By Douglas Anele
I know some brilliant and dedicated lecturers in several universities who have been in the same academic position for over a decade, whereas their less knowledgeable colleagues are promoted rapidly because the latter have godfathers and are able to play dirty sleight of hand academic politics that elevates mediocrity above meritocracy.
Meanwhile, some heads of departments and deans or provosts deliberately slow down the upward mobility of certain lecturers so that their favourites and acolytes are promoted first. When upstart lecturers are given accelerated promotions above their superiors and betters, they tend to be arrogant and suffer from the illusion of grandeur. Unfortunately, such lecturers, when they eventually assume positions of authority in the universities, would recycle mediocrity within the system because they do not want genuinely brilliant colleagues to expose their intellectual hollowness or outshine them.
The abuses we have highlighted lead to gradual loss of confidence in the system and compromise the prestige that attaches to senior academic positions. It is a matter for serious concern that students do not respect some of our senior academics, including Professors: sometimes when they learn that a certain lecturer A is now Professor, they retort cynically, “who made that one a Professor?” “He has nothing to profess at all?” Let us tell ourselves the truth.
An increasing number of lecturers these days are in the wrong profession because they lack the cognitive, emotional and moral attributes to teach in universities. Having a PhD or the rank of Professor does not necessarily make one a good lecturer, which, in my opinion, can only be attained through appropriate inborn aptitudes, knowledge, hard work, discipline, enhanced communication skills and a deep sense of fulfilment in lecturing irrespective of what the financial rewards might be.
At this point, consider the dangers posed to learning by extremely narcissistic and inarticulate lecturers who waste most lecture periods regurgitating irrelevancies, telling stories of their activities while studying abroad or boasting about their encounters with prominent individuals within and outside the country. For the hapless students, listening to such teachers is a very boring, academically unrewarding, experience they have to go through regularly with the kind of attitude with which one goes to a dentist to have some teeth extracted.
I am convinced that a preponderance of lecturers in our universities right now are academics by default. Such people, having failed in business or in some other professions, or spent several years searching for jobs without success out of frustration pick up forms for post-graduate studies and eventually manage to get doctorate degrees. However, they lack the inner conviction and longing for knowledge production and impartation, which is a necessary psychological foundation for effective and productive academic work. Lecturers who are not devoted to the pursuit of knowledge cannot make the necessary personal sacrifices that lead to contentment and personal fulfilment for workers in the revered temple of knowledge. From the foregoing, the current process for promoting lecturers needs urgent reform to take account of students’ evaluation of each lecturer as an important factor in his or her career prospects.
University management across the country, led by Vice Chancellors, should create a better system that rewards consistent outstanding classroom performance by lecturers without neglecting the requirement for quality publications. In addition, it is necessary, through rigorous quality assessment regime, to minimise the influx of academic misfits for whom university teaching is merely an opportunity to earn a living and nothing more. We now wish to address the issue of how lecturers are partly responsible for half-baked graduates from our universities. Shambolic family background and weak preparations at the lower levels of education entail that many students in our universities are not really university materials – they are not intellectually and psychologically fit to be undergraduates. Yet, lecturers with pathetic communication and knowledge impartation skills aggravate the problem. In all government owned universities, there are lecturers who commence teaching about a month after the commencement of each semester, probably because they are secretly teaching in private universities or are engaged in private businesses of various kinds.
Many lecturers hardly read students’ answer scripts let alone assignments, due to indolence, over bloated number of students, and unrealistic deadlines by university authorities for submission of results. Hence, oftentimes marks are awarded arbitrarily with scant regard for actual knowledge displayed by students. This partly explains why, for instance, a reasonable number of graduates of English with First Class or Second Class Upper degrees cannot write an ordinary formal letter of employment without committing serious grammatical blunders.
The quality of supervision and assessment of undergraduate long essays and dissertations for the award of master’s and doctorate degrees has gone down considerably, to the extent that on several occasions, even at the doctoral level, the standard of literary presentation is appalling. Some supervisors keep fifty-page proposals of their doctoral students for up to one year without reading them, and do not study the actual theses before assessment by external experts. Sometimes the so-called experts fail to apply intellectual rigour necessary for doctoral evaluation: they merely skim through the essays and write equivocal reports.
Given the sloppy supervision and assessment of work at the doctoral level by lecturers, it should not be surprising that an increasing percentage of PhD holders cannot speak authoritatively about the subject matter of their work, let alone contribute original ideas in the disciplines they are supposed to be specialists. You can then imagine the quality of doctorates such mediocre lecturers would produce when they become supervisors. Cash-and-carry lecturers for whom lecturing is business “sell” marks for cash or other items to students and the lecherous ones demand sex from female students for academic favours, failing which the girls in question are harassed during tests and examinations or are failed outright by the lecturers. Now, in established universities like the University of Lagos and University of Ibadan sale of handouts is prohibited. But in the pseudo universities nationwide departments and lecturers employ different tricks to force badly written sub-standard handouts and books on students at inflated prices, while creating the impression that those who fail to buy would likely have carryovers in the courses concerned. Of course, indolent or layabout students would do almost anything to pass; that does not justify lecturers surreptitiously compelling students to buy glorified junks masquerading as “course materials.”
Aside from the banality of unreasonable philistine financial and sexual demands of unscrupulous lecturers, university teachers usually are their own worst enemies. Some lecturers use female students to set booby traps for colleagues; on several occasions they write, or instigate students to write, wicked frivolous petitions against their “enemies,” and advise students not to choose courses taught by a particular colleague on the baseless allegation that “he is too strict, stingy with marks, and too full of himself.” The level of treachery, hatred, insincerity, lack of concern and capacity to do evil by some university teachers is heart wrenching.
TO BE CONTINUED.