THE NUANCES: NOTES ON NIGERIAN POSTGRADUATE EDUCATION

Thursday, October 17, 2019

postgraduate education in Nigeria
Some time ago, the class representative for my postgraduate class announced to me and other postgraduate students that he was on a mission to find where to buy chicken breasts, fried rice and juice, because that was what our head of department, a large buxom woman who inspired no real academic intelligence, specifically requested as her refreshments. She would have no other chicken body parts. Just the breasts. So the class representative was saddled with the great and uncommon task of asking servers at the university restaurants if they had chicken breasts.

This was the season of exams, of photocopying study materials you had no idea existed at the start of the semester, of hurried reading and of cramming topics that are new and largely unfamiliar. It was also the season university lecturers overseeing postgraduate students expected to be treated well. Treated well here stands for anything you can possibly do to get lecturers to help you in achieving your goal—to obtain the coveted postgraduate degree. It was also the season I learned that it was my duty as a postgraduate student to contribute money for the purchase of refreshments for lecturers who invigilated postgraduate exams.

After each paper, the class representative for my postgraduate class would take money contributed by the class to buy meat pies and cans of malt for lecturers who invigilated our exams and even though the head of department was never around during the exams, he would take to her office a pack of warm fried rice, a bottle of juice and of course, the noteworthy chicken breasts. The scenario comically mirrors the case of a ruler and the commoners. The head of department, the ruler, sits in the comfort of her air-conditioned office and receives deeply flavoured chicken breasts while the commoners, the ordinary lecturers who invigilate the exams get miserable meat pies and cans of malt.

And in this, I was awakened to the nuances of undertaking postgraduate education in Nigeria. To be a postgraduate student in a Nigerian university is to realize that your responsibility is not only to your books but also to the powers that be, the custodians of postgraduate certificates in whose hands lie the ability to squash your dreams of getting a Master's or PhD degree. Because when it comes to the grossly inept and academically decrepit cults that are government-owned tertiary institutions, the rule is not to have a romanticized idea that all it takes is to show up for classes, study, write exams and tear out your own leaf from the limitless ream of postgraduate certificates. Many Nigerians embrace the idea that a postgraduate degree is a means of getting ahead, so they enrol for postgraduate studies, not wanting to really master concepts (isn't that what an MSc is for?) but to obtain an embossed paper from a university, a misconstrued visa to a better life.

Having undergone a full semester in the academically underwhelming world that is Nigerian postgraduate education, I can say that I have encountered the nuances of this world and I'm in a position to instruct you on what to expect. So sit at my feet, dear pupil and glean from my robust wisdom.

First and most importantly, expect to receive elaborate poor treatment. If you encounter a situation where you are treated well by university staff, by all means, act surprised. Because in government-owned tertiary institutions of learning, people hardly bother with excellence, or mastery or refinement. They mostly don't understand the language of doing things well. People seem to swirl in a simmering pot of mediocrity. Lectures never start as at when due. You'd probably spend the first three months of the semester wondering who your lecturers are going to be. Don't expect your lecturers to find you. You are to find them. You are to beg them to teach you, to make the time to do what they are paid by the government to do.

 Speaking of teaching, many postgraduate lecturers are under the terrible notion that they don't need to actually teach their postgraduate students. They assume you know. So they stand and throw concepts about in your face, concepts that many of them, sadly, do not have full grasp of. I mean, lecturers are educators. They are supposed to know. It is their job to know.  They spend many months of the year handling classes, handling subjects, yet many of them are just sub-par and unremarkable.

You'd expect that a professor who should live and breathe his discipline, who should inspire and ooze intellectual cool would indeed be the guruji of a subject area, dispelling the darkness of ignorance. Unfortunately, expecting a professor to drip intellectual sauce is a romanticized idea. Many of them are out of touch with the speedily progressive outside world. They substitute brilliance for verbosity. They think knowledge equates to blowing big grammar. They think the job description for the word "professor" largely summarizes as "bamboozle, " so they write texts that are hard to grasp and sometimes incomprehensible. One professor I know did not seem to know how to ask straight questions. His exam questions were an ever-winding path of torture. In his mind, setting poorly conceptualized exam questions (he wouldn't, of course, see it this way) was the way to display his professorial brilliance.

Away from the professors and lecturers. Let's have a go at the postgraduate students, many of whom are people hungry to climb career ladders, and need the boost of a postgraduate degree, so cannot be bothered to put in the mental effort to assume the position of a Master of a discipline. They are in the postgraduate program armed with an intention to bribe, to please the gods of the postgraduate school, to influence them to make their plan of getting a certificate smooth. Because this is what it is all about, a mere certificate. Just before the end of my semester exams, the class representative called a  class meeting to encourage us to individually pay #20,000 naira. He said the money was to appreciate the lecturers, yet the full intention was to get them to mark us up. Strangely, many were in support of this payment. Some even wanted the money increased, the better to buy off the conscience of the lecturers. And so I soon realized that to these people, studying was pointless. Why study when you can pay for grades?

There is indeed A LOT of things wrong with Nigerian institutions of learning, especially those owned by the government. It would take several blog posts for me to air my deep grievances with the system. Ike gwuru. I'll stop here for now. Perhaps in the future, I'd revisit this topic with more ammunition to attack the enablers of our mediocre educational system.

Share your thoughts in the comments below. You may find this related post quite hilarious.








8 comments:

  1. Eziokwu, Ike gwuru! I just finished with my Bachelor's study. And I reached the conclusion that none of my children will ever attend a Nigerian University.

    Thank you for sharing, nne.

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  2. Hey Chijioke, congratulations on your bachelors. I share your sentiments about not wanting your kids to go to Nigerian universities. I mean, the state of things in our universities seem to be on a progressive path of depreciation. The main culprits are the government-owned institutions. The private schools are far better. Really, it is tiring.

    Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

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  3. I am really laughing at the specifics. So she doesn't want any other chicken parts. It's sad but the good news is a new breed of lecturers are on the way who will not only inspire the students but be the shoulder on which they stand on to become who they want to be, that's my dream and I am recruiting. #smiles
    Well done @Keenwoman

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    1. Yes, Nasa. Her being so specific about chicken breasts was indeed funny. And we are really looking forward to you joining a new breed of lecturers who truly inspire students. Your dream will come true. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

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  4. Let me tell you this for free, my sister is one of the best writers out there. This is so apt yet hilarious.😂 May thy ink flow more freely. Jisike nwanne

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    1. Awww. Thank you nwanne m and Amen to more flowing ink.

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  5. I couldn't stop laughing as i read this, you write really well that i wonder who did the journalism degree between you and Princess.I guess a full roast pig, complete with the apple in the mouth will be demanded during your project defence. God help you as your navigate the murky waters called postgraduate education in Nigeria.

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    Replies
    1. Hey Sammy, thank you for reading. Really happy this post made you laugh. Writing sort of runs in my family, regrettably I was pushed to science. About the roast pig with an apple in it's mouth, that image just reminds of Tom and Jerry cartoons. Will I even make it to project defence, seeing how disenchanted I am with the program now? Time will tell.

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