The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said it had sent an “urgent appeal” to two United Nations special rapporteurs urging them to prevail upon the Nigerian government and the leadership of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to reach an agreement to “end the ongoing strike action by ASUU, which continues to have real and dire consequences on the right to higher education, specifically university education.”
Content of the urgent appeal dated 28th December 2018 and signed by SERAP’s senior legal adviser Bamisope Adeyanju were sent to the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Ms Koumbou Boly Barry, and the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston.
A copy of it made available to EduCeleb.com noted that the Nigerian government’s inability to prevent the strike was in violation of provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
It argued further that the Nigerian authorities were by that also limiting access to tertiary education describing such “discrimination”.
“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.”
“The failure by the Nigerian government to reach an agreement with ASUU has also 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, as students in private schools continue to attend classes while those in public universities stay at home.
“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.”
SERAP went further in the urgent appeal to emphasise its call for the urgent intervention of the rapporteur in view of how much that the strike limits educational opportunities.
The rights group observed that the limited progress so far made with the negotiations between the government and ASUU has devastating consequences on the right to equal and quality higher education.
“The obligations of the Nigerian government to create the conditions necessary for the enjoyment of the right to education include to take preventive measures to address the root causes of strike action by ASUU and to take steps to end any strike action in a timely manner when it occurs.”
“It is the responsibility of the government to preserve and strengthen education as a public good and a matter of public interest. Without the urgent intervention of the Special Rapporteurs, the ongoing strike action by ASUU would continue and this would continue to impede access to university education for the poor and marginalized.”
“SERAP is concerned that Nigerian students in public universities have suffered many years of academic disruption as a result of the failure of successive Nigerian governments to address the root causes of strike action by ASUU and to timely reach agreement to end strike action and its devastating consequences on the right to equal and quality higher education.”
“Persistent strike actions in the education sector have continued to cause disruption of classes and undermine both the quality and duration of students’ education.”
“We note that the right to strike is one of the fundamental means available to workers to promote their interests. However, we are seriously concerned that the failure by both the Nigerian government and ASUU to make substantial progress in negotiations and reach amicable settlement to end the unduly prolonged strike action has undermined the right of Nigerian children and young people to higher education.”
“The ongoing strike action by ASUU in Nigeria if not urgently addressed would continue to have grave consequences for the youth of our country as well as the country’s development and progress as a whole.”
“Universal access is an essential prerequisite for the exercise of the right to education. But the failure by the Nigerian government to end the strike action by ASUU has contributed to denying students from disadvantaged backgrounds equal access to university education, as these students are unable or lack the capacity to pay to access private schools.”
“This situation has aggravated existing disparities in access to university education in the country, further marginalising economically disadvantaged parents and students.”
EduCeleb.com recalls that since the ASUU Strike commenced on 4th November, not less than five negotiations between the Nigerian government and the university teachers had been held with none leading to a resolution of the reasons behind the strike.
ASUU had alluded to the government’s failure to implement 2009 agreement and the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding reached with it.
ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi had in an interview penultimate week hinted that the government was also reneging on a memoranda of agreement it reached in 2017 after the university teachers’ union went on a similar strike.
He had also threatened not to attend any meeting called by the government if the government would not be implementing agreements meant to improve the well-being of Nigeria’s ivory towers.
The two parties are expected to meet and resume negotiations on 10th January.
SERAP therefore urged the Special Rapporteurs to put pressure on the Nigerian government to take immediate action to end the deadlock in negotiations with ASUU and “reach amicable settlement that would ensure that the universities are reopened without further delay and that students return to school.”
It also advocated for increasing funding for public universities and the declaration of education as “an essential service in Nigeria to minimise the negative impact of strike action on the right to higher education.”