features of public education under this government.
We believe that given the sordid conditions on campuses today characterized by low funding and inadequate teaching facilities, students, parents and the general public as a matter of necessity must support all struggles of the staff unions to challenge government to fulfill its social responsibilities. This is why we call for solidarity actions to back the struggle of these striking unions and demonstrate that the struggle to salvage public education is one that unites students, staff and the working class.
We also call on the striking unions in particular not to make this warning strike a mere sit-at-home action. As the ERC has pointed out repeatedly, a common mistake of past struggles waged by unions in the education sector as well as the wider labour movement is to mis-interpret the role of a warning strike thus mismanaging the potential that this kind of action has in detonating a bigger movement that can win concessions. To be clear, a warning strike is an action that presupposes the possibility of a bigger and longer action (s) in future especially if government remains intransigent. Therefore, a warning strike is a preparatory action whose essential purpose is to signal to the government that the workers are ready to fight but more importantly to prepare the fighting forces, educate them and mobilize them for the bigger struggles impending.
Therefore it is our view that this 5-day warning strike can only be adjudged successful if side by side with workers effectively withdrawing their services, public programs like congresses, mass meetings, symposium, rallies, media campaign and leafleting are organized. This kind of public activities will allow the unions to take their case to the students and the general public thus exposing government insincerity with a view to securing the support of the critical mass of the students and the working people which would prove useful if at some time later the unions are forced by continuous government intransigence to embark on indefinite strikes or actions of similar nature.
No doubt, the decision of the non-teaching staff unions to begin another warning strike, just about two months after the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) also shut down the public Universities, is a sad reminder that nothing has changed for the better in the education sector since the Buhari government came nearly two years ago. Rather in many ways, a lot has gone from bad to worse at primary, secondary and tertiary tiers of public education. Nearly two years after, there is no known plan or roadmap by the Buhari government to address the rot in the system. In many ways, it seems the ministry of education and the associated agencies are on auto pilot given recent controversies surrounding qualifications for admission into tertiary institutions.
Not only does the 2017 appropriation bill contain one of the lowest allocations to education in recent times, there have been too many closures of Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education over the past 19 months. Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) which has been shut for 8 months easily comes to mind. So do the University of Lagos, Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), University of Port-Harcourt (UNIPORT), Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba Akoko (AAUA) and others.
In addition, intolerance and readiness to suspend and expel students’ activists or sack workers leaders are on the rise. So also is the penchant to use security operatives to harass students and workers leaders. It will not amount to gainsaying to reach the conclusion that in the last 19 months of Buhari administration, respect for democratic and human rights has remained under a serious threat in tertiary institutions.
On the whole, the Buhari/APC administration, just like the Jonathan/PDP administration before it, sees public education as a business instead of a social responsibility to the people. This is why anti-poor policies of education underfunding, privatization, commercialization and hike in fees which were the ruinous policies of past regimes have been preserved and are now being implemented with gusto by the Buhari administration.
More than ever before, there is urgent necessity for staff unions and students unions as well as campaigning groups like the ERC to unite to build a strong and powerful mass movement that can begin to resist, through strikes and joint mass protests/demonstrations, the anti-poor education policies of the Buhari government while fighting for improved funding, democratic management, respect of democratic rights and implementation of agreements with staff unions.