A rights group, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) has condemned the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, for walking out on students during a parley with the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) over the ongoing strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The Minister reportedly became incensed and walked out when the students representatives challenged him for sending his own children overseas for education while the children of the poor in Nigeria spend average of 6 years and above for a 4 year academic programme.
This was following a protest organized by NANS in Abuja on Monday, to express the students’ annoyance over the crisis in the education sector occasioned by the one month strike of ASUU.
In a joint statement by the Ogunjimi Isaac Ayobami, the ERC Deputy National Coordinator and Michael Lenin, the ERC National Mobilization Officer, the group said the behavior of the Minister is, to say the least, provocative, arrogant and insensitive to the feelings of Nigerian students who are rightly angry over the incessant disruption of the academic calendar due to Federal Government refusal to fulfill signed agreements with staff unions.
They said students are a major stakeholder in the education sector and the government’s refusal to fulfill agreements with unions and the attendant strikes have great consequences for them.
“Therefore students cannot be pushed aside or shut down,” the group advised.
The ERC called on the Minister to publicly apologize to Nigerian students for this abhorrent behavior and reconvene the meeting so that the students’ leaders can present students position and demands to the government.
“We also call on the NANS leadership not to adopt the usual unprincipled attitude of “radicalism by day while dining with the enemy at night”.
“If truly the NANS leadership is genuinely fighting for the interest of students, the least it should accept, is a reconvening of the meeting which the Minister walked out from so that negotiations can continue.
“We dare say that it is this kind of bellicose attitude backed by a pro-capitalist and anti-poor philosophy of governance which sees public education as the preserve of the few rich that is behind the perennial crisis in university education and the incessant strike of ASUU over the past one decade in particular,” it said.
While welcoming the protest organized by NANS calling for a permanent end to incessant strikes in the education sector, the group hopes that the leadership of NANS will now have a better appreciation of why ASUU often had to embark on strike as a last resort having had a taste of the kind of treatment ASUU leadership has been putting up with, from time immemorial while negotiating with government.
“The truth actually is that ASUU is not to be blamed for the incessant disruption of academic calendar.
“It is the Federal Government that is always reneging on agreement with unions based on the arrogance and belief that they can do as they wish with impunity. “We hereby call on NANS not to continue to maintain neutrality in the struggle of ASUU against Federal Government over the funding and revitalization of the University system.
“We call for solidarity between NANS and ASUU as well as other education unions in a joint struggle to demand improved funding of public education and democratic management of schools,” the statement concluded.