By Joel Nwokeoma
I had a lengthy telephone conversation with a former classmate yesterday morning. He’s a PhD and lectures in UNILAG with many years of experience.
His revelation of N142,000 as his monthly take-home pay got me depressed. With such pay, he’s humanly disabled and economically incapacitated. When we spoke, he told me he’s already in the office having passed the night on campus. He lives in Ikorodu, and commutes to Akoka. To save himself the attendant suffering, he spends the night most times in his office.
He told me, in lament, that his salary can’t get him a living room in the metropolis. Worse still, he tearfully told me, when he can’t meet the many expectations of family and friends, it is like, A whole PhD holder oo! I could see anguish in his voice.
I have another friend, a young brilliant lecturer, at UNIZIK. I thought he was joking when he told me his salary last August. Lower than what my UNILAG pal gets. But unlike his UNILAG counterpart, he’s no office space to stay on campus. His car does that function. He drives from his home to campus for lectures, finds a parking space, goes for classes, returns to his car to attend to official matters and goes back home. Every day. Almost a life of destitution. Sorry, did I also tell you he has a PhD tucked away inside his car booth?
My kinsman is there in that dusty town called Oye Ekiti teaching in the new university cobbled together by the Jonathan administration. His lament is worse than the lamentation of Sodom and Gomorrah, if you are old enough to recall the hit song. He too has a PhD.
If you’ve time, try and go back to the university you graduated from. Try and enter the classroom or hostel room you used in your days. Don’t bother entering the museum called libraries in order not to assault your eyes and nose.
Now, that’s why ASUU is on strike. You may not like their striking strategy, pun intended, but have you bothered to find out the response of the political elite? Wave the magic wand of creating new universities. Are you kidding me? The ones you have aren’t well funded, and you go ahead legislating into existence new glorified entities as universities as Lagos did last time? Who does that? Every politician of note or pad in Nigeria wants a government underfunded university in his Hamlet to prove ‘na dem dey run this town’. So many universities, so few centres, forget about citadel, of learning.
When you pay PhD holders such insulting amount as salaries, with no office or library to use and no classroom for overpopulated students to learn, of course you get monkeys to teach. Na wahala you go get. Obviously, the consequence of underfunding university education, and the sector entirely, is that it does not attract the brightest and willing. Only the scavengers mainly populate the faculty, with perilous implications for all of us.
Now, did you watch the video of the minister who walked out on the students who asked him to account for his stewardship following the ongoing strike? Na like that we dey roll.
Postscript: All the three persons referred to in this post are my friends here and will surely read this post.