Written by Dele Adebole in Lagos Friday, 16 June 2006 00:00
"The Lagos State university students' union in conjunction with the NANS zone D and NANS JCC Lagos Axis berate the satanic increment in LASU school fees and the killing of some students of LASU during the peaceful protest against the increment in school fees. And call for the immediate reversal of these exploitative fees as a prerequisite to let the less privilege have access to Education".
These was the first paragraph in the leaflet issued by the students' union alongside with NANS zone D and JCC Lagos in February after the students' protest against the fees, which led to the killing of two students by the police on the command of the Lagos State Government.
It will be recalled that immediately after the appointment of a new vice chancellor last year, December 2005, the Tinubu regime of Lagos State announced to Lagos residents that the government could not afford to subsidize education and that in line with the ‘reforms' in the education sector, there cannot be any free education. The university authorities were directed to increase the fees from 250 Naira for old students to 25,000 Naira, while the freshmen's old fee of 1, 000 Naira was increased to N35, 000. This increment exclude the acceptance fees N10,000 introduced earlier to the fresh students two years ago.
It is very important to note that even while the official school fees were placed at N250 earlier, an average student still pays as much as N25,000 to the university or its agents. This takes the form of handouts, registration fees, etc.
Not excluding the current attempt to deny the children of the working class education by the newly imposed post-JAMB test, according to ruling elites, it is to checkmate examination malpractice experienced during jamb exams but from reality, it has been confirmed as another conduit pipe through which money is generated and siphoned without question. This post jamb fee in LASU is N2,000. All these fees stated above do not include various expenses to be incurred while going through the registration processes.
The Tinubu administration carrying out these attacks on students is a master of deception. Towards the end of his first four years, he became one of the most hated governors in Nigeria as he committed enormous atrocities against workers, students and rendered many people homeless. The sacking of over 10,000 workers in 2001/2002 over the N7,500 minimum wage protests is still fresh in the memory of the working class despite the treachery of the labour leadership.
The process of destroying public schools did not start with LASU neither will it end with LASU. If we flash back our memory, this regime handed over schools to private individuals and missionaries four years ago.
This was a process of saying government cannot fund education and moral standards had fallen because missionaries and Muslim clerics were not allowed to teach morals and that handing over would increase the standard of education. But the current state of public primary/secondary schools nose-dived to an all time low. Where on religious bases students were not allowed to enroll in certain schools. Teachers were transferred from outside on religious sentiments. This marked the beginning of privatization of education in Lagos State under Tinubu.
The obvious implication of privatization and handing over of schools to both Muslim and Christian clerics is that this is damaging. As the children of the poor working class will be denied access to education based on affordability and religious grounds. This in turn will lead to mass illiteracy as is currently already developing in the country.
Despite the killing of Rashid Giwa during the protest and closure of LASU campus, the students' union had been campaigning against the fee in the print and electronic media.
However, students must be wary of some so-called ex-LASU students' leaders and human right activists who are trying to divide and restrict the struggle against the fee to the vice-chancellor alone but are afraid of exposing and challenging Tinubu, who as the governor gave the directive as the owner of the university, because they are also members of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, or personal assistants to AD top officials, while some of the right-wing activists are Tinubu-AD loyalists.
The way forward
It is clear that the class-conscious approach to the struggle against fees must be adapted. The LASU students must appeal to non-academic workers and lecturers for solidarity in order to defeat this regime.
All other Lagos State tertiary institutions are connected to this cause as their cause since they are under the same state, while also spreading the campaign to all other campuses throughout Nigeria for concerted effort in defeating the Obasanjo and Tinubu policy on education.
One sure way of achieving victory of the students' movement is by booting out state agents in NANS in our various institutions.
The LASU students have proved themselves once again, after many years of reaction taking over the students' union leadership, when their existence as students has been threatened by the state.
The only socio-economic system that can grantee free and quality education is a government led by workers with clear-cut socialist policies.