I have no space to publish the deluge of responses my column of last week ignited, but read below a sample which collectively paint a picture of the sordid state of Nigerian postgraduate education.
You've really hit the nail on the head with this piece! Those reasons you gave were what made me throw in the towel and abandon my Ph.D. program after seven years!
In addition to those, one has to contend with corrupt departmental staff who want you to always be giving them money. They even at a time hid my departmental file and said there was nobody to go and search for it. They advised that I open another one and again pay the departmental charges. And they were openly encouraged by the course co-ordinator who said, to my face, that they shouldn't pity me because my organization had money.
My supervisor made me open a file where I put my proposal because he said he wouldn't accept it by email as it would require him buying fuel to start his generator to download and print it.
Whenever I went to ask whether he had gone through my proposal, he would ask me to go through a stack of files to find mine - sometimes I would find it after so much effort and waste of time. At other times, he would say he might have taken it home - after which he would give me another appointment as he was unable to look at it. And I normally cover about 400 kms to reach the school. The man seldom answered my phone call nor responded to my emails.
There was a day he told another Ph.D student that they made a mistake in giving him admission as his masters was a professional and not an academic one. That they were considering whether he had to take additional courses or start a new masters before continuing with the Ph.D. And no definite time or adequate explanation was given to him on when that would be done! All this happened in my presence.
One of our staff who just completed his masters told me they had to contribute money to pay for accommodation and feeding for the external examiner!
My late wife (may her soul rest in peace) was a victim of this "hazing" culture when she was pursuing a PhD programme at Uniabuja. Her supervisor would evade her for several months and, whenever she managed to track him down, he would express extreme anger at why she was "disturbing" him. At a time, we both thought he was probably mentally unbalanced.
In early 2000, my mum enrolled into a masters’ degree program in Nigeria. She graduated 6 years later! The reason for not graduating in record time was that her dissertation (which of course was a course like other courses she registered) was obviously seen as much more important than all other taught courses she took earlier, and that it deserved to be written (and even rewritten) over five years! During the dissertation writing period, there were requests for ‘proposals’ upon ‘proposals’ and ‘seminars’ upon ‘seminars’. The seminars were organized in the department and the student would bear the cost of drinks, and snacks that were used for entertaining the professors as they lazily watched and enjoyed themselves while assuming their reclining sitting positions. And it was also required that for each seminar or proposal, the copy of my mum’s work must be duplicated 25 to 30 times; enough to go round the desks of the committee.
In addition to ‘entertainment’ costs, she had to bear the costs of duplicating those unusually lengthy proposals. My mum was pursuing her masters’ degree in library and information science, but the situation at the time was so bad that one day a professor of surgery in the same university visited our house and told my dad that he (the professor) saw my mum’s research work during one of the university senate meetings. In normal societies, a professor of surgery wouldn’t see and wouldn’t have any business with a masters’ degree proposal from the department of library science save for Nigeria.
A friend who was studying toward a Masters’ degree in a Nigerian university told me he couldn’t graduate in record time because his supervisor’s wife died! I came to England in October 2012, and enrolled into a Masters’ degree program that was undoubtedly coming to a close in November 2013. I got my Masters’ degree in record time, and I had no issues at all with my dissertation supervisors. I didn’t even know (and I was not supposed to know, neither am I interested in knowing) if my supervisors were married at all or whether their partners had died.
The troubles with Nigeria are too many!
Mohammed Dahiru Aminu
It is understandable that your analysis of the problem of postgraduate education is heavily one-sided against the lecturers. However, it is not correct to put the blame entirely on the internal university/faculty supervisors. The students also must take part of the blame. Many students completely miss the objective and focus of postgraduate eructation. They look at it as senior undergraduate studies. This perspective makes the students generally incapable of undertaking independent study, which is the hallmark of advanced degree programmes. How do we save postgraduate education in Nigeria? 1. The universities themselves must take responsibility for this problem by setting standards, monitoring performance, evaluating student and supervisor activity and punishing infractions 2. ASUU must come in to support university standards and ensure compliance. 3. The NUC is the statutory government body charged with responsibility for university education. It should also ensure that relevant and modern postgraduate education is available in Nigerian universities.
What a beautiful piece of writing. I wish the supervisors would change for the better. I spent eight years to do my masters in the University of Maiduguri. I had to struggle to get my notification. The result, on the other hand, was not signed for three years because the registrar was too busy. I swore then I won't do my PhD in Nigeria. Thanks for reminding them that our universities will soon collapse due to negligence and envy.