Thursday, 10 July 2008

Student Struggles In Africa

I've lost my USB strick with various pieces I'd written for the blog on it. However, I thougth i ought to post something in the meantime so there is selection of reports about student struggles in Africa

Burkina Faso

Tinette Schnatterer, who recently spoke to student activists in Burkina Faso, looks at developing mass protests and strikes in the impoverished West African country, which has one of the lowest GDP per capita incomes in the world and is ranked the 127th poorest nation.

Brutal police action against student strike
United action of protesting workers, students and poor needed!
Tinette Schnatterer, SAV (CWI in Germany)

After months of protests, 17 June saw university students in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, go on strike to increase pressure for more classrooms, higher grants and lower tuition fees. Studying conditions are catastrophic. The entire department for German Studies has to share two dictionaries and two computers. Over the last few days, another demand has been added by the students: the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the police from the university campus.
Police shoot at students
On 17 June, the biggest student union, ANEB, called a demonstration and a sit-in in front of the rector's office at the university. They wanted to force the administration to react, which until then tried to ignore the protests. But instead of negotiating with the students, the authorities called in the police. The police shot live bullets at the peaceful demonstration. It is reported that 62 students were arrested and many injured. One student told us: "A student has been shot in the leg. We thought we were in Darfur". Since then, the campus has been surrounded by the police, even though access to the campus by the police is prohibited by law.
Some of the arrested students had to be released because of a lack of evidence. Four students were sentenced to 6 months, released on probation, and fined 5,000 Franc CFA. They have been accused of 'damaging property' during the demonstration. Contrary to what has been reported in the media, the students only started to fight back when the police started to shoot at their demonstration.
During the court trial, which lasted 48 hours, hundreds of students waited in the overcrowded courtroom, and in front of the court buildings, to show their solidarity with their fellow students. This is why the court sentences were much less than that demanded by the prosecutor.
University principal shuts down the university
To underline that they will not be intimidated but will continue to struggle until their demands are carried out, students called another demonstration for 26 June. The University Administration reacted immediately and closed down the whole university. "For the moment, we shut down all the social services, particularly the hostels, the canteens and the health stations for the students", said Bibia Robert Sangaré, President of the National Centre of University Institutions.
This led to enormous problems for the striking students. Most of them have homes far away from the university, share a small room in student hostels and have no finances. The university administration is now trying to literally starve out the protesters. At the same time, a student told us:"The University Principal threatens us with the annulment of the term, they want to boycott our results and make us repeat the academic year."
Nevertheless, the students organised further protests. "The Campus is surrounded by the police. We have no possibility at all to get into contact with our rank and file members. But, on Monday, we will organise a big rally of all the students on the campus", said Adama Baguiyan, President of the General Alliance of the Students Burkina Faso (UGEB), the umbrella organisation to which the ANEB belongs.
Growing anger at neo-liberal policy
During the last months, there were growing protests in Burkina Faso, as in the whole region, against the effects of neo-liberal policies. Big demonstrations and strikes against rising food prices and against the EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU) shattered the country. The brutal police actions against the students show how much the government fears these protests.
Parallel to the student protests, workers in the health industry responded to a strike call from the Synsha trade union and went on a three day strike. To transform this widespread anger into effective resistance, the unions should organise, as the next step, a one day, country-wide, general strike of workers, students and the urban and rural poor. Also political representation, that does not look for an alliance with Western banks and big corporations, but unites resistance against capitalist globalisation internationally, is necessary. Capitalism demonstrates, daily, that profits of big corporations are more important to it than food and education for millions.
"Don't shoot, you can't kill ideas"
"Don't shoot, you can't kill ideas" - These were the words spoken by the former radical, anti-imperialist president, Thomas Sankara, one week before his assassination in a military coup in 1987. The growing enthusiasm for Sankara, especially among young people, is the expression of a search for alternatives. Despite repression, thousands participated in protests to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Sankara's assassination, last year. But, unfortunately, the tragic end of Sankara's four years rule showed that a complete break with capitalism is necessary to open the way to real liberation from imperialism and the first steps towards a socialist planned economy. These steps cannot be introduced from above, or simply by a chief of government. Only a revolutionary movement of workers, youth and peasants (in Burkina Faso, 80 % of the population work in agriculture) will be able to replace the dictatorship of profit with a society where the mass of the population democratically decide what to produce and how. The mass movement is key to succcess, and the example of Venezuela shows current these debates are today.


Education Rights Campaign
Pay Teachers Adequate Wages Now!
Press Statement by the Education Rights Campaign, Nigeria

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) hereby condemns in strong terms the failure of the Yar'Adua and state governments to hearken to the demands of Nigerian teachers who are requesting for improved remuneration as contained in the Teachers Salary Scale. Also, we declare our total support of the teachers for improved living conditions. We enjoin the leadership of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) to lead the struggle to a logical conclusion that will ensure improved and adequate living wage for teachers.
It is ridiculous that the same government that claim to be committed to the human capacity development including education could wait until the teachers, most of whom are paid poverty wages, to embark on wage to improve their living standard. It is ridiculous that the government cannot recognize the link between teachers' living standards and educational development. According to a UNESCO report, Nigeria requires over 200, 000 teachers to bring to school over eight million children currently out of school, while more teachers are needed to provide quality education to Nigerian children based on international standard, but these numbers of teachers could not be got because teachers are poorly treated by the governments at all level. One would have expected the federal government to immediately concede to the demands of the teachers other than the present hide-and-seek game of the government. This again confirms our belief that the present government is not interested in the development of the country notwithstanding their grandstanding.
This is already confirmed in the manner the federal and state governments are handling the education sector. Currently across all tertiary institutions, fees are being hiked despite the fact that many students come from working class and poor peoples' backgrounds. Furthermore the federal budget for education is less than 8.3 percent while UNESCO recommended 26 percent for developing nations like Nigeria. This terrible trend of the federal government is being followed by several state governments. Those state governments which claim to be committing more than 20 percent to education only use education as a smokescreen to divert public fund for personal use. This is graphically manifested by the revelation on the looting of the UBE fund by state and federal UBEC officials.
All this has led to degeneration in the standard of education in the country from primary to tertiary level. While primary schools, save for a block of classrooms being constructed in few selected schools, are lacking basic facilities, secondary and most tertiary institutions are in rotten state. Currently while over a million students sat for the last UME examinations, a paltry 200, 000 will be admitted because the universities lack basic facilities to adsorb enough students. This is the crisis that government under funding of education and chronic mismanagement has caused to the education sector.
Therefore, for anybody interested in the revitalization of education, the current struggle of the teachers should be supported as a stepping stone towards forcing the government to properly fund education and pay adequate wages for education workers (and indeed other workers). While politicians in power collect millions of naira as salaries and allowances most teachers are paid less than the N10, 000 minimum wage. As against the excuse of the state and federal governments that they do not have fund to pay the new pay, politicians who are put in education boards and commissions like UBE boards and teaching service commissions are paid hundreds of thousands of naira as monthly pay. If truly the governments do not have the money, they should reduce the salaries of all political office holders to that of the teachers. The reason the government will not pay teachers, and indeed fund education properly, is because the government is committed to neo-liberal capitalist policies that tend to give public resources to big moneybag business and politicians.
Consequently, we of the ERC call on the leadership of the NUT not to compromise but to mobilize not only teachers but also the other oppressed people like other workers, the market women, artisans, youth and the unemployed for mass rallies, protest marches, picket and press campaign that will force the government within the shortest time to concede to the demands of teachers. Furthermore, we enjoin the NUT leadership to ensure that all categories of teachers – federal government-, state-employed and privately-employed teachers – are affected by the TSS. The current attempt of state governments to distance themselves from the issue should not be allowed.
The leadership of central labour unions – NLC and TUC – must not only support the teachers actively by declaring solidarity actions including strikes, protest marches, rallies, etc. but to also start a mass action for N30, 000 minimum wage. We also feel that NUT should join force with other staff and students' unions in the education sector to demand proper funding of education by at least 26 percent of the budget coupled with democratic management at all levels to include elected representatives of education workers' and students' unions.
For us in the ERC, we have declared July 16, 2008 as a National Day of Action to demand proper funding of education by at least 26 percent of the budget coupled with democratic management at all levels to include elected representatives of education workers' and students' unions; recall of all victimized workers' and students' activists (UNILORIN 49 lecturers, OAU 10, etc.) and end to the culture of victimization; reversal of hike in fees; proper and adequate remuneration of all education workers; among others. We call on students' and workers' activists, unions and civil society organizations to join us in this struggle which shall include mass rallies, protest marches and lecture boycotts across campuses, schools and communities. Once again we give our solidarity to teachers in their struggle for better wages.
Hassan Taiwo
Chinedu Bosah

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