During the first semester of my first year in the university, I offered a chemistry course, CHM 101. I was good in chemistry during my secondary school and the CHM 101 was more or less secondary school chemistry. So I was confident I would do very well in the course. Midway into the semester, the lecturer handling the course introduced his textbook, or rather what looked like textbook. He sold it through the Class Rep. for five hundred naira – a sizeable sum back then. One was given a number when one bought. Shortly after, the lecturer gave an assignment and word circulated that it is with the number that one can submit one’s assignment.
I took the pamphlet of a book from a friend and went through. It was one incoherent work cobbled together by lifting from some other authentic texts. I couldn’t quite bring myself to part with five hundred naira for a book I knew was of no value to me and I was never going to read. Moreover I still had my Ababbio and it treated the topics contained in the course adequately. Hence, I resolved not to buy the text.
I did the assignment –an easy one, and submitted without any number. When it was time for the semester examination, I studied hard. After writing the CHM 101 examination, I was sure I would make an ‘A’. When, however, the result was released, to my shock I only managed a ‘C’. Well, the reason stared at me from the notice board. The column for my assignment had only a dash. So, though I did and submitted the assignment, for obvious reason it was not acknowledged. This was my major eye-opener to the rot in our higher institutions. During the rest of my years in school, I suffered many more acts of gross exploitation that severely shook my faith in the Nigerian society. I believe anyone who attended a higher institution here, especially the public ones has similar tales. Recently a younger friend narrated his travails.
The Nigerian society is riddled with vices, and greed is among the most prominent. This engenders a predatory orientation somewhat similar to what obtains in jungles. Perhaps only very few persons would refrain from exploiting others when they can safely do so. In fact there seem to be an unwritten code of survival of the fittest in which one can as well exploit anyone he can. It is my view, however, that our schools at least should be shielded from such unhealthy culture. Ideally, the higher institutions should be centers for intellectual armament and character development, a fertile ground where the innate talents and abilities of the youths are nurtured to blossom. But very sadly, this has not been the case. On the contrary, many look more like barren patch of earth where dreams are shattered and character deformed. Figuratively speaking, a concrete.
When a rose is planted on a fertile soil, it develops sweet-smelling and brightly coloured petals. When, however, it is sown on an unfertile soil, if it manages to grow, then it must have damaged or deformed petals. This exactly is the case with many graduates of our higher institutions. Many who went in good, come out bad, those already bad, come out worse; a debasement rather than refinement had taken place. The damage done is usually mental and moral.
There is much talk about the need to build a corruption-free society, a society where vices are at the barest minimum. But we cannot attain that without taking closer look at the quality of graduates our higher institutions churn out –mentally and character-wise. We must not forget that these are the citizens that would likely occupy critical positions in the public and private sectors. Now, if a young man had to pay money to pass examinations and a young woman sleep with lecturers to get a good result, what else would he or she not do in the wider society to get ahead? How possible is it for such persons not to be corrupt or exploitative in their dealings? How easy is it for people who suffered horrendous exploitation in the hands of persons that ideally should be role models to escape cynicism?
In the quest to build a decent society, we must pay special attention to our schools, including the primary, secondary and tertiary schools. We must endeavour as much as possible to shield them from the ills of the wider society. Education should be properly funded, teachers and lecturers adequately remunerated. Thereafter, mechanism must be put in place to closely monitor them. Any found to engage in unwholesome conduct must be thrown out and severely sanctioned. Thus we may turn our schools into centers for the production of intellectually and morally sound citizens.