University teachers, students and education activists have joined forces in Nigeria to organise mass protests for public education in the country. On Tuesday demonstrators held up traffic for several hours in Lagos - Nigeria's most populous city. The protests co-incide with an ongoing strike of university teachers for free and properly funded education in the country.

The representative of polytechnic teachers ASUP told the demonstrators:  “Education is not only for the rich. Nigerians should wake up and reclaim what belongs to them. We, members of ASUP, have resolved to join the protest to salvage the education sector."

Speakers at the Lagos rally emphasised the fact that while politicians had themselves benefited from free public education, they were now in the process of privatising it and making higher education inaccessible to the poor. Meanwhile they send their own children to private school and some of them have even set up their own private schools.

Although the school teachers' union is not part of the organising group for these protests, teachers like their colleagues in universities and the students, have been in the forefront of the struggle for public education in Nigeria, as numerous reports on this website testify. Many teachers in the country do not even receive the $114 a month minimum salary - yet they are having to cope with huge class sizes, poor or non-existent resources and, in parts of the country, ongoing sectarian violence.

In June we reported that teachers in Benue state were being sacked and primary schools closed in order to pay the minimum wage to the remaining staff. Yet Nigeria is a country which is potentially rich - with rich mineral resources, particularly of oil. The World Bank, which purports to be pursuing the goal of 'Education for All', has recently announced an investment of $1 billion in Nigeria, not in education but in privatising and exploiting the rich oil resources there.

However the students, university staff and indeed teachers are fighting back, and this despite police repression. Earlier this year some students protesting for free education were shot dead by security forces and protesting teachers in Benue were surrounded and attacked by police in June.