MD Aminu’s recent marathon and somewhat combative engagement on the underrated quality of our university system got me thinking about my education. I like to give people and institutions their due credit for their contribution to my life because, as the saying goes, those who do not thank their human benefactors would not know how to thank God.

So I did a brief evaluation of my life to see if my undergraduate education had a bigger impact on me than I care to admit, and my conclusion remains that my science education at the University of Ilorin had an underwhelming impact on me. 

Unquestionably, I got more out of my education at the DC School Oke Ola, Aipate Baptist Church Grammar School and Iwo School of Science, all in Iwo, Osun State. The quality of teaching at this school was, for me, better than what I got in the university. While my teachers in those three schools came to class with the mission to teach, not a few lecturers told us in Ilorin that they were there to lecture and not teach. So they dictated copious notes to us, notes that I suspect that many of them did not understand themselves. I went to Ilorin between 2007 and 2011, exactly the period when internet access exploded in Nigeria, and it was beyond disappointing that our lecturers spent at least 50% of lecture time dictating notes that could have been emailed to students ahead of class. Nothing betrayed our lecturers’ inefficiency than this.

However, I could have been more understanding of their approach if their notes were outstanding sources of original thoughts and enriching knowledge. This was not to be, as many of them were copying content, verbatim, from online sources including Wikipedia! Those who were not copying from the internet were teaching, sorry lecturing, us from their outdated lesson notes first prepared in the ’80s. (Of course, not all our lecturers were like this, I enjoyed our GNS classes and some zoology classes. We had great Use of English teachers during the remedial and 100 Level years.)

But perhaps the practical classes were better. No, sir, they were not. We spent four years drawing leaves that it seemed the university was training us to be fine artists instead of botanists. Chemistry practical were a re-enactment of secondary school-level titration. There were instruments and tools we did not know the university had until accreditation teams were on visitation when they were retrieved from the store where they were permanently stationed. It was not unusual for our colleagues in Biochemistry and Chemistry to send their samples to outside laboratories for analyses that should have been on campus.

We knew, right on campus, that we were getting subpar science education. Some of our teachers were not too shy to tell us. Prof. E.O Etejere, point blank, told us that we were getting an education in the 2000s and 2010s that was inferior to the education he got in Ibadan in the 60s. We knew, our lecturers knew, the university management knew, that we were not getting a world-class education. I don’t think this applies to our colleagues in the humanities, but I would be sceptical of anyone who says they got a great deal in the sciences in Ilorin during my time. Yes, some of our classmates have gone on to build a science career on the education they got, but, I am of the opinion, that whatever success they have achieved so far and are going to achieve is largely in spite of the education they got in their undergraduate.

My qualm is strictly with science tuition but not with the entire system. Ilorin gave me a library where I spent my days reading newspapers and old and antiquated books on everything that caught my fancy. It also gave me the opportunity to write and pontificate endlessly while someone else picked my bills. It was there I met people from diverse backgrounds who helped shape my worldview. Its students’ union and campus journalism system provided me with a good learning platform on leadership and idea creation. All these have been useful to my career as a communication practitioner. So it was not all a waste of half a decade of my life. But it could have been more if the education itself had been great.  

 Sodiq Alabi tweets from @SodiqAlabi1.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of Nigerian Diary