Students

 

  • NIGERIA: ‘The federal government and ASUU at some point made it feel like our education doesn’t matter’

    Benedicta ChisomCIVICUS speaks with Benedicta Chisom about the current student mobilisation that is calling on Nigeria’s government to respond to teachers’ demands and end the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). 

    Benedicta is a student at Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Nigeria and a creative writer. Being directly affected by the ASUU strike, she has worked on social media to create awareness about it and its underlying issues.

    How did the #EndASUUStrike movement start, and what does it want to achieve?

    The #EndASUUStrike started with students’ protests at the University of Benin and Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, and then snowballed into an online movement. Its message is simple: we want to go back to school.

    Students just want to voice their grievances over the strike. Both the federal government and ASUU at some point made us feel like our education doesn’t matter. They keep going back and forth with the matter while our academic year is wasted. Every time teachers go on strike, we become passive spectators, just waiting on them to decide when to end it. We had to remind them that we matter too, and that it is our education and future that is at stake.

    The protest was our way of demanding that the federal government and ASUU come to a final agreement so that teachers stop going on strike every single academic year. As a result of the strikes that have happened since 2020, we have lost more than 12 months of our academic career.

    It would be a shame if the students that come after us continue to face the same challenges. Recurrent strikes need to end with us, this year. We want a five-year course to take five years of schooling, not more.

    How has the government responded so far?

    In February, President Mohammed Buhari mandated a trio composed of his chief of staff, the minister of education and the minister of labour and employment to address the disagreement with ASUU over the strike. The Minister of Labour met with the other unions – the National Association of Academic Technologists, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions – which went on strike in support of ASUU. He assured the public that the government is tackling disputes in the educational sector holistically and acknowledged that some issues causing the crisis are economic, including funding for the revitalisation of universities and workers’ welfare.

    But ASUU and the students are angry at the government’s undivided focus on the upcoming 2023 general election, as though students and their education did not matter. The union also condemned the rush to purchase the ruling All Progress Congress party’s presidential nomination forms by politicians even though money is one of the reasons for the strike. It accused the ministers of labour and education of insensitivity.

    According to Independent Electoral Commission, more than half of registered voters, 51.1 per cent, are between the ages of 18 and 35. Many of them are students, and how will students believe in the government if their voices aren’t heard by the people they vote for? At some point we had hopes for change but now that the strike has been extended by 12 weeks, I can’t say much. But we are positive the mobilisation will drive home our grievances to some extent.

    What do you think striking teachers should do?

    For students, the strike is frustrating and disheartening. We are told to stay home without any idea of when we will return to school. I have spent a whole semester at home, and what was supposed to be a five-year course increased to six years. Our lives are put on hold; this affects not only our academic progression but also our life plans. Education workers should be more flexible with their demands and have more empathy towards students.

    What should the government do?

    There are many things the federal government can do to ensure that both the needs of students and education workers are met. The government must offer a good agreement to ASUU and begin to implement it immediately. It must also start paying unpaid allowances and salaries. This will give students back their right to education and stabilise the economy. The strike has done a lot of damage already.

    One of the first things the government could do is adopt the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) as a preferred payment option instead of the system currently used. UTAS was created by Nigerian experts and must be run and maintained locally, so it will encourage local innovation and provide employment. It has passed the test and ASUU has agreed to improve it. It has become a bone of contention, so there is a big chance the strike will end once it is adopted.

    Most significantly, the government must set out a strategy and timeline to come up with the billion-dollar funding required to revitalise universities. This will show ASUU and students that they are indeed working towards restoring public universities.

    What kind of support do you need from the international community? 

    Social media has made the world a global village, so I am sure people in other parts of the world are aware of the protests and strikes in Nigeria. We need more voices to put pressure on our government to take immediate action. It would be of great help if students in other countries and Nigerians in the diaspora could help share the #EndASUUStrike hashtag, repost our posts and share our tweets to add momentum to the movement.

    Civic space in Nigeria is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • NIGERIA: ‘The government is more willing to negotiate with terrorists than with striking teachers’

    Olorunfemi AdeyeyeCIVICUS speaks with Olorunfemi Adeyeye about the current student mobilisation that is calling on Nigeria’s government to respond to teachers’ demands and end the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). 

    Olorunfemi is a student activist and member of the Fund Education Coalition, which works to raise awareness about the importance of Nigerian public universities and is currently supporting teachers by taking part in the #EndASUUStrike movement.

    How did the #EndASUUStrike movement start, and what does it want to achieve?

    The origins of the campaign are in the Fund Education Coalition movement, a coalition of Nigerian student groups advocating for education rights. #EndASUUStrike started when student organisations came together and called for students to be at the forefront of the struggle for their rights to quality public education. It uses the grievances of the ASUU strike to highlight what students need to have on their respective campuses.

    The demands of the ASUU strike include several issues that concern Nigerian students directly. For instance, the union has raised the need to revitalise public universities. This is of great importance to students, who are the direct victims of underfunding. The campaign to properly fund education demands the revitalisation of laboratory equipment, which is in poor state, and fixes to the problems of overcrowded lecture halls and moribund campus health centres, among other key aspects. The union also frowns at the proliferation of universities and seeks an amendment to the 2004 National Universities Commission Act. The establishment of more universities, while existing ones are poorly funded, has become a constituency project for Nigerian rulers. Almost everyone in the ruling class wants to have one in their backyard. This is just unacceptable. We are fully in support of the strike, which also highlights issues surrounding the poor remuneration of lecturers.

    What the Fund Education Coalition wants is for the Nigerian government to accede to workers’ demands in the educational sector. And not just to ASUU’s: the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities and the National Association of Academic Technologists are also on strike. With all education workers currently on strike, it was only rational for students to join them.

    Have you established any connections with student movements facing similar challenges in other parts of the world?

    Social media platforms have made it easy for us to share information about the #EndASUUStrike movement, reaching a vast audience across the world. Unfortunately, however, we have not yet had the chance to get in contact with any international student organisations facing similar issues.

    As student activists, when things happen in other countries we lend voices to help each other – for instance, when the #FeesMustFall movement erupted in South Africa the Alliance of Nigerian Students against Neoliberal Attacks, an organisation I led in 2018, released a statement of support. We hope the same will also happen with the #EndASUUStrike. International solidarity among all the oppressed people in the world is key.

    To counter the government’s propaganda that ASUU is on strike because it feels it can gain some concessions due to the approaching elections, it should be noted that this isn’t a new problem. Interestingly, there are no new problems in Nigeria. Our issues date back a long way. Strikes similar to the current one have been happening since the 1980s and the issues they point to continue to affect generation after generation of Nigerians.

    We are still dealing with the same issues, as the government systematically fails to fulfil its promises and implement the agreements reached with unions. Our issues are perennial and endemic, but even though they may be different from those faced by young people in other countries, we are still open to collaboration with as many organisations from around the world as possible.

    How has the ASUU strike affected you?

    As students it is very unfortunate that we must go through this again. It is an endless cycle of spending very little of your time in class and most of it on the streets fighting for your right to education.

    When ASUU goes on strike, it not only affects academic activities, but also the economic and social life of everyone in the academic community. There are students who depend on universities being open because they sell academic textbooks, stationery or equipment to make a living. There are also people who run businesses within universities as a means of providing for their families. All these have been disrupted. The strike has affected everyone.

    As student activists, some of our activities have been affected and we have not been organising as we normally would on campuses. We hope the federal government will agree to ASUU’s demands so things can go back to normal.

    What do you think education workers should do?

    First, I need to clarify that students have a good relationship with ASUU and the other educational workers’ unions. We are all partners in the education sector. As students, we have been able to present some of our ideas and thoughts to ASUU.

    An issue we discussed recently was that they should come out with a clear message against the government’s propaganda. The government has tried to convince people that it cannot accede to ASUU’s demands because there is no money to fund education. This is misinformation and propaganda, so we have asked ASUU to counter it with their own narrative and make it public. Everyone should understand why ASUU is striking and support their struggle. This will not only benefit teachers, students and their families, but it will also help us save public universities and ensure they are well equipped for ordinary citizens to attend.

    How has the government responded so far to both the ASUU strike and the #EndASUUStrike movement?

    The federal government has not responded to ASUU’s and students’ demands. Faced with strikes by other unions, such as the Airline Operators of Nigeria, the government reacted fast to prevent the suspension of airline services. But ASUU has been on strike for almost three months and the government has not even called them to a meeting. This serves as an indication that education is not really a priority for them. The government is more willing to negotiate with terrorists and bandits than to sit down and negotiate with academic workers.

    As a result, ASUU has decided to extend the strike by three more months, which means students will have spent close to six months without attending school.

    We hope we can put more pressure on the government so it will react to what is happening. We want the government to agree to a meeting with ASUU representatives and commit, this time, to solving the issues brought up at the meetings.

    What kinds of support do you need from the international community?

    As someone who is at the frontline of the struggle to protect a public education, I would say that the international community should put pressure on the Nigerian government to prioritise education.

    The government has been telling us it does not have money to fund education, but yet there is serious capital flight from Nigeria to other countries. The president has donated one million US dollars to Afghanistan and oil theft has grown. Who is stealing the oil? Not ordinary people. Who are contributing to oil theft, money laundering and massive capital flight, if not foreign nations? These monies are mostly not kept in our banks. We need our international allies to put pressure on the government to stop capital flight and instead invest in education. 

    International organisations should also help us put pressure on foreign governments, corporations and parastate actors to stop aiding and abetting the thievery in Nigeria. Nigeria has plenty of resources that should be put to the correct use, such as funding education.

    In addition, we need the international community to help us push our narrative through social media so that more attention is paid to the situation Nigerian students are dealing with.

    Civic space in Nigeria is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Follow@activistfemi on Twitter. 

     

  • Time to Sign: Stand with students & activists in Bangladesh

    Bangladesh: Release and drop all charges against all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuse

    Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is calling for your support and solidarity to demand the release of students and protesters who were arrested and charged over the last month in Bangladesh. On 15th August, Bangladesh was added to the CIVICUS Monitor’sWatch List, which means that there has been an escalation in serious threats to fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months.

    Add your voice to the campaign to demand that the government reverse this trend, release all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuses by sending the letter below to government authorities, and adding your voice on social media using #BangladeshProtests.

     

  • Time to Sign: Stand with students & activists in Bangladesh

    Bangladesh: Release and drop all charges against all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuse

    Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is calling for your support and solidarity to demand the release of students and protesters who were arrested and charged over the last month in Bangladesh. On 15th August, Bangladesh was added to the CIVICUS Monitor’sWatch List, which means that there has been an escalation in serious threats to fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months.

    Add your voice to the campaign to demand that the government reverse this trend, release all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuses by sending the letter below to government authorities, and adding your voice on social media using #BangladeshProtests.

     

  • Time to Sign: Stand with students and activists in Bangladesh

    Bangladesh: Release and drop all charges against all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuse

    Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is calling for your support and solidarity to demand the release of students and protesters who were arrested and charged over the last month in Bangladesh. On 15th August, Bangladesh was added to the CIVICUS Monitor’sWatch List, which means that there has been an escalation in serious threats to fundamental freedoms in recent weeks and months.

    Add your voice to the campaign to demand that the government reverse this trend, release all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuses by sending the letter below to government authorities, and adding your voice on social media using #BangladeshProtests.


    3 actions you can take to stand with students and other activists:

    1. Sign and send letter to Prime Minister of Bangladesh

    To the Prime Minister of Bangladesh,
    H.E. Sheikh Hasina Wazed

    Bangladesh: Release and drop all charges against all those arbitrarily arrested and investigate police abuse

    Dear Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,

    I am writing to express my concerns about serious violations of civic freedoms perpetrated during recent protests in Bangladesh. I urge your government to take immediate steps to address these issues in accordance with your international human rights obligations.

    Between 29 July to 15 August 2018 around a hundred individuals, mainly students were charged for unlawful assembly, rioting and other crimes under the Penal Code, Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act and the Special Powers Act. Those arrested were students from private universities or colleges who were involved in either the protests on road safety triggered by the killing of two teenagers by a speeding bus on 29 July 2018 or protests calling for reforms to the civil service quota system. Some were allegedly tortured or ill-treated in custody. Some students have been granted bail on 19 and 20 August. Many students are still in hiding and have not been able to attend classes. I am concerned by reports that they are being deprived from medical care following injuries they sustained while in detention.

    I am also concerned about reports that police used excessive force, including firing rubber bullets and tear gas on 4th August 2018 to disperse demonstrations in Dhaka which were triggered by the killing of two teenagers by a speeding bus on 29th July 2018. Some of the student protesters were also allegedly attacked by members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) and Jubo League, the student and youth wing of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) party.

    Scores of journalists were attacked while covering the protests, some of whom were later detained briefly by the police. At least four journalists from The Daily Star newspaper were reportedly beaten while at least seven photojournalists were injured in attacks in Jhigatala and Science Lab areas of the city on 5 August 2018. While some attackers wore helmets, the journalists identified some of their attackers as BCL members.

    I am also concerned about the arbitrary arrest of Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam who was taken from his home, just hours after he made comments on Al-Jazeera about protests in the city. He was subsequently charged under section 57 of Bangladesh’s Information Communications Technology Act a provision that has been frequently used to bring charges against critics, activists and other dissenting voices in Bangladesh. He has also alleged that he was tortured while in custody. He was denied bail three times in the lower court.

    In the last few months, human rights organisations have also documented attacks by the BCL against students protesting the civil service quota system, which reserves 30 percent of government jobs for children of freedom fighters from Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971. Academics and journalists supporting them have also been targeted.

    Therefore, I urge your government to take the following steps as a matter of priority:

    • Immediately and unconditionally release all protesters and activists who have been arbitrarily detained for exercising their human rights, in particular photographer Shahidul Alam, and drop all charges against them;
    • Carry out prompt, impartial, independent and efficient investigations into all complaints and reports of excessive use of force by the police, as well as attacks by non-state actors, against protesters and journalists, bring those responsible to justice and provide reparations to the victims;
    • Review and amend all laws that restrict freedom of expression, such as section 57 of the 2006 Information and Communication Technology Act;
    • Send a clear message to members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) and other non-state actors that violence by them will not be tolerated;
    • Create a safe and enabling environment for activists, civil society and citizens to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly without intimidation, harassment, arrest or prosecution.

    I express my sincere hope that you will consider and implement these recommendations. 

    Sincerely, 

    Sign your name:

     

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    Yes

    You can also copy and paste the above letter and send directly to the below government officials, or write your own letter with demands and recommendations to: 

    Prime Minister's Office
    Email: 
    Salutation: Honourable Prime Minister

    Minister of Home Affairs 
    Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal 
    Email: 
    Salutation: Honourable Home Minister

    Inspector General of Police
    Mohammad Javed Patwary
    Email: 
    Salutation: Dear Inspector General

    And copies to: Political Affairs Advisor to Bangladesh
    Prime Minister H.T. Imam
    E-mail: 


    2. Share and show solidarity on social media

     

    Stand in solidarity with Bangladeshi protesters and journalists by sharing this infographic on social media using #BangladeshProtests and tagging the following diplomatic and government representatives. 


    3. Share campaign with your network


    Updates:

    Updates about the campaign to be made available here


    For more information, contact:

    Clementine de Montjoye – clementine.demontjoye[at]civicus.org 
    Josef Benedict – josef.benedict[at]civicus.org