The Nigeria Labour Congress and online learning

The Nigeria Labour Congress and online learning

Muttaqa Yusha’u currently heads the Education and Training department of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).  As head of department, he co-ordinates the NLC education programmes, which are structured into the national Rain and Harmattan schools. The two schools were named based on Nigeria’s weather patterns (rain and harmattan seasons).

There are also state-level schools which take place annually across the 36 states of Nigeria, and a study circle programme which is a workplace education programme targeting shop stewards. In addition, there are monthly seminars on various topics that are of interest for Nigerian workers.

Muttaqa Yusha’u says: “The main challenge facing workers in Nigeria is how to deepen worker education across rank and file members of the trade unions, in the midst of the declining consciousness of the ideals of the movement around members, vis-à-vis the onslaught of global capital on workers’ consciousness and being.”

IFWEA is currently running an online study circle with the Nigeria Labour Congress, with 16 NLC educators learning to design online courses. We asked Muttaqa Yusha’u about the course:

How did this collaboration between IFWEA and NLC come about?

We contacted IFWEA to run training for the NLC educators’ team. It has become obvious that online tools are a necessary way of educating workers, especially due to the challenges posed by Covid-19. We seek partnership with IFWEA given their edge as one of the leading institutions with a pedigree on worker education globally. We believe that this partnership will benefit Nigerian workers.

What do you hope will be the end goal, once the course has finished?

At the end of the course, we would like to use the knowledge to design online worker activities among the affiliate unions of the NLC. We also seek to integrate our study circle programmes and state-level schools into the course. Our ultimate goal at the end of the course is building the capacity of NLC educators on digital literacy for trade union education.

What kind of courses would you like your educators to design – what is needed?

We would like our educators to design courses across thematic issues that affect workers, such as occupational health and safety given the challenges of the pandemic, political education as a way of building workers’ power, gender courses as a way of addressing gender-based violence in the workplace, as well as courses that border on political economy, given its centrality to the economic wellbeing of workers. We have a particular interest in designing study circles using online resources, given the fact that this could achieve wider outreach with minimum resources.

Why do you think online learning is important, particularly now?

The Coronavirus pandemic has posed a challenge to physical meetings/worker education programmes over the last four months. This makes e-learning one of the alternative sources for reaching out to members. Similarly, the NLC is undergoing a review of its modules of national schools with a view to integrating e-learning programmes.

To what extent do trade unions and their members use online communication, at this point? Could it improve? What are the challenges?

Currently, the level of adoption of e-learning is very low at the level of trade union education and programmes. But with Covid-19 unions have been organising meetings and workshops using Zoom. Covid-19 has improved the appreciation of technology by union members. The main challenge posed by technology is the quality of the internet and long-established concern by unions that it may take over the jobs of their members.

To what extent is there educational support for workers in Nigeria, and how could it be improved?

Currently, worker education is organised by trade union funds, and we have support for study circle projects supported by PANAF. Worker education can be improved through democratising worker education in the workplace. Building a mass movement from grassroots is key to improving trade union education in Nigeria.