Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has written to the United Nations (UN), urging the body to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to reach an agreement with leadership of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to end the ongoing strike.
In an urgent appeal dated 28 December 2018 and signed by SERAP senior legal adviser, Bamisope Adeyanju, the organisation said: “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 appeal sent to Ms. Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education and Professor Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights argues that: “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.
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 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 marginalizing economically disadvantaged parents and students.
“SERAP believes that providing Nigerian children and young people equal access to higher education should be the core public service functions of the Nigerian government. Providing public schools ranks at the very apex of the function of a State.
“SERAP believes that equal access of Nigerian children and young people to quality and uninterrupted education including at the university level would contribute to producing citizens who are fundamentally equal and people who actively participate in society. It would enable people to enjoy the rights as well as fulfil obligations that are associated with citizenship.”