Nigeria gears up for education protests


Nigeria’s pro-labour civil coalition, the Joint Action Front (JAF), is preparing for a mass rally on Thursday to try and bring an end a deadlock between education unions and the government.

The Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) has been on a nationwide strike since 1 July, 2013, and it is hoping that new protests will compel the Nigerian Federal Government to release funds for the implementation of an agreement reached with university lecturers during a previous four-month strike in 2009.

The agreement promised to invest some 92 billion naira (approximately 567 million US dollars) into the country’s 78 public universities to improve salaries and to help create a tertiary education sector that is able to respond to the demands of the global economy.

In a press statement on Tuesday, Comrade Abiodun Aremu, General Secretary of the JAF, said that millions of students have been affected by the on-going strike.

He held the government responsible for the spate of strikes in the nation’s education sector and asked Nigerians to join in the mobilisation.

“JAF is committed to the nationwide, zonal and state protests until the government is compelled to give public education the priority attention it deserves.

“We urge all students, workers in formal and informal sectors, parents and pro-people organisations across the country to join the mass mobilisation to save public education.”

He lamented the “disruption of the academic calendars, falling standards of education at all levels, a high level of general insecurity and a bleak future for the current generation and the Nigerian child.’’

Mass protests in Abeokuta, Ogun State in south-west Nigeria on Thursday, 19 Sept, would be followed by similar action in Kano in northern Nigeria, he said.


“Last resort”

According to the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), between 1999 and 2012, ASUU lecturers have been on strike for a total of 30 months out of a possible 156 months.

“Strike has always been an option of last resort for the union,” explained Nasir Fagge, ASUU chairman, during an interview with a Nigerian newspaper, Daily Trust.

Between 2010 and 2013 he says ASUU “had almost close to 50 meetings with government at several levels,” adding that “we have been lobbying to ensure that we avert this crisis, but it became clear to us that the dialogue was between the deaf and the dumb, and under such a circumstance we did not have an option than to withdraw our services.”

In a press release authored by NANS President Yinka Gbadebo, it said lecturers have been out of class for approximately 20 per cent of the total teaching time in the past 13 years.

“This is equivalent to over seven academic semesters of four months each or accurately put, four academic sessions,’’ he noted.

Meanwhile, Minister of information, Labaran Maku, appealed to ASUU to rethink their demands as he said the government also have to take into the account the needs of other sectors.



With more than 160 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa.

But despite being Africa’s biggest oil exporter, a recent UNESCO report revealed that Nigeria has the highest number of children out of school in the world.

An estimated 10.5 million out of a possible 30 million children are not enrolled in school, while there is a teacher shortage of nearly 1.3 million.

The education crisis continues at a tertiary level where only 500,000 out of 1.7 million school leavers succeed at securing a place in higher education.

And those that make it to university or polytechnic face high faculty-to-student ratios, frequently under-qualified staff and poor learning and living facilities.

As a result, money which could be invested in Nigeria is being spent abroad.

Nigeria’s BusinessDay newspaper recently estimated that Nigeria loses 30 billion naira (184 million US dollars) annually as parents who can afford it send their children to other countries for their higher education.

In response, the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan (himself a former university lecturer) allocated 2.6 billion US dollars, or about 8 per cent of the total 2013 national budget to education.

However, compared to the 30 per cent of the total budget spent on education in countries like Ghana and South Africa, Nigeria’s education unions say this isn’t enough.