Growing up, a lot of us are taught that there is an exact way we are supposed to progress. We go from primary school to secondary school to university, get a job and then marry. It’s linear and exact. However, real-life isn’t that simple. A good number of people opt out of this race at different points and for different reasons. Today, we spoke to seven people who decided a uni education isn’t for them or had to leave uni.

Mimi, 21.
I dropped out but I went to a school in England. My mom and some of her colleagues were being probed by EFCC. And I knew it was going to affect my school fees being paid. Plus I never liked England. So that was my call to back out quick. For now, I’m doing nothing. I really want to relax in Nigeria. I just want to be jobless for a while. As for my mom, I told her to just let me chill and enjoy the money EFCC hasn’t seized from her. I live with mum so most things are covered and the extra things, my dad and my other siblings send me money when they can. I can’t lie I didn’t realise how bad it affected my plans until recently but I plan on moving back to England to just live there and probably work a bit until I figure out what I want to do with my life. My original plan was to go to uni and then go on to become a solicitor. But I don’t think I even know how to read anymore. I’m also a British citizen so it’s easier to rely on another country for my unplanned future.

Afam, 24.

For me leaving uni was a matter of realizing that it wasn’t providing value to me. The university system here is shit, and according to it, I was dumb. I failed courses, I was horrible with classmates and it made me depressed. Then I started coding and designing and I was good at it. It’s funny how when I brought that real-life know-how to classes in Uni where I was studying computer science, I would still fail but outside, I was doing well. That’s when I realized that uni was all about knowing enough to pass an examination, at least in Nigeria. The day I decided to leave was when on my second full-time tech role, I heard how much my lecturer was making and I realized I was earning twice what he was being paid. I was twenty-three, he was several decades older than me, had been working for much longer but I was already out-earning him and I was just getting started. That made something click in me, so I got out of the system. I dropped out two weeks later.

Mel, 22.
I dropped out because I realized I was fooling myself, what I was studying wasn’t my career part. I never wanted to study Human Resources Management, I wanted to be a lawyer. Nobody ever noticed but I was unhappy about it. I’m very intelligent but I flunked in school and I never took my classes seriously. Sometimes I just paid my lecturers to get through to the next semester. Now I’m going after the things I love doing and not what my mum wants. I feel at peace being in control of my life. When I was in Uni, I was so depressed because I didn’t know what to do next. The question of “are you done with school?” “have you gotten a job?” “what are you currently doing?” It was unbearable, my anxiety went so high that I almost killed myself. I felt like a failure because why would any reasonable person drop out in their final year right? But now? Fuck it! I don’t give a single fuck if anyone sees me as a failure, I don’t owe them anything. Now I’m happy and I’m currently working on getting my psychology degree from the University of London. For real, I’m happy and I’m making the right decisions for my future so to hell with anyone who thinks otherwise.

Vona, 26.

First, I dropped out because I couldn’t pay school fees. I had the money to pay before I even needed to pay but I was in a relationship with someone at the time and he came to one day saying he needed help, I loaned him the money with the promise that he would pay back before resumption. He didn’t and then he moved out of the country with my money, I never heard from him again. When it was time for resumption, I couldn’t pay fees, was too ashamed to ask anyone for help and I, unfortunately, had to drop out. It has changed my life plans, I can’t get a job. I’m not much of a business person and doing small businesses to survive is hard as I want to be in an office space working but I can’t do that as nobody wants to employ an SSCE holder for jobs. I’ve wasted my life and it hurts. I’m ashamed that I’m a dropout, I hate to meet new people because people want to know what you do, where you work. What do I say? That I’m a dropout who has nothing going for her? I can’t show up anywhere because I’m always the odd one out. It’s just safer to stay indoors and never go out. At first, nobody in my family knew until two years later when they started hounding me for NYSC and I had to come clean. My Dad outrightly disowned me, it was one of the toughest periods in my life because I left the house that morning with a bag of clothes and 20k. It’s been a few years now, my mom is no more disappointed but I and my dad don’t talk and haven’t seen each other since then.

Yasmin, 20.

I dropped out partially due to attempted assault. And uni was high workload with low reward. The system was archaic. We were using learning materials from the 1970s and a course that was supposed to be very in-depth and practical oriented was DIY. It has affected my life and plans. I sometimes feel like all the time I spent fighting to study that course is now a waste. But it’s helped me figure out what my dream means to me and how to work around it while pursuing something else. I was very anxious about dropping out. Firstly because it felt like I had wasted their money. A part of me wanted to just suck up the mental exhaustion I was facing and just finish but I couldn’t. A lot of people also felt I was spoiled, they’d say ‘if you go to a different uni and the lecturer tries to assault you again will you drop out again.‘ It is very scary how much sexual assault is downplayed in uni. Up until the day I was going to quit I kept thinking about all the people I left high school with graduating the next year and how I’d be starting afresh but we’re meant for different things. Anyways, so I couldn’t chicken out I didn’t go for exams so that was a sure way to drop out. The funny thing is my parents were so pro-dropping out. They just wanted me to have fun till the semester was over and come home. They kept wondering why I still bothered going to classes. My mum especially was very supportive and she keeps telling me not to run on anyone else’s time.

Olayinka, 24.
I was 17. I was in my second year. I just knew I didn’t fit in. I wanted to do it for my family but the more I tried the more it sucked. So one day I just woke up, told myself I wasn’t going to do it anymore. I called my parents and told them I forgot to pay my school fees and although I did intentionally delay my fees but it was still something I could fix but I didn’t want to fix it. Fast forward to today, nobody wants to employ someone who doesn’t own a degree. Sometimes I feel insecure about it. I am one of the smartest girls I know but I’ve had to quit work so many times because I’m constantly being treated like a slave. You do all the work for our so-called graduates and they earn way more than you do.
One time I met this guy who said he liked me and wanted us to date. I told him I was a dropout and he told me he couldn’t be with someone who dared to throw her life away. I felt anxious at the initial stage but as soon as I decided to end it. I felt really good about it. I never even thought I’d get a job. Like a real job. Everyone told me I wouldn’t and for a while, that scared me but I’m in a much better space now and I have come to love myself for making that decision. That night as soon as I got home, we had this huge argument at home. My Dad kept on blaming my mom for it and I felt horrible. The next morning at exactly 5 am my parents took me to the park and told me I was going to live with my aunt in Ilorin. My mom didn’t talk to me for four months, and my dad never took me seriously afterwards and that was the hardest part for me

Ofeh, 25.
I wanted to study medicine but UNIBEN gave me Educational Psychology. That didn’t make sense so I always planned to leave. In my second year, I wrote jamb and got admission to a different school and aside from it being a rugged school, they gave me Biochemistry. No point going from a course I didn’t want to another course I did not want. At the same time, my dad was trying to get me and my brother out of Nigeria or so he told me. However, only my brother ended up leaving. I stayed because my dad said I’m the first child, I need to be close to home. The gag was that I had already checked out of UNIBEN unbeknownst to anyone. I wasn’t attending classes or taking exams. When I realized I was not going anywhere, I tried to rectify it. I went to my course adviser but she was so mean, shouting at everyone in her office. I was too scared to say anything and even though, I didn’t tell anybody anything. At that point, I was supposedly in 300 level but I had never registered for any of my 200 level courses or written the exams. I didn’t do any assignments or tests. I was practically not a student but I lied for another two years because I was too scared to tell anyone or confront the truth myself. I don’t regret dropping out. It’s one of the events that made my life go the way it is now and I’m grateful I got it. However the years before I told anyone, I would lock myself in my room for days, no food. Just snacks, weed and tears. I went to a psychiatrist in 2018 and I got diagnosed and that’s how I know now that my mental health was a part of it. My parents were actually very supportive of my decision. It was surprising because I told them when I was supposedly in final year. Before then I had been lying that I had issues that would cost me extra year, missing script, etc. I eventually wrote my dad a long email telling him I had dropped out and he called me. He asked if I was alone and told me not to cry and to come home. He kept telling to not worry, that I’ll be fine.



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