Mr. Lecturer: Prof. Hardlife
by: Deji Yesufu
Mr. Macaroni’s skits, where he plays Prof. Hardlife, reminds me of my university days. Now that one has graduated from the university, I can look back on those days with a little more understanding. I keep wondering why the constant factor among lecturer-student relationship should be fear. For almost five years after I graduated from the university, I still sometimes wake up in the morning with a nagging fear of having not submitted an assignment or met up with a project or copied a certain note. I would then suddenly remember I have left school and relief will envelope me. I still cannot understand why fear remains the constant denominator in one’s relationship with his teachers in Nigerian universities.
To be honest, I did not suffer any victimization in my stay at the university. I sometimes think that I was one of those students that was almost anonymous in the class; so that if any lecturer sought to pick on anyone, they hardly noticed me. I did my bit in my undergraduate days and left without any issue. But the stories of what other students had to go through or were going through put everyone on their toes. In Nigerian universities, lecturers are all in all. They determine your destiny: what you will become; what score you will get; and how you will get those scores. There are very little avenues for students to file complaints against their teachers and anyone who dares to do it will suffer the consequences. I sometimes think this is the reason why very little learning take place in our Ivory Towers. Students are often too busy trying to please their teachers and have little or no time left to do any studying and learning. Even our examinations are a bid to pander to the desires of a lecturer and not necessarily a test of one’s knowledge. It is often said among students that you answer a lecturer’s questions the way he wants it answered. Some teachers demand that students write out answers verbatim: in the same exact way the teacher stated them in his notes.
In 2016, I began a masters degree training in theology and pastoral work. Nick Kennicott, a pastor from the United States, felt that he could equip Nigerian ministers with some theological learning and thus created the Institue of Pastoral and Theological Training at Egbe, Kogi State. It was a three year course, where students met with their teachers in a live class for one week in Egbe but spent the rest of the year studying the course materials on an Amazon Kindle. We had our books on the kindle and we also listened to series of lectures from recorded sermons on the kindle. That training is the best education I have received in all of my life.
Students are required to listen to the tapes on a particular course. Then we read a book or two on the same course. We do a review of the book(s) we have read and then our exams, our finals, is writing on a given topic in the course. By the time we are done reviewing the books and we are made to apply our knowledge to the essays we write on the subject, the whole course comes alive. Pastor Nick, while marking our scripts, will often query any rehearsal or plagiarizing of any given thought or idea (without due reference to the originator). Rather, he is more interested in knowing what the student’s own thoughts are on the subject. He is very interested in original thoughts; rather than scripted ideas. In the process one’s knack for creativity is honed and you are challenged to think for yourself, and to be able to offer solid arguments on subjects – something pastors and theologians will often find themselves doing on the mission field.
It is no wonder why Nigeria is filled with university graduate who are not very productive. Our learning processes in the university are oppressive; students are not challenged to think; and even when they do dare to think, they are faulted for being original in their ideas. It is not true that every lecturer in Nigerian universities seeks to instill fear in the minds of their students; it is however true that many of them do this. One cannot say why this is the case. It is true that the economic situation in the country is quite oppressive and the mere challenge of surviving in this country has turned many people to nut cases; yet, teachers in our universities should be humane in their handling of their students. Very few students that go to Nigerian universities remember their days at school with fond memories. It is often a case of fear, oppression, victimization and sometimes failures.
Debo Adedayo, the gentleman behind the Mr. Macaroni character in those skits, is a 2018 graduate of Theater Arts from the Redeemer’s University – the university owned by the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). In his final year at school, he was faulted by the university authorities for some light misdemeanor and denied opportunity to graduate with his peers. He argued his case at the Nigerian courts and won, and subsequently graduated. He has since developed a comic character on social media, where he plays the life of a wealthy Nigerian sugar daddy. He only recently began the Prof. Hardlife series – a series that might have been prompted by his experience at the hands of university authorities. Mr. Macaroni’s Prof. Hardlife is clearly an exaggeration of the situation in our schools but those skits give a picture of the sad reality in Nigerian universities.