It isn’t uncommon to hear people argue about the merits and demerits of public universities in Nigeria. One of the strong arguments is that whoever survives a public university would survive anything. Another stupid comment is that ‘ a 3rd class in a public university is equivalent to a 1st class in a private university. Whenever, I hear these well thought out nonsense, I simply chuckle.
One thing that the public university is sure to give, is a generous does of wickedness, backwardness and undignified/dehumanising moments.
In 2018, some friends visited Nigeria from Spain and after showing them round the university of Ibadan, we took them to some nice place for lunch. Over lunch I asked, “JJ what do you think about UI?” He replied, “the only good thing about the university is the people.” FYI, we made sure to show them only the best parts of UI.
Now, we go to the University of Lagos and you are welcomed with bedbugs. You go to the University of Nigeria whose motto is “To restore the dignity of man’ and you wonder how a place so undignified can restore or even maintain the dignity of a human being. You go to UNIZIK and UNIBEN and you wonder whether there is no facility management or a planning unit. The State owned universities aren’t any better.
I remember writing the entrance examination for the Federal University of Technology Owerri and I knew, even before the exam started, that I would never return there. An exam scheduled for 9am eventually started at 5pm.
The University is meant to give an all round formation. It is therefore appalling when people say, ‘this hostel isn’t technically part of the university’. In the university you are formed academically, philosophically, culturally and otherwise. A university provides appropriate housing, appropriate classrooms, studios, laboratories, diners, leisure parks etc. Above all, it provides the right staff-both academic and non-academic. It seems that the staff of public universities are out to steal your joy, to kill you and to destroy you. Few months back, I went to the university I obtained my Bachelors degree from (I refuse to use the word Alma mater) because the war and all In had was PTSD and no nostalgia.
It is in a Nigerian public university that a lecturer would come to class under heavy rain, meet one person in class and proceed to give a test which he would subsequently use in grading the rest of the class. It is only a public university that a PhD student would turn into the driver of his supervisor. It is in the public universities that PhD= Prayer, Hardwork and Dobale (Yoruba word for prostration). An acquaintance of mine did his PhD program for 10 years simply because he refused to work on an obsolete topic. His offence was being “smarter’ than his supervisor. It is only in a public university that lecturers would arbitrarily fix classes and expect you to be there without excuses.
The public university teaches one to dehumanise individuals. The average public university graduate is unequipped with the right tools for life in the labor market. I laugh when people say that Nigerians are so smart and that’s why they perform so well abroad. The guys who find their way out of that hell hole aren’t average Nigerians. The average Nigerian has no in-depth understanding of what he studied. It is ‘la cram, la pour, la pass, la forget.’ You cram, you write you exam, you pass and you forget. Our success in the outside world is due to our doggedness. We spend so much time trying to survive while our counterparts use this time to excel. A university student should exude confidence but this is rarely the case in the public universities. The sycophancy and hypocrisy is unparalleled and appalling.
My thoughts and prayers are with those currently in the public universities and those that would still join. I promise you, it gets better. Life doesn’t have to be that hard. Keep up the struggle, aim for higher ideals and may the forces be with you.