Students in Nigerian universities have stories to tell, but hardly anyone to tell them to. For our weekly series, Aluta and Chill, we are putting the spotlight on these students and their various campus experiences.
Our subject for this week had a lot of expectations before she enrolled for her Master’s degree programme. She soon realised the system was not built to add to what she already knew. She shares her frustration about her uninterested lecturers and their regurgitated lessons.
Tell me about how you started this master’s journey.
I finished my first degree in Biochemistry in 2016. I was going to apply for my master’s degree programme immediately, but the school management — Unilorin where I did my undergrad — changed the admission requirements and made an NYSC certificate a prerequisite before your application could be considered. So I applied in 2018, and got in.
Why did you want to do your masters immediately?
It felt like the next thing to do. There were no jobs — although I once worked briefly as an executive assistant — and travelling out of the country was not an option, so I believed going back to school could give me an edge. I believed a postgraduate degree would give my employability a huge boost.
That’s fair. Why did you go back to your alma mata?
I like my comfort zone, and Unilorin has become one. Also, Unilorin made a good impression on me during undergrad. There were no strikes and the stability banged, so I thought it was better to continue with a system that worked.
Ah, I see. Were you excited to start your degree?
Naturally, I don’t get hyped for anything. The masters was a means to an end – it was me trying to put myself out there.I had expectations, though. I thought it was going to build on and expand what I had already learned during my time as an undergraduate. I expected that everything I did there would be driven by research, but I have only a few months to go, and most of the things I’ve done, save for my dissertation, are purely theoretical. This irks me a lot, especially since we were only about 40 in my class, as opposed to the over 200 classmates I had when I was studying for my first degree. There was supposed to be more interaction with lecturers, but they’ve been aloof.
That’s quite the twist.
Yes, it is. When the series of events started, I was like what’s going on? I could have about four lectures scheduled for a day, and only one lecturer would show up. And the lecturer that showed up wouldn’t say anything I hadn’t heard or learned before. The best ones would give a quick rundown of the course and leave us to figure the rest out. There was this lecturer who came and dumped an exact material I used for a course I did when I was studying for my first degree. Yes, it’s that bad. Most of the things I’m learning are exactly what we did when I was an undergraduate.
By the time I wrote my first-semester exam, I realised that I might have played myself. I contemplated putting a stop to it and getting out of the messy arrangement, but I’d spent money and it wouldn’t make sense to anyone or myself if I dropped out of school at the time. But the fact that I couldn’t really do anything about it made me sad. Really sad.
How did this affect your relationship with your master’s degree?
It filled me with a lot of anxiety, and I may have become disillusioned with the idea of getting a postgraduate degree. It became clear that I had to look for other means to get the knowledge I was looking for, and Youtube came into the picture.
Tech always comes through.
Even before I started my masters, I’d always turned to Youtube about pretty much everything. I was in a molecular biology class, and as usual, nothing was making sense. The lecturer came in for a moment, dropped the material, and went on his merry way. I was close to freaking out on how to consume it with little guidance, when a classmate casually mentioned Youtube. It felt like a breakthrough – I was actually surprised that I hadn’t thought of that. Youtube became my classroom in every sense. And get this; I feel like these Youtube lessons are more interactive than what goes on in the lecture rooms. It’s strange that I’m getting more from strangers thousands of miles away. But it works, and I’ve decided to stick with it.
How much did these Youtube lessons level the playing field for you?
It’s helped in ways I didn’t even think of. I used to be so anxious about lecturers going AWOL and the sheer volume of materials I’d have to consume on my own, but after I discovered Youtube, I was prepared to walk into any exam hall knowing I wouldn’t flunk any exam. Really, it’s changed a lot, and I’ve learned more from Youtube than I have from any lecturer. Can you believe that?
I can. But what do you think is the reason for the apathy on the part of your lecturers?
It’s just the way the system is set-up. The ‘anyhowness’ this country is notorious for. I have no idea of what’s going on behind the scenes but I feel like they would rather write papers and attend seminars and conferences. It’s how they amass respect in the academic circles after all. The more they get published, the higher they climb the rungs of the ladder. Of course, there will be a conflict of interest and a disconnect.
Have you tried letting any one of them know?
Absolutely not! You can never win with Nigerians, especially when they are older than you. The power play everyone with a modicum of authority likes to exhibit is quite comical. I’m not here to make a wave or put a target on my back, so the best thing to do is to find a way to make the arrangement work. This, if anything, only exposes how much of a trainwreck the educational sector and academic standards in Nigeria are. You know, I blame myself a lot for this.
Why is that?
I didn’t exactly research the master’s degree programme at my department. I thought I was familiar with the workings of Unilorin and knew everything I needed to know. I feel awful about it now. At least, I could have asked one or two people and worked with whatever I got from them. Even if I was still going to come here, I would be equipped with the heads-up and wouldn’t deal with the rude shock I got.
This masters is the hardest thing I’ve had to do. I’m just here, fighting not to switch to auto-pilot. On some days, I woke up and wondered why I even bothered to go to class since there was a high chance that the lecturers wouldn’t show up. That was last year when I was still doing coursework. I’m writing my dissertation now, and still, I’m in that zone where I become tired and uninterested every time I turn on my laptop to work. I still contemplate dropping out. I won’t do it, but it’s nice to think about it. I’m pushing through, but life could be better. Nigerian education is going to complete and utter shit, and it needs a fix. ASAP!
It’s unfair the way the education structure is set up. The lecturers could really do better. To be fair, some of them seem like they enjoy what they do. On the other hand, others couldn’t care less – it’s very clear from their body language. If I wasn’t a cast member in this movie, I might even laugh at it.
Do you think you might have a better experience in a different school?
There’s no way to know for sure. However, if this had happened in a different school, I wouldn’t feel so defeated. I would know that I explored another option. My lack of adventure seems to be my undoing. I’m not even going to lie; it feels like I’m wasting my time here. The only thing that fuels my excitement is that there is a certificate waiting for me at the end of it. This misery is temporary, and I can’t wait for it to end. I will defend my dissertation in a few months, go home, wait for my result, and eventually, I will forget that this fuckery ever happened.
Is it safe to say you are done with school?
The plan was to start my PhD process immediately after masters, but with my experience, that will have to wait – and that’s if I want to go down this road again. I’m not entirely ruling it out; the idea of a PhD sounds nice, but it’s going to have to wait. I’m so tired. Nothing in this country works, and I can’t let it consume me.
I feel you. If you had to do this again, what would you change?
Go to a different school, maybe. Also, I would ask more questions to get a better insight into what I’m getting myself in. This could have changed everything for me.
What are you looking forward to the most?
First, the plan is to forget that this ever happened and move on with my life. Moving on with my life means finding a job, which I have already started searching for. I’m looking forward to breaking into the labour market. It’s time to become an adult.
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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.