BY C. C. NNAJI
Let me begin with an appeal.
University lecturers are our children, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, molders, partners in progress and many more.
Appeal to parents, students and all stakeholder.
The time is ripe to do the right!
The argument revolving around the survival of the educational sector in general and Nigerian universities in particular has been raging for decades. But never have we come so close, face to face, with an imminent collapse unless drastic measures are taken. In this article, I will be as analytical, objective and as factual as possible so that those who pretend to be deaf might hear. By this exposé, I intend to rouse all and sundry to rally round the Nigerian Lecturer and put up a last minute struggle in order to forestall the looming tragedy.
*The First Shock*
The Nigerian Lecturer is the most abused, misused, exploited, misunderstood and manipulated civil servant in the country. When he assumes duty, he is sent into the fray empty-handed. He is not given any kick-off allowance and to begin with, he has to save up money for months to buy the laptop which he will use to discharge his duties. I am sure you know that a good laptop costs between #200,000 and #500,000, or even more. Now a Graduate Assistant who earns less than #120,000 will save for nearly six months to buy a laptop, given that he also has to pay rent, eat, clothe himself, and pay transport fare to and from work.
Even a senior lecturer cannot comfortably buy a laptop, his basic work implement, without undertaking a rigorous saving scheme. I am typing this treatise from a London-used laptop which still cost me a fortune – a laptop probably used by a white kid to play video games in their backyard, and only had to get rid of because his taxi-driver dad has upgraded him to a super speed version.
*Did you know that lecturers are the only group of workers I know who are expected to provide/source for their own wok implements?*
Now lecturers in some universities buy markers for teaching students. Then, they are also expected to conduct research from their salaries, sponsor themselves to conferences and workshops as well as publish in top notch journals. To publish in a top notch journal, you need to have access to state-of-the-art laboratory and conducive working environment with high speed internet access. No Nigerian university qualifies in this regard. But I still find it a feat that these impoverished, neglected and ill-equipped lecturers still manage to rear their “stubborn” black heads in the global intellectual playing field. They even go as far as making it to the editorial board membership of top journals in the field colonized by unrepentant and hard-to-please white supremacists. Lecturers are expected to spend their salaries to write tons of research proposals (which hardly materialize) in order to attract funds to buy equipment for teaching and research.
Then there is also the issue of internet access and affiliated costs. Many Nigerian universities do not provide internet access to their staff. Even when they pretend to, it is only a low speed sporadic network concocted to give a semblance of conformity. Imagine a professor with his laptop in his hand, chasing internet signal from one tree shade to another. How can he ever be efficient? Sadly, the Nigerian Lecturer is supposed to pay for the service (un)rendered. Many who cannot “chase” the signal retire to their offices and fall back on epileptic data bundle sold by capitalist service providers.
Personally, I spend nearly #90,000 annually on data bundle to perform my statutory assignment. I can hear you shout _propaganda_ ! Now let me take you through. I use the MTN weekly 6GB data subscription that costs #1,500 and sometimes I exhaust it in about four days. Assuming I renew my subscription five times a month, that would amount to #7,500 per month… Now your jaw drops as you realize how serious and factual the matter is! I am sure some people spend more.
*Did you know that it could take years to get published in impact factor rated journals* , yet these “ne’er-do-wells” (in the minds of the uninformed) called Nigerian lecturers still publish thousand of papers in these journals? I have once had to wait for
two solid and uncertain years to have one of my papers published. The situation is further worsened by some publishers who insist on compulsory open access publication which imposes on the prospective author a huge financial burden. A typical example is world class Swiss-based publisher known as MDPI that charges up to 2000CHF article processing charge per accepted paper. This amount translates to about #1,030,000 per paper! Are you kidding me? Please visit https://www.mdpi.com/apc to verify this claim. This is besides whatever was spent to conduct and report the research, and the Nigerian Lecturer has no choice but to cough out the money “from his intestine” if he has to, or go borrowing!
Yes, I hear you loudly grumbling about the amount of money budget by TETFUND for research. A detailed survey will reveal that the political exertion needed to access the paltry sum awarded in the name of TETFUND grant in many universities is not worth it. A number of countries including China and South Africa fund their lecturers to conduct research and thereafter pay them for publishing the paper in a good journal. In fact, an average researcher in South Africa could earn as much money, if not more, from publications alone as a professor in a Nigerian university would earn as annual salary. Who did this to us? Please conduct your independent survey. It is unfortunate that Nigeria and Nigerians (including students) want the Nigerian Lecturer to turn into a street beggar before they understand his plight.
Maybe we need to stop using our salaries to buy marker. We can return to the era of the blackboard, and on our way to work we would stop by the “ _akara_ ” woman’s shop and pick up some pieces of charcoal for our lectures! Did you know that the monthly take-home of a Nigerian senator can pay over thirty Nigerian professors? And this is besides constituency allowance and all the other funnels of income (legal and illegal, but mostly illegal) that senators have created from themselves by exploiting the constitution. I do not know of any senator who uses his salary to do his job.
*Luxury is fast becoming a mirage*
What if the Graduate Assistant wants to buy a car? I do not consider a car as a luxury. By the way, no Nigerian lecturer I know or have heard of can buy a brand new car. That’s an illusion that only comes true in the most delightful of dreams. A fairly used (tokumbo) car costs between #1,500,000 and #2,500,000. Now a Senior Lecturer who earns just about #200,000 will have to save up his entire salary for about ten months to buy a car rejected by a street sweeper in New York. And for him to do that, he has very limited options ranging from taking a loan, extorting money from students, or taking up an extra job. What about a house? It can take a lecturer an average of fifteen years to build a modest house, and this comes with enormous degree of discipline and self-denial.
The Nigerian Lecturer cannot even afford the flight ticket to one of the smallest African countries for a vacation or short course let alone Europe or America. Yet, he is supposed to collaborate with international partners and be abreast of recent developments in his field. No wonder politicians can now easily buy over a professor at a paltry sum to falsify election results!
I know opinions might be vastly divergent on this but I will humbly proffer a simple solution. Firstly there should be a drastic review of the salary of the Nigerian Lecturer. The salary should be readjusted to an African average, at the very least. Did you know that as at 2017, an equivalent of a Graduate Assistant in a Ghanaian polytechnic was earning an equivalent of #350,000, while a professor in Tanzania was earning over #1,000,000 as at 2016? Both of these cases represent three times the salary of their counterparts in Niger-area. Secondly, all recurrent expenses like research/publication, conferences/workshops, internet access, etc. incurred should be dis-aggregated from salary and paid as allowance monthly. Thirdly and lastly, politicians should steer clear of our universities if sanity and sanctity must be restored.
Below is a conservative expenditure of a Senior Lecture on #200,000 per month
Annual Income 2,400,000 Expenses
Rent @ 20,000 per month 240000
Feeding & water @ #100,000 per month 1200000
Transport fare 240000
Data bundle 120000
School Fees (assuming 4 kids) 360000
Health care 50000
Many extended family members (unaccounted for here)
Tithe (unaccounted for in this analysis)
Total annual expenditure 2,980,000
Annual deficit 580,000
What a shame!
I plead again that the time is very ripe to do the right!
I rest my altruistic case.