Being the text of Press Conference Delivered by NANS Zone-D Coordinator today, Wednesday, 7th August, 2013 at International Press Centre, Lagos State, Nigeria.
Gentlemen of the press, and fellow compatriots! The current crises battling Nigerian education system have compelled Nigerian Students to start taking pro-active actions in view of resolving these crises. In recent times, the crises in the education sector have culminated into pockets of strike actions – all calling for the repositioning of education through proper and standardized funding.
Great Nigerian People, when the ongoing strike began, we thought that this ASUU members have started again because we were all tired of incessant strikes over wages and allowances. The question that kept coming to our minds is what do they want again? Initially, our minds were definitely filled with different sentiments and frustration. But after taking a closer look at the objective terms of the agreement the federal government signed with ASUU in 2009 and the failure of the government to honour the terms of this agreement, we concluded that the ongoing struggle in the education sector must be collective and student-based. More so, an agreement is supposed to be an honorable contract between the two parties; binding on all parties involved and to be implemented by them. Contrary to this, the President Jonathan’s government has been unfair to the letters and spirit of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement. For instance, while the agreement stipulates annual increases in budgetary allocation to education between 2009 and 2020 until it reaches 26%, the Federal government budgeted just a paltry 8.5% to education this year. All ASUU is demanding now is that the agreement must be fully implemented.
To all students, we cannot be indifferent to the content of this agreement just because of our fears about the academic calendar and some of our unfriendly lecturers.
If this agreement is fully implemented, together with democratic management of schools to include elected representatives of education workers and students, it would mean better funding of education and a great relief to overburdened students. It is therefore, in our best interest as students to ensure this agreement is fully implemented by supporting the implementation and fighting to save Nigerian education from collapse.
Considering the condition of teaching and research facilities in most State-owned and federal universities, we decided that there is an urgent need for us to act now to save Nigeria’s education sector from a total collapse!
Of course it is reported that the Nigerian government has amassed huge fortune since the democratic experiment began in 1999. It will interest us to know that between 2000 and 2011, Nigeria government earned N48.48 trillion from the sale of oil alone against N3.10 trillion earned between 1979 and 1999 (Guardian, 24/3/13). With this tremendous upswing in the revenue at the disposal of the Nigerian government, one would have expected it to translate to a commensurate improvement in the quantity and quality of Nigeria’s public education, but it has not. While the government is mischievously slow in funding the education sector, it took the speed of light to inject N600 billion into corrupted banking system and 200 million dollars to Nollywood.
Unfortunately, given the present state of public education, it is very clear that education is more than ever enmeshed in a monumental crisis largely characterized by poor funding. As a matter of fact the budgetary allocation to education has fallen from 12.22% in 1985 to 8.5% in 2013. Comparing this year’s allocation of 8.5% with UNESCO recommendation of 26% budgetary allocation to education, it is very clear that Nigeria government is not really interested in funding education.
Here in Nigeria, a bulk of the nation’s budget is used to finance salaries and allowances of political office holders. Recently, ‘the Economist’ reported that Nigerian legislators are the highest paid legislators in the world; earning outrageously more than legislators from UK, France and US. This is a pathetic irony, especially given the facts that many countries with smaller GDP have their percentage budgetary allocations to education as follows: Ghana (31%) ; Cote d’ivoire (20%); Kenya (23%); Morocco (17.7%); Botswana (19.0%); Swaziland (24.6%); Lesotho (17.0%); Burkina Faso (16.8%); Uganda (27.0%) and Tunisia (17.0%).
It is important to let the public know that the NANS ZONE D is not holding brief for ASUU, instead we identify our demands, as a pro-Nigerian students’ platform, with the terms contained in the FGN-ASUU agreement of 2009. In educational institutions around the country, congested class-rooms; prostrated laboratory facilities; exorbitant fees and many other problems are the order of the day. For instance, in LASU, many students were forced to drop out from the school due to an astronomical increment in fee; LASU students now pay a fee that ranges betweenN280, 000 and N345, 750. We need no prophet to tell us that all these avalanche of problems are generated from callous underfunding of the education sector. Therefore, Nigerian Students, like ASUU, NASU, SSANU, ASUP, COEASU, NUT, SSANIP, NAAT and other education staff unions, have a common battle to fight- fight against underfunding. In this fight, there is a great imperative for unity against the callous ‘underfunders’-corrupt Nigerian government.
Greatest Nigerian students, it is in light of this that NANS ZONE D(SOUTH WEST) calls on students to boldly support the demands of ASUU. However, students must also be prepared for a total shut down of all campuses across the zones even if ASUU resumes without student-oriented demands being met by the government.
Students are particularly concerned about the questions of autonomy, improved funding and independent students unionism. Towards this end, we demand that budget monitoring and NEEDS committees must include elected representatives of staff unions and Students’ unions. It is only this type of committee that we can trust to manage any fund entering the campuses and that is also capable of knowing what we really need on our various campuses. That is why we reject outright Suswam committee and demand in its place the committee of the above makeup. We call on ASUU for the sake of unity of all unions on campuses to demand inclusion of other Unions in the committee and we demand that the committee chairman and other executives should be elected rather than being imposed from ‘above’. Finally, we in the NANS ZONE D (South West) call for a jointly-coordinated campaign of all students in the education sectorto press home the demands for improvement ineducation funding and democratic managementof schools.
NANS ZONE D CHARTER OF DEMANDS
1. Proper Funding of Compulsory, Free and Quality Education at all levels- from primary to tertiary level and cancellation of fees.
2. Reversal of Fees in LASU, OOU, EKSU, TASUED etc.! No to Fees Increament!
3. Honouring all Agreements signed with all the staff unions.
4. Improvement in the Pay and Conditions of services of all Teaching and Non-teaching Staff in the Education sector
5. Restoration of all Proscribed Students’ Unionsi.e. OAU; UNILAG; EKSU; EACOED, Oyo; MOCPED, Lagos; TASCE, Ogun; COE, Ikere-Ekiti; ACE, Ondo; The Polytechnic Ibadan… and others across the country.
6. Reinstatement of all Politically Victimized Student Leaders
7. Rejection of any form of Harassment, Intimidation or Humiliation of Nigerian Studentsby Government, University Management or Staff
8. Democratic Running of Institutions to include Elected Representativesof Staff (Academic and Non-academic), Elected Representativesof Students and Parents.
9. Conversion of Higher National Diploma (HND) to Bachelor of Technology (B. Tech)
10. Amendment of TETFUND Act to include all Monotechnics across the country in the scheme
11. Proper Payment of SIWESS Allowances for all Universities, Polytechnics, Monotechnics, and Colleges of Education Vocational and Technical Students
12. Payment of Teaching Practice Allowances for Students Studying Education courses
13. No to Police Attacks and Killing of Students!Release the detained UNIUYO students
14. Outright Rejection of Suswam Committee, instead we demand a Democratic Composition of Elected Stakeholders- that is, Students, Staff Unions (Academic and Non-academic) and parents
15. Removal of Prof. Wale Omole as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council of LadokeAkintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso
Coordinator, NANS Zone D