Students in Nigerian universities have stories to tell, but hardly anyone to tell them to. For our new weekly series, Aluta and Chill, we are putting the spotlight on these students and their various campus experiences.
This week’s subject is a second-year female student at University of Benin. She narrates how two unpleasant experiences with lecturers have changed what she thought about the university and its lecturers.
Could you tell me how you got into university?
I wrote JAMB in 2018 and applied for a course I really liked. Choosing UNIBEN was a no-brainer because a lot of my relatives had gone there, so it is like a family school. Also, the course is not offered in a lot of Nigerian universities. My options were limited.
What drew you to the course?
I saw it in a social studies textbook when I was in JSS 3, and I’d wanted it since that time. However, I didn’t get the course. Instead, I was offered another one, which I didn’t even know existed until I saw it in my admission letter.
Anyway, I wasn’t going to wait a year at home. I decided to cut my losses and take the course. I planned to transfer to the department I wanted after I’d spent some time in school. However, academic activities didn’t start until March 2019 because of an ASUU strike.
Did you eventually transfer to the department you wanted?
Oh yes, it did. I didn’t even spend a session before I facilitated the switch. I knew the right person, and that was all that mattered.
How excited were you about UNIBEN?
My relatives who had gone there only had good things to say about it, so I was definitely pumped. I took their word for it. Now that I’m here, I don’t see what the fuss was about. The expectation didn’t match reality.
A lot of things, but the ones that have affected me the most is how the lecturers have been a pain in my ass in the little time I’ve spent here.
Wow. What happened?
I went to see a lecturer because I needed information about the courses to register for and how to switch departments. I had no idea something funny was going to happen. The moment I entered his office, he locked the door behind us. That was mildly uncomfortable, but I thought he didn’t want to be disturbed. Then I felt his eyes on me, checking me out and sizing me up. I didn’t know what it was about but I kept my cool.
What happened after?
He asked me if I had started having sex.
Yep. That happened. I was obviously taken aback, but I wasn’t sure what to say. Now, I was really uncomfortable but if he noticed, he didn’t care. The next question he asked was if I had a boyfriend. Then he asked if I was a lesbian and if I had noticed any lesbians around the department.
I laughed it off and told him it was none of his business. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have laughed. He thought it was funny, but it wasn’t. Fortunately, he didn’t dig deeper. It was really unnerving. I mean, I had only spent a few weeks in university.
What did you think that did to you?
I was disgusted, to begin with. And I began to see the school and its lecturers in a new light. Thankfully, I switched departments not long after and I didn’t have to deal with seeing him anymore. However, It dawned on me that these lecturers see themselves as gods, and they could do whatever they wanted. The second experience proved that.
Man. What happened?
Sure. I’d transferred departments now and was in the second semester of my first year. I was inside a lecture hall. My class was a large one — about 350 students — and there were no PA systems so the lecturer had to walk around the class to make sure everyone heard him. He got to where I sat, regarded me for a moment and asked me to see him after the class.
Did you know why he wanted to see you?
I had just gotten an artificial septum ring that I wore to school. It was a nose ring, so I didn’t think there was anything to it. But when he asked to see me, I suspected it was because of the ring. He had a reputation for being strict, so I went to his office immediately after the class ended. I got to his office and everything took an ugly turn.
He shared his office with two other lecturers that were teaching me different courses at the time. One of them was at the door when I got there. He saw me, saw the nose ring and started yelling at me.
Now, his words wouldn’t have bothered me so much, but he was throwing words like “harlot” and “prostitute” into the mix. I’d never been that embarrassed.
That’s not cool. Did you react to the outburst?
I did. I couldn’t reel everything in, so I retorted and asked him not to call me those names. He didn’t take kindly to this. Even then, I could see that he was offended, but I couldn’t care less. I dashed past him and went in to see the lecturer I actually came to see.
What did your lecturer say?
He asked me to sit down and gently told me that I was allowed to wear whatever I wanted, but I shouldn’t wear the ring to his class anymore.
I have a feeling that wasn’t the end of it
It wasn’t. The lecturer I had the run-in with was taking two compulsory courses at the time, so I couldn’t avoid him. Every time I ran into him, he looked at me in a weird way. He made it pretty clear that he had it for me.
I was writing a test for one of his courses one time when he came to my seat. He took the sheet I was writing in and waved it in the air for everyone to see. Then he started with the name-calling again — it was “fool” and “dunce” this time. It irked me, but I didn’t say anything.
Did you think he wanted something?
Yes, he wanted an apology, I guess. He asked me to his office twice, but I didn’t go. On the day I wrote one of his exams, he asked me to come to his office again, but I didn’t go. I wasn’t going to deal with him unless I had to.
What happened after?
We don’t see our results until the beginning of a new session. When I eventually got my 100 level results, I saw that I got F in both courses he took.
It took a lot to process that. I knew how much work I put into studying for those courses. I actually loved them and studied hard for them. Besides, his courses were the only ones I failed.
I’m really sorry about that. What did you do when you saw your grades?
There was nothing I could do. I had to let it go. Now, he’s my course adviser and I have to sit for the exams again. I could use a break from him. He probably still wants me to apologise, but I have nothing to apologise for.
Ha, he’s your course adviser now! How badly did the two Fs affect your CGPA?
My CGPA took a big hit. No student should have two Fs in their first year. Besides, both courses are compulsory. Right now, my CGPA is struggling a bit. I shouldn’t be dealing with this, but it is what it is. I’m trying to see the bright side, though — I’m in my second year, so I believe that I have time to make up what I’d lost.
How confident are you that you will pass his courses this time?
Man, I’m confident about what I wrote in the previous exams. However, if it doesn’t happen, I have to take it to department management. I know the HOD, so that could work to my advantage. I hope it doesn’t get there, though — these lecturers can be vindictive and I don’t want this to become me vs the department thing.
Have these experiences affected your relationships with other lecturers?
I like to keep my distance from all of them. I don’t care to nurture a student-lecturer relationship. From my experience, nothing good comes out of that. Of course, I’m never comfortable in classes. I always feel like they are watching me. All I can do to be in control is to take it easy and mind my business.
Do you think you might still get in a run-in with him?
Yes. It doesn’t scare me, though. There’s only so much he or any lecturer can do. I still have the nose ring, but I don’t wear it to school anymore. It makes me really sad that I can’t wear what I want when I want to, but I will live. The idea is to lay low, and I’m sticking with that.
If you could go back to 2018, would you still go for UNIBEN?
Nah, I wouldn’t even choose a public university. I would find a private university where the only thing I’d have to do is study without worrying about a lecturer leering at me or another one failing me in two important courses because he didn’t like what I wore.
*The subject asked to be anonymous.
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Can’t get enough Aluta and Chill? Check back every Thursday at noon for a new episode. Find other stories in the series here.