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Re: A Comparison of Nigerian and American University Teachers

This was first published on March 8, 2014 in my Weekly Trust column Next week I hope to conclude my comparison of Nigerian and Americ...

This was first published on March 8, 2014 in my Weekly Trust column

Next week I hope to conclude my comparison of Nigerian and American teachers, which I suspended because of America’s Black History Month in February.  I received many comments and questions from readers on my first two articles with the above title. I have decided to share ta sample of the comments with other readers. The questions I was asked in the past few weeks will form the backdrop of my next article. Enjoy.

Your piece in today's Weekly Trust refers, and in particular the last sentence.
This must be true, at least as at the days of my undergraduate studies. I vividly recall an incident (in the early 1980's) when my Algebra lecturer used to stand in front of the blackboard mumbling to himself, cleaning and writing without any regard to whether we were being carried along or not. One day, out of frustration, I did not know when I blurted out: “you are only teaching yourself!” The petrified class was waiting for the heavens to fall. I got away with a 2-week suspension, but not without my parting shot to him: I will not be missing anything anyway! Such teachers would have long been flushed out were an effectiveness evaluation system in place. Thanks for the write-up.
Sule R. Garba, Gusau

I'm in support of your views on ASUU almost completely. The major problem, I think, has to do with the processes of employing the lecturers and of admitting students. Merit has been murdered on that. Before we can apply lecturer's evaluation measure, I think the issue of merit should first be treated. The reason is that if a majority of students are mentally lazy, how can they evaluate serious or non-serious lecturers?
Nuru Omotosho, Lagos

My favorite part of your write-up, which for me encapsulates the problem you're articulating, is this quote: "In other words, they are pedagogical dictators—in both senses of the term." That was beautifully, elegantly, and powerfully put. Most of them are indeed double dictators! My second favorite part is the well-deserved shout out to our old teacher, Professor Saleh Abdu. We need to write that overdue essay extoling the pedagogical genius of that incredible teacher. Even thinking about our time in his class brings a smile to my face. What a teacher! He and a few other lecturers cushioned the frustrations caused by the many bad and lazy teachers we had.
Moses E. Ochonu, Nashville, USA

Wow, I doff my hat for Professor Saleh Abdu, too. He taught with passion and made teaching adorable to us even when the salaries of university lecturers were ridiculously low.
On the issue of periodic student evaluations of their teachers as part of the academic culture, it is long overdue in Nigeria universities. However, it can be achieved better with more improvement in university infrastructure and teaching facilities, which was part of ASUU’s grouse with the government. If teaching evaluations aren’t always foolproof in US schools, I wonder what will ensue between Nigerian students and their teachers.
Rasaq Adisa, Malaysia

Wallahi, this article precisely discusses some of the problems that partly make Nigerian universities churn out half-baked graduates. I always believe that it is never the fault of university graduates to fall short of expectations. It is the system that sides with the all-powerful lecturers, suppressing the powerless students. Yes, truly, in Nigeria, the almighty lecturers are free from accountability, evaluation or assessment of any form, but students are subjected to all forms of testing and are ridiculed for being half baked. But truth is, everyone can be a 'lecturer' given the dimension the job is taking. Most of them have nothing to offer and if ever evaluated, can hardly make to the ASUU family. NUC needs to do something to give students some form of sense of value and importance for the system to progress.
Usman Zakari Ibrahim, Katsina

Spot on Dr Farooq Kperogi! It reminds me of my days in Uni-Jos and later Uni-Abuja. I remember some of my lecturers being really great while some were clearly a trail. There were lecturers like Prof Alamveabee E. Idyorough and Dr Y.B.C. Omelle that I owe much of what I have achieved. They were not only teachers but also mentors and role models from whom I got much inspiration. But then there were those who had no business in academia. One lecturer was so uninspiring that I always sat in front of the class but go to sleep no sooner than the lecture began. I was surprised I made a first at the end of the semester. There was also a young lady who only came to class once but got intimidated and never showed up again. She used to send us her regurgitated lecture notes to be dictated to us by the class rep. She was just not supposed to be in the academia.

On the issue of evaluation I think university administrators are wrong by using such evaluations to determine tenure and progression. I once had a student that rated my module as boring and disorganized but added that I was enthusiastic about my teaching. The rest of the class rated my class 100 per cent satisfactory. You are very correct that some students get at lecturers through evaluation, especially after assessing their work and awarding marks they are not happy with. But it is the fault of bosses that give students the impression that they can use it to determine the success of one’s career rather than seeing it as a means of providing quality teaching.
Aliyu O Musa, UK

I must commend you for pointing out major flaws in our universities. I believe that if your recommendations are implemented, it will go a long way in closing the gaps. I’m particularly amazed that America has no Federal universities. Here, we even see it as an anomaly for states and private individuals to own universities. We regard tertiary institutions here as a responsibility that can be handle better by the federal govt. Another point to note is the distinction between RI and teaching based universities. Ours here is a combination of the two. That is why it will be difficult for ASUU to be denied their entitlements. However, I agree with you on the need for accountability on the part of the university teachers.
Aminu Isa, Lokoja

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