As I sit here literally paralysed by the epileptic power supply, I ponder on the challenges of anyone (like me) deciding to be an academic in Africa and Nigeria in particular. If you have made a choice to pursue researches and academic degrees in this part of the planet, get yourself prepared for the following challenges:
1. Intellectual development exists favourably where infrastructural facilities are readily available. To be able to READ in any critical way, you need abundant and ceaseless supply of power, water and other basic necessities. If you happen to be from here, you need to be in constant purchase of torchlight, candles and lamps. You also have to befriend a wheelbarrow pusher who would be supplying you with water. You can only make yourself an academic if you truly defy these pressures which are trying to suppress you.
2. Access to books and the Internet is not in anyway easy. Books are the hardest thing to come by here. So if you really want to belong with scholars and recent developments in your field, then another sacrifice has to be made. You must slash a huge percentage of your income and go to amazon. In fact, you would make it easier for yourself if you befriend the few lucky guys who go to the UK and the US and other developed countries to help get some books for you. As for the Internet, it is a humiliating scenario. You have to buy Modem from several service providers and keep trying to get connected every time you want to be on the net.
3. Societal pressures. You know we are a whole big family in which distant cousins and uncles all claim to be your closest relatives and expect you to improve their financial situation. Generally, people live in poverty but the academics are comparably better off. So the burden of the big tree falls on them. The expectation is so high that academics are considered to be very clever people who don’t like spending and giving charity.
4. Another thing closely related to the above is the eye service hypocrisy that spiderweb the society. Marriages are attended for reward by almighty God. But it is exaggerated that you are expected to go everywhere there is marriage and you are invited. Of you don’t go, then you have made an enemy with the bridegroom or whoever invites you there. It is something you must unfailingly attend. If you succumb, every weekend you are on the road, you won’t have time to review your work, you won’t have time to take some fresh air and re-energises yourself for the week to come.
5. Your university sends you to another to study and it keeps pushing you to finish or else it reconsider your appointment. It expects you to be a super student, supervise yourself and graduate yourself. It wants you back.
6. The Professors and Senior Academics are very few and so the supervision is extremely difficult. Generally they don’t rest. They are supervising for over 12 hours daily in the 7 days of the week. As a student, you meet several others years ahead of you striving to graduate while hundreds of others are pushing behind you to join the already overworked supervisor. It is not a figure of speech, it is a mere statement of fact, to have a supervisor with over 30 students in an average Nigerian university.
Therefore, the average African academic is twice better than their counterparts in other continents. Despite all these, the African academic still survives and sometimes even attracts attention from universities in other continents.
These and countless more await you as you make that important decision. Don’t be discouraged. Just be prepared.
A boy carrying a burden should know what the burden is- East African proverb.
Dikko Muhammad is the pioneer SUG President, UMYUK and currently a lecturer of English in the same University.
He is also persuading his Msc.