ByÂ Victor Ahiuma-Young
LAGOS â€”ORGANISED labour and its civil society allies yesterday in Lagos, announced that next Tuesday would be a national day of protest and mass rallies in solidarity with the members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Related Institutions (NASU), who are currently on strike over sundry issues.
Leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) and their allies in the civil societies under the umbrella of the Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO), had condemned perceived government’s insensitivity to woes of the nationâ€™s educational sector in general.
They argued that the much-touted plan by Nigeria joining the league of 20 most developed economies in 2020 would be a mirage without proper funding of the educational sector.
They decried alleged blackmail by government that the strike was about welfare and noted that the issue of welfare was about the least important.
They stressed that funding of the educational sector was the major issue at stake.
Addressing newsmen at the Labour House in Yaba, Lagos, LASCOâ€™s Joint Secretary, Mr. BiodunÂ Aremu, called on well- meaning Nigerians, religious leaders and other stakeholders to prevail on the Yarâ€™Adua government to immediately address the grievances of the strikingÂ workers, especially by signing theÂ agreement it had reached with ASUU in December 2008 through the Deacon Gamaliel Onosode- led Federal Government negotiating team.
According to him: â€œOur schools,Â from the primary to university levels, lack adequate facilities for quality education.
”Nigerian universities lack adequate teaching staff because of the poor conditions of service which discourages several thousands of qualified persons from taking up teaching jobs at our ivory towers.
”Deficiency in facilities and human resources is major factor that seriously limits the access of qualified students to university education,” they added.
”For instance, just about 153,000 of 1,050,000 qualified candidates, (those who scored above 200) representing about 15 per cent could gain admission into the universities in the 2008/9 session.
This ugly situation has only shown proclivity to get worse. We therefore,Â declare our totalÂ support to ASUU-SSANU-NASU and their demands which include proper funding of education up to the 26% budgetaryÂ allocation, improved condition, of service, university autonomy and academic freedom.
We hold strongly that if, the demands are met it will go in a long way to reposition our education sector for the challenge of theÂ nationâ€™s development. It is, therefore, compulsory for any government, particularly the Yarâ€™AduaÂ administration that has been deafening the ears of Nigerians with mantra of making the country one of the 20 biggest, economies by the year 2020, to adequately fund education.â€
â€œWe are not, however, surprised by the cold attitude of the Yarâ€™Adua government to public education. It is in line with its anti-poor, neo-liberal programme which forbids commitment of public resources to adequate funding of education and other social service like health care.
Besides, it appearsÂ there, :is serious dearth of persons of honour inÂ the current administration. This explains why the Minister of Education, Sam Egwu, couldÂ deny existence ;or knowledge of any Agreement with the ASUU. It should be recalled that Onosode committee was set up by; Obasanjo government in 2006 to negotiate with ASUU-SSANU-NASU the review the 2001 agreement which it had refused to implement.
The .work of the Committee stretched through over a year into Yarâ€™AduaÂ government and ended in December 2008. We urge Labour, students, parents and general public to discountenance the blackmail of the government that reduces the-demands of ASUliJ to mere agitation for improved pay package. While a better condition of service is part of demands and of course imperative, the struggle of ASUU is; to create enabling atmosphere for quality and affordable education at all levels.
We, thus, urge all patriotic individuals and organizations to support the demands of ASUU and call on the government to sign and implement the agreement.â€
He added â€œWe also demand that government at all levels should implement all agreements that have been . reached with other staff unions in the education sector including Nigeria Union of Teachers . (NUT).
We must not forget that mostÂ state governments have not implemented 27.5% pay rise agreement for primaryÂ and secondary school teachers under the Teachers Salary Scale (TSS). We do not only support the â€˜demand for adequate funding but also the democratization of decision making processes with the elected representatives of education workers and students in all committees within and outside the institutions of learning.
This will minimize the mismanagement of resources and tendency for administrative dictatorship which accounts for; arbitrary dismissal of workers and students with radical or divergent views. LASCO has resolved to mobilize workers, students, parents and general public for a Day of Mass Action with peaceful rallies and protest marches in solidarity with the ASUU and other staff unions in the education sector.
The is part of activities we have line up to not only public education but also elevate its current standard to the desirable higher level.â€