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--- Nigeria Masterweb Features ---

    The School Fees Syndrome

    (Sunday, March 16, 2003)

    By Ibraheem Kolawole

    Due to the recent problems in various quarters about hike in fees chargeable in various tertiary insttitutions and the recent attacks on education, I have made this as a response to the arguments of government and the various stakeholders in education for the issue of chargeable fees and the attacks on education which I will want your widely- read news media to produce as article for varoius readers who are interested in the development and happiness of mankind.

    Today, all over the world, there has been a wide clamour for the proper funding of the educational sector by the various governments by various stakeholders. But what followed after the clamour is the new tax given to parents, students and workers by the govt. as their “share” in the proper funding of the education sector. This has come in the forms of increment in school fees, and retrenchment of staff alike. This have even led to the agitation among students and workers against these obnoxious policies which also results in the victimization of students and staff by govts in order to suppress their angers. This has come in forms of expulsion of activists – both students and staff.

    The example of these abound everywhere in the world. For instance, in year 2000, many students were brutalised in a protest of students, teachers and parents in London against the obnoxious policy of the Blair govt, to remove subsidy on education sector and to sell out some tertiary institutions and consequently, increasing the school fees and number of private institution. This led to the death of more than three persons and left several others injured. Another is the March 15, 2002 protest of students, parents and workers against the policies of European government in conjunction with the world business magnates of removing subsidy on education and privatizing of education sector which they consider is too costly to fund and the need to reduce the number of skilled labour which consume resources than unskilled labour. This decision of the European Economic RoundTable was opposed by the protesting students. Same thing in France, Italy, USA Spain ( Madrid protest of 1999), to mention just but a few. Even in Nigeria, students of the various higher institutions in the south-western part of the country staged a protest against the decision of the Nigerian govt to remove subsidy on education and the victimization of students and staff alike ,in MARCH 15, 2002.

    But one may ask, whose responsibility is to fund education in the society. Is it the workers who work for the wealth of the nation and being given token out of the products of their labour and who pay taxes for provision of social services of which education is one, or the govt who is given the mandate to provide the standard living condition for its citizens. Without being economical with the truth, it is the duty of the govt to fund education and other social services for its citizens considering the various commitment the citizens ( workers and peasants) have given to the nation to whose the govt derives its power – economic and political. But one may ask why the govt renege in its responsibilities while workers and peasants continue to give their responsibilities to the nation. The reason is not far-fetched, the various govts in the world (after the collapse of the USSR), which is serving the imperialists and the capitalists; and the big business see education and other social services as non-profitable services that can increase their turn-over and in order to make it profitable, the various govts which derive their power from the teeming masses but are serving the capitalists, have to renege in its duties in the provision of services for which they are elected and push the masses to the capitalists who are ready to exploit as much profits as possible from the toiling masses. Thus the govts that ought to be serving the masses are now serving the capitalists and pretending as if it is serving the masses. Thus, parents are double taxed by govts and the services they (govts) ought to provide are sold out to the big business (capitalists) who also multiple taxed the already pauperised masses. The reason they usually give is that govt alone can not fund education because it is too costly to fund and so parents have to bear the brunts and the worker have to bear with the situation as their salaries are slashed or some of them are left off the hook of employment. This have been the situation all over the world where the free market system have taken over their economy – even politics.

    In Nigeria, the various bourgeois commentators and spokesmen of govt. have been clamouring for the involvement of the parents in the funding of the education sector. The govt itself is not left out as it has asked the various tertiary institutions’ authorities to look for fund internally and not depend on the subvention from the govt. in fact, siome state govt who got their massive votes from the promise of free education they promised before getting to power have not only fail their promises but have also turned free education to freeze education programme. This has come in form of sacking of teachers and other workers who ought to be the source of source of qualitative education thus pushing the parents who want their children to learn, to the callous hand of the private school who have extorted money from them.

    But if we look to the budget of the govt, we will then see the foolishness and hypocrisy in this argument of govts. In year 2001, govt spent $1.5 billion (about 30% of the budget) on servicing – not paying budget, the Nigerian debt and the govt never stop borrowing from this creditors. About 28% was budgeted for defence, after which the decayed Lagos armoury got ablaze where lives of thousand of people were involved. Then on what was the money spent on, Hun……. intervention! While about #20billion was budgeted for the national assembly…….for their new “salary allowances”. This is the recurrent expenditure. The capital budget go for the various projects like #38billion Abuja stadium while the existing dilapidated stadia were left unattended to, presidential jet, invisible roads, - while existing roads continue to be death traps of whose their tollgates have been privatized, renovation of the already privatized companies even the money used to renovate them is much more than the money collected from their sale, Presidential junketing, astronomical salary for “public office-holders” and other frivolous projects whose contracts were either inflated and done in a wish- wash manner like the 30 year old ID card project, NEPA, NITEL etc on whose tens if not hundred of billions of naira have been spent with no meaningful outcome and inquiry into the irrational spending, just to mention a few, which have little or no impacts on the living standard of the mass of Nigerians but to enrich the pocket or of the big businessmen and women, multinational fat cats, political professionals, sycophants who contribute little or nothing to the nation development. Only 7% was budgeted for education while 4% was budgeted for health sector in the recurrent budget! The same for the year 2002. even the UBE project that was been much publicized, which is even meant to stop students from going to universities but technical schools so as not to make them skilled which, as mentioned in the Prof. Adeniran (former minister of education) in one of his “talk shows”, goes parri passu with the analysis given earlier, was later learnt to have been funded with the borrowed money from the int’l financial agencies! This implies that no capital budget for education sector! Even the UBE so publicized have yielded little or nothing as only one block building is built in a selected schools in the country while the equipped laboratories, trained and training of teachers, libraries left unprovided. Even, the PTF books given to school are useless as most of the books are kept in the headmasters’ office as antiquities because the books are not sufficient for students to take home and there is no library to keep for the students to use. Even some local education officers have given the books to their children since they useless where it kept. Despite the unaccounted billions of naira being spent on this PTF projects and the new UBE project! Even the subvention given to higher institutions can not even cater for the so-called overhead cost and recurrent spending. Despite the agreement signed by govt with UNESCO and ASUU in 1978 year 2000 respectively.

    If we consider the social services as a whole, one will easily see that the govt which is operating under the mandate of the masses have not only been irresponsible but has also sold out the mandate to the big capitals to super-exploit the have-not who are working day and night to make the society better despite their traumas. This has come in the form of the privatization of the societal heritage which the masses have laboured for through their unpaid labour and taxes used to build these wealth – NEPA, NITEL, NOLCHEM etc which has exposed the toiling masses to the exploiting hands of retrenchment of staff, inflation, unemployment, poverty, hunger and pauperization; reduction of budget for the social services of which the govt is given its constitutional mandate- education, health, infrastructures etc which are not done and are dilapidated ; looting of the treasury of the nation – legally (inflated salaries and allowances), and illegally (inflated contracts, diversion of funds, direct looting etc); repression of agitations etc, one continue to wonder whether the govt is truly what it ought to be.

    It is no the case of Federal Govt alone, it cut across the state govts, which have had more than 300% increase in their allocations since the inception of the civilian rule with additional money from the petroleum windfall and loot recovered. But all of them have nothing to show for this. Shame you say? It is n\understatement to say that they have not been accountable but are even as corrupt as the federal government itself. These state govts have even retrenched workers than the federal government. For instance, Osun,Lagos, Oyo, Anambra and Enugu States have retrenched 12,000, 15,000, 7000, 10,000 and 5,000 respectively. Even, the western states that call themselves welfarist and political sons of Late Obafemi Awolowo are those that chaired the retrenchment and attack on social services. School fees in these states are almost equal to those paid in private schools.

    Authorities of tertiary institution have not even helped matter as the meagre resources given to them by the federal government are mismanaged and embezzled and their iron handedness on the activists fighting the govts for the proper funding of education and other social services by victimizing them. For instance, last year the universities were given special grants of #100 million each to run their schools but instead of the authorities to spend the money on useful things like hostels building and equipping of laboratories, libraries and class rooms, they spent these monies on frivolous things so as to enrich their pocket like their masters over there. Example is the Obafemi Awolowo University, which spent #60 million on the purchase of cars for its principal officers and members of the governing council and the rest given out to contractors for various useless projects that ought to be done by the maintenance department of the university. Even spending of such money on the almost dead commercial and the teaching and research farms, and other commercial ventures would have been more sensible since this will generate more hundreds of millions if put in proper management. The same school authorities that was crying of under funding was the first in the country to implement the federal govt policy of no work no pay for the striking lecturers who were fighting for the implementation of the FGN/ASUU agreement that 26% of the budget should be spent on education as agreed by federal govt and UNESCO in 1978. Also, in the university of Ilorin, the school authorities spent their fund on the purchase of cars for and payment of allowances for the principal officers and members of the governing council while the remaining was used to buy a “water tank” for a hall! The same vice-chancellor sacked 49 lecturers for joining their colleagues in the strike for the implementation of the FGN/ASSU agreement. Today, the Federal has failed to respect its agreement and make ASUU to embark on strike, thus ruining the nation - economically, politicall and otherwise. To achieve the aim of ASUU, the ASUU should join force with other academic unions (NANS, NASU, SANNU, SATTHURAI, ASUP NUT etc) and NLC to put govt in shame over its insentivity to the education sector.and The heat of the retrenchment of the lecturers is still affecting the students as some of them can not graduate due to the inability to register for some courses whose lecturers have been sacked. One can see the hypocrisy everywhere.

    All these universities have now resorted to increase in school fees after they have helped govt in commercializing education and after they have embezzled the money given to them ( taking after the step of the govt). for instance, in OAU, UNIMAIDUGURI, U I, UNIBEN, UNIPORT, UNILORIN, the school fees have been increased by more than at least, 1000% without any meaningful justification for such. But we ask, can this end the problem of under funding? Of course not, because the aim of the government is to remove hand from the provision of social services gradually. And as govts remove hand gradually, the vice-chancellors increase school fees more until the school are totally commercialized and at last privatized when the corruption of the managements and the govt. collapse the system. No one need a prophet to tell him/her through these processes, the school fees will increase astronomically, and eternally too with little or no rise in the per capita income of the parents and thus many students will have to leave school and join the unemployed association or underemployed groups. This will cause a doom for the economy as the purchasing power of workers and peasants will reduce drastically since the unemployed will depend on the employed and the employed will have little or no purchasing power. This will lerad to over production and consequently economic recession. This is general analysis of the problem of commercialization - education as a case study.

    Thus the only solution is to fully fund the education sector and other social services by govts. if truly they are interested in the development of mankind. But from the foregoing analysis it shows that govts are not serious in funding education education because of their attachment to the money bags who put them there, therefore it is only when there is return the economy to the hand of the working masses who are the real producers i.e to nationalize the economy and make the essential services affordable to the masses since they havepaid for it in taxes and the excess of their work for the nation. In order to achieve this, the government must be in the hands of the masses themselves and not in the hands of the pot-bellied politicians who are the representatives of the imperialists and int’l and local capitalists- exploiters of labour.

    As a result of this, the need for the coming together of various union and associations of the toiling and working masses for the formation of the working peoples party to demand for:







    Struggle continiues..........

    Ibraheem Kolawole
    Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)
    Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Nigeria.
    Contact Ibraheem Kolawole

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