Education in Nigeria these days, especially higher education, has become an exclusive preserve of the rich but it should not be that way, activists said in an urgent appeal to the United Nations, begging the global body headquartered in New York to help end a lingering university strike in Africa’s most populous nation.
Why it matters: Nigeria is Africa’s top oil producer, and while millionaires and billionaires crisscross the world in private jets and send their sons and daughters to expensive private universities at home or fly them abroad, children of the poor often have to endure long strikes in public schools caused by poor fundings and poor treatment of university staff.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project said the failure by the Nigerian government to reach an agreement with ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) to end the current strike, which started in the first week in November 2018, has “implicitly made access to higher education a privilege of the rich and well-to-do rather than a right of every Nigerian child and young person”.
This, SERAP explained, was because sons and daughters of millionaires and billionaires in expensive private schools continue to attend classes while those in public universities stay at home wondering when will a deal be reached.
The letter dated 28 December 2018 and signed by SERAP senior legal adviser Bamisope Adeyanju was sent to two UN special rapporteurs, Ms. Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education and Professor Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.
The appeal said the strike “continues to have real and dire consequences on the right to higher education, specifically university education, as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Nigeria is a state party.”
“By failing to prevent and end the ongoing strike action by ASUU, the Nigerian government has defied and breached the explicit requirements of the right to equal access to higher education by Nigerian children and young people, under article 13(2)(c) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” SERAP said, according to a statement sent to TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C. by Ms Bamisope Adeyanju, SERAP Senior Legal Adviser.
According to SERAP, “The failure to end the ongoing strike action by ASUU is also a fundamental breach of the right to higher education without discrimination or exclusion, as strike actions continue to penalise economically disadvantaged parents who have no means or lack the capacity to pay to send their children to private schools”.
The organization added: “According to our information, members of ASUU suspended their academic responsibilities in the first week of November 2018, and weeks of negotiations with the Nigerian government since then have yielded no amicable settlement or agreement. ASUU is alleging failure by the Nigerian authorities to implement 2009 agreement and the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding.”
That agreement was meant to improve the work conditions of lecturers and other university staffers but years of failed promises have yielded no tangible results.