National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, South West Zone , has urged the Federal Government to meet the demands of ASUU, and others workers’ unions on campuses, as the body also made fresh 10 demands from government .
Kowe Odunayo Amos, NANS Zone D Coordinator, made the call during a peaceful protest staged at Nigeria Television Authority in Ibadan, the Oyo State Capital on Monday.
The students’ body expressed its dismay over the poor funding which constitutes serious challenge to higher institutions of learning in the country adding that the government pays little or no attention to the educational sector to the extent that a meagre #48bn of the total budget was allocated to the sector as capital expenditure.
“Today, it is on record that 80% of our higher institutions of learning does not have Public Address Systems, Interactive Boards, etc. while many are battling with epileptic or non-existing internet services, library of no or less automation, outdated library resources. Many institutions are lagging due to no or previous preparation for virtual learning as a result of the poor funding of the educational sector. In all, the state of Nigerian higher institutions can best be imagined than seen, hence, our agitation for an improved and a well-funded educational sector.
“Considering the present reality on ground, it can better be said that we are sitting on a keg of gunpowder and the explosion can be very devastating and highly consuming because, academically and infrastructure-wise, our higher institutions of learning are lagging behind thereby subjecting us to ridicule amongst the comity of Nations.”
NANS added that, it rejects the fraudulent argument of “grass suffering as two elephants fight” which gives the erroneous impression that students are a neutral entity in a conflict over funding of education between the government and ASUU.
“It is on record that the Nigerian students’ movement has never been neutral in a struggle for better funding of education. Rather, Nigerian students have always taken the lead in this struggle because we are the ones to benefit ultimately if the demands of ASUU for release of revitalization funds and improved budgetary allocation to education are achieved.
“Therefore, the role of students in this struggle cannot be that of a neutral arbiter. Rather, as students, we are duty-bound to give solidarity to ASUU struggle against an anti-poor and anti-education Buhari capitalist government which once it is able to defeat ASUU, would waste no time in pouncing on students as the next victim in its drive to make higher education the preserve of the rich-few. Already, some of the public tertiary institutions that have resumed academic activities are beginning to charge students COVID-19 levies amidst other anti-poor policies. This is an indication that as students, we will not be spared in the imposition of anti-poor policies by the Buhari capitalist Federal Government and other similarly anti-poor and corrupt State governments across the country.
It stressed that, Students across the country must know that the strike action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other workers’ unions on various campuses is justifiable and we need a proper integration to foster a successful outcome.
The statement further stressed that, the Body established its position as following with close marking the demands of ASUU as the Union is one part of academic world and an injury to one is an injury to all.
“Standing on the principle of solidarity, we state categorically that our thoughts are aligned with the demands of ASUU.
“Today, it is clear that though progress is been made on the demands of the striking lecturers, yet, there are still some key areas that have not been sufficiently ironed-out between ASUU and the Federal Government. This is especially with respect to the funds for revitalization of Universities as well as the replacement of IPPIS with UTAS. For instance, the sum of N30billion which the Labour Minister, Chris Ngige claimed in an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Friday, 13 November, 2020 that the Federal Government is committed to “… out of #40billion demanded by the union as the payment for November 2019 and September 2020” is not revitalization funds, rather, it is a fraction of the total sum of earned allowance owed to ASUU members.
“The true position is that till this day, there has been no serious commitment by the Federal Government to pay the arrears of funds to revitalize decaying facilities in the Universities like lecture theatres, libraries, laboratories, hostels, etc. Rather, the Federal Government has consistently being refusing to agree to ASUU’s demand to pay the sum of N110 billion out of about 5 tranches of the revitalization funds totaling N1.1 trillion that the Federal government is presently owing. Meanwhile, this is a government that easily spends billions and trillions to bail out private businesses like banks, airlines, etc. This same government doled out over N1.5trillion spent within 5 years to the privatised power distribution companies though there is no commensurate value in terms of quality of electricity supply.
“It is common knowledge that the Nigerian government has perpetually done all they could in ensuring that the minions do not have access to education by commercializing it so that those who are barely managing to go to school now can drop out of school. Today, the government is not just giving a lip service to education but have come all out to declare that the government can no longer fund education and that management of tertiary institutions should seek means in generating revenue for themselves by imposing various fees on the Students.
“Today, the result is so glaring and it hits us all on our faces as the sector is in comatose to the extent that none of the country’s higher institution of learning can compete globally. As students, we are agitated because, we have been marginalised for long with successive governments in the country failing to acede to our demands which include but not limited to the proper funding of the educational sector with 26% budgetary allocation. Ordinarily, if not for years of governmental failure, students in the medical line should have been mobilise to find a vaccine to this deadly Coronavirus, unfortunately, reverse is the case to the extent that many of our medical graduates are with no or little laboratory experience.
“Despite the fact that the right to education is non-negotiable and imprescriptible, members of the ruling class have ensured that education is made expensive and taken out of the reach of the poor denying them the great opportunity education can open for them and the society at large.
“It must be made known that we are not looking for free things, our demand is that there must be no child in the country that will not go to school because he/she is poor which is what our government policies are aimed at today and this can only be achieved when the government start using State’s resources to educate the Nigerian child. For the sake of emphasis, it need be made known that even in developed economies where they charge high tuition or can sustain themselves, governments do not joke with financial support to them. For instance, in 2015, the government disbursed £11.1bn to Universities in the United Kingdom, which it increased to £12.1bn in 2016. Unfortunately, reverse is the case here in Nigeria as government continually establish new higher institutions when the existing ones are not being funded and this is the narrative we aim to change.”
Below are the 10 demands made by NANS from the government as contained in the press release ;
- Government at all level should pay serious attention to the education sector with a 700% increase in funding of this year so as to cater for unpaid salaries of all teaching and non-teaching staffs.
- Academic activities whether virtually or physically should commence in our educational institutions with immediate effect.
- As a pre-condition to commencement of classes, government should liaise with ASUU, ASUP, COEASU and NANS as regards what must be put in place for the commencement of classes.
- Government must liaise with National Universities Commission (NUC), National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and all relevant academic bodies to make sure the session/semester is streamlined in order make up for the lost time due to the lockdown.
- Government must provide waiver for all Nigerian students (tertiary, secondary and primary) in form of scholarship for a session or slash the fees payable by 60/70% . This would help cushion the effects of the lockdown on parents that lost their jobs and means of livelihood and businesses. It would also serve as palliative for students whose parents/guardians means of livelihood have been cut-short as a result of the lockdown.
- TETFUND should consider funding of selected students across all tertiary institutions in the country with innovative ideas just the way lecturers are being sponsored for conferences/symposia.
- The Federal Government must yield to the demands of all workers’ Union on our campuses.
- Democratisation of the decision-making organs of institutions to include active participation of workers and students through their Unions.
- Reinstatement of all victimised students’ and workers’ activists; reinstatement of all proscribed Unions on our campuses.
- Reverse petrol price to #97 and stop deregulation of the oil sector.