7 REASONS YOU SHOULDN’T GO TO THE UNIVERSITY

Should everyone go to the University? It was in June, I think, in Vanguard Newspaper, that I first read something related to this question. I cannot remember the exact specifics of the article but I can remember fully well how I felt when I finished reading it, dissatisfied. I left feeling that there’s more to be said on this issue than just condemning the system and equating it with secondary school certificate in other climes. I made a mental note to research on this topic and write about it, someday.

Four months later, one night, I bought a candle, lighted it then went to bed. I woke up the next morning to see the candle burnt out. That is how I do my research, I literally burn the midnight candle. My research done, I made for the laptop and began to type this.

I will take a long hard look at our universities (and by the university I mean polytechnics and other degree-equivalent awarding institutions), and lay their intestinal organs bare on the desk. If you are about to register for Jamb, keep reading. This isn’t designed to make you change your mind. But you have the right to know what you are up to.

1. The University Won’t Teach You Common Sense.
One will assume that the Ivory Tower will teach you something as basic as common sense. It doesn’t. There’s no department of Common Sense nor is there a general course Cons 101 (Introduction to Common Sense). Why should anyone bother with a learning ground that cannot teach this minimum requirement for admission into the Homo Sapien specie? The university teaches bogus high-sounding courses and unleashes graduates with so much intellectual swagger but with not one iota of common sense.

Is Common Sense such big deal?Yes. And it’s not common among we graduates. I will give you three instances, all happened in the NYSC orientation camp. NYSC because 100% of the campers are graduates, or so they claim.

A) An announcement that was recurrent in the assembly ground was shit. Corpers hurling shit on nylon all over the places, corpers shitting in front of the lister house, corpers shitting behind the camp director’s quarter, etc.

B) I got to the bathroom to take my bath, one morning, and saw that someone had deposited a lion share of shit there. On the cemented floor of a bathroom!

C) In the queue for food, corps members swear, push, shove and curse each other generously. Because of tea that was thin-coloured water, that would turn the stomach anyway, bread that was half-baked, soup that was miniature swimming pool. Some corps members go as far as taking food flasks to the parade ground. And break Usain Bolt’s record as soon as they were dismissed from the ground, running to the food queue!

Graduates!

You can’t blame them, they didn’t do common sense in school.

2. It Will Give You a Crazy Ego.
Being a graduate here will elevate your status with nothing to sustain your lofty height. A Nigerian degree will make you too big for available jobs and unqualified for jobs you’re supposed to do. The other day, a friend of mine got a job offer as a cleaner. All she was required to do was clean this facility every morning, Monday to Friday and earn twenty thousand naira each month. Say what you wish against twenty thousand but cleaning before eight o’clock with the whole day to burn seems like robbery to me. But this friend of mine said no, she’s a graduate and couldn’t do such. Now she’s teaching in a stuffy classroom 7.30am to 2.30pm for I think eleven thousand naira.

Actually, I was among those who advised against the job; I told her that the job would soil her Bachelor of Arts Degree. That’s what schooling does to you, give you boldness with no safety net. I am not saying we’re regretting the decision because if she asks for my opinion again I will say no to cleaning job, she herself will never stoop that low. That’s how we are wired by education. I am trying not to use the word brainwash but what is the logic of rejecting an easy uneducated job and end up settling for teaching ‘A is for hardship’ for eight hours, for 365 naira per day?

3. It Won’t Teach You Survival.
Some slogans now dangerously hurled about graduates include: The labour market is terrible, No job for you out there, People are losing jobs every day, You must have something beside your certificate, Learn a trade or two, etc. Their logic is that you learn a trade alongside (or after your) scholarship because you may or may not be able to put food on your table using your fancy degree. So they harassed us so much in camp, forcing us to the canopies to go learn bead-making or tailoring or solar system or auto mechanic or cosmetology or fish farming or money ritual (I wish) and so on.

Now my logic is, why go waste your time earning a degree that may or may not put akara and pap on your table? Why not shun the university, use the money to learn and set up, under one year, a trade that is 100 percent guaranteed?

4. University Education is Really Really Insufficient.
When you leave school for the labour market, you hear stuff like aptitude tests, CVs, interviewing, computer proficiency, entrepreneurship, wealth creation, value accession etc. How many of these are taught in the university? Zero.

So you learn your What is agriculture, Types of farming implements, Functions of the plow bla bla bla. After five years, you may not have seen a sprayer before, but you have graduated and are turned rudderless on the society. Serious organisations will after (if they dare) employing you, send you on say six months training (so you weren’t trained in the university!?); usually, employers won’t bother to waste such money, they’ll just ask for five years experience from fresh graduates. Our universities and polytechnics don’t give this kind of experience.

So what the hell do they do in higher institutions?

Don’t lose your temper yet.

A week or so to my passing out parade, our zonal inspectorate organised a forum where some ‘resourced persons’ spoke to us about life after service. One of them particularly insulted us. He dismissed our results as useless, called our CV empty, and generously poured scorn on our status. He really shattered confidences. I had to dig deep into arrogance to survive the brilliant onslaught. But he cracked a wall.

If the degree is something worthwhile, how come she doesn’t protect her children from lofty insults like Nigerian graduates are useless, half-baked, clueless etc? Why is the degree the meek cat people kick when they can’t find themselves in a toilet? Why? WHY!

5. Going to the University Won’t Earn You Respect.
The era of gaining respect just on the strength of carrying handouts under your sticky armpit is gone with our uncles. We are the dog eats dog generation. There are millions of graduates roaming about the streets like agric fowls in a tight room. No one will notice you. Why should anyone in his right senses burn candles, endure sleepless nights, romance starvation, spend a fortune just to join an army of a people who call themselves learned but who are mostly hungry, idle and clueless? What will it profit a student endure all the hardship, surviving starvation in the university and end up as the 1,895,623rd graduate in his geopolitical region?

6. It’s Dangerous.
The system is built to frustrate daylight out of you. Every process involves a bottleneck. An exercise as little as submitting file requires fasting, examination is pure battlefield. There are so many missing scripts that I suspect that at the end of their marking, lecturers usually put ten percents of the entire scripts in the bin as offering to their ancestors. If you escape the terror of lecturers, cultists will shoot you. Sigh…

The other day, before the Senate, a ministerial nominee was asked something about Boko Haram and he said he wouldn’t say much about them because he had a family to cater for. Same here, I won’t say much against cult guys because I have loved ones on the campus. So saying about lecturers, in Nigeria, lecturers are legends not because of their academic brilliance but for their mastery of the art of failing students. So no matter how brilliant you are, you may have to ‘sort’ a lecturer now and then to pass. If you are a pretty girl and you have he-goats in your department (and there are many of them in the system) then you need more than prayers. Try dry fasting.

Why should youths be exposed to such evil in the most productive period of their lives?

Terrible.

7. It is Terribly Expensive.
I am yet to believe that certain people cough out half a million naira as school fees in some private universities. I have seen and talked to people who are beneficiaries/victims of this fee that would kill Karl Marx a second time but I still manage to equate the whole stuff with fiction. I sometimes imagine how it looks like when they go to the bank to pay school fees, when hundreds of students line up, each carrying a Ghana-must-go bag full of money on the head!

Oh, this is two million naira in a four-year course we talking here! Not counting other costs, that’s assuming you feed on guava from the school farm, trek to and fro school, and read only books found in the library, write on a slate, and use a broken bottle for haircut. And this is assuming a lot. But assuming it, all the same, makes for an outrageous sum. Two million! Hold me, I am dizzy. Now on graduation (still assuming), you earn the minimum wage of 18,000 naira (if you are lucky) how many years will it take you to recover your capital? Put this money in Alaba International Market. Or Onitsha Main Market. Or importation from China. Do the maths after one year.

A counter-argument is that people who study in this schools are usually big shots whose parents already have positions for them after graduation. Then why bother going to the university? They can as well use their child’s WAEC since the position is the child’s birthright. Even if we succeed in silencing this set of students as an impotent minority, it isn’t the end. Most state universities I know (where people who feed from leg to mouth study) charge more than one hundred thousand naira per session. Add that to the nefarious accommodation fees, cost of feeding, ‘sorting’, textbooks, transportation etc. More than three-quarters of a million naira gone after four years. That is the price for two Keke/tricycles. Keke Napep business thrives so well in Owerri. So you buy two Keke, drive one in Owerri and give your brother the other to drive in Bayelsa. Calculate how much you will make, after four years.

I can go on and on, but what is the use? It won’t change anything, and I know people who will dismiss this as the rambling of a sadist. Some will attribute this to unemployment. But I can boldly report that I have gotten a job. Don’t ask me where; the only matter is that the salary is heavy. The last time I was paid I went to the bank with a carton–it’s that heavy. And before you pinch me for a loan I must inform you that I have since used the money to bury my grandmother.

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CORPERS LODGE (ONE)

We called it Cemetery Lodge because the apartment was opposite the village burial ground. The building was half-circled with bushes so our nearest neighbours were the occupants in the graves. When you sit on the veranda, you would see the tombs in all level of cement-rust: some had sculptured heads of the deceased, some were marked with concrete eulogies, some were, rather rudely, unmarked; all lined up among dry weeds and droppings of intrepid goats.

I am not writing this to talk about dead people (not yet). I want to talk about living beings. Corps members. Eleven crazy corps members living in Cemetery Lodge. You have now met one of them—me; you already have a clue to my craziness or you do not. It doesn’t matter much at this stage. Let me introduce the other corpers as there wouldn’t have been this story without our collective madness.

Let’s start with the bad guys. You will meet three of them today. Meet Agu.

Corper Agu. Of course, this wasn’t his real name. Whenever he was high on marijuana or something, which was often, he would go about calling everyone agu, agu (lion, lion). So let’s call him Agu. Agu was an ex-convict and proud of it (‘I don spend six months for Aba prison before, so no look me down o’).

He got admission in 2003 and was serving his fatherland eleven years later, and was proud of it (‘When I get admission all of una still dey primary school sef’).

He taught physics but knew nothing about physics and was proud of it (‘I no know wetin I go teach, you know since wey I graduate? Abeg, no be teach I come teach, na allawi I come collect’).

He didn’t believe in the Church and was proud of it (‘Nna leave dat tin; dis people wey carry church for head, na dem do pass; my church dey for my heart; Chineke be my witness sef’)…

Last Sunday Agu knocked on my door, just after dawn. I refused to answer him, but Agu wasn’t the type to take no for his knock; he kept banging at the door till I yanked blanket off my head and made for the door.

‘What is it?’ I demanded.

‘There is fire on the mountain,’ he said (in undisciplined Igbo) as I grudgingly made way for him to enter. Physically Agu was thin, grey-coloured with a hungry beard-moustache tag team that made a haphazard circle of his sickly lips. He sat on my mattress. ‘Nwannem, there is danger. God told me to warn all corpers. We are not united and there is danger.’

I saw the danger. The smell of Indian hemp was overpowering. This was dangerous.

‘The division among us will make us suffer. We have to unite and pray. That is what God said I should tell all of you.’ He rose to his feet. ‘Let me see the other corpers. My brother we must be prayerful.’

I suppressed a leer as I nodded. He jammed the door behind him. I bolted it. I made for the window and opened it for fresh air to come in. A couple of months later I would wish I listened to Agu.

Like Agu, I rarely went to church. Unlike Agu, I was ashamed of it and always made excuses. Today’s excuse was that there was no power to iron my clothes.

So I lay on my bed like a dead lizard as expensive shoes matched koy-koy on the hallway to church. Then someone knocked on my door. Not again, I sighed. I rose to my feet, and made to the door, and snatched it open. It was Micah.

Micah was a graduate of the University of Jos, from Benue but he spoke fluent Hausa; as I equally speak Hausa and we gossip in the language, he was closest to me. But he had a way of creeping into my nerves; his parasitism was not of this world, or out of this lodge to lower my voice. And someone must have lied to him that he was handsome because he carried himself like a prince. He spent most of his allowances on clothes and shoes, wasting money and time on Betnaija, starving himself, eating my food.

The first time he came to my room he swore, ‘Walahi, I will sleep with all the girls in this lodge. Give me three months. I will lay them one by one.’ That was last month. I hadn’t bothered to ask him about his conquests.

Micah was dressed for church. He was wearing a sleeves-shirt tucked inside extremely-penciled jeans over coin-shiny shoes. His perfume made me winch and want to shut the door on his face.

‘How far?’ he said.

I tried not to hiss. ‘I didn’t sleep well last night,’ I said.

‘You won’t enter church?’

‘I don’t think so.’ I wondered what he wanted.

A pause, then he said, ‘Man, wetin you cook?’

Why do Nigerians prefer to beg in pidgin? ‘I cooked nothing,’ I said. ‘But I have garri.’

He shook his head. ‘Today is Sunday. Drinking garri will make the Sabbath unholy.’

And carrying evil in your mind will make it holy, I nearly said aloud. But I let it pass. ‘You fit borrow me fifty bucks?’ I suddenly asked. I didn’t want his money but attack is the best defence. With the way he was positioned, if I didn’t ask him, he would ask me.

‘That is what I was about to ask you sef,’ he exclaimed.

I am wiser than you, I leered inwardly.

‘Man, I am so so broke,’ he added. As usual, I thought.

He kept fidgeting on my doorway. ‘Later now,’ I finally said and jammed the door before he responded. I bolted it. I made for my kitchen area, opened the pot of rice, picked up one piece of meat and threw it into my mouth. Life is good.

*

As I stepped on the passage from the bathroom, my body wet from a cold bath, I heard someone crying. I stopped to listen. The whimpering was coming from Corper Edwin’s room. Corper Edwin was a chubby fellow who (as he described himself) was in his last twenties. He was a graduate of that private university where people say people with more money than book sense go to.

He always reminded everyone that he was the only son (and last child) of an army general. Edwin was a notorious liar and almost-criminal gossip. I always told him this to his face so we were always quarreling (but we never kept malice). Most corpers’ meetings had broken up with the two of us exchanging tongue-lashes.

I dropped my bucket by Edwin’s door and knocked on the door. No response. I knocked harder. I was curious. Why should a man in his last twenties lock himself in his room and cry on a Sunday morning? I knocked with the patience of Micah and the persistence of Agu, more out of curiosity than concern, till he opened the door. His eyes were bloodshot and wet. He was unclad save for his shorts. He went back to his mattress without a word and placed his pot-stomach on it, and resumed weeping.

‘What is the matter?’

‘I am not feeling fine,’ he cried.

Is that why you are crying like a small girl? I didn’t say this aloud. ‘Have you taken medication?’

He cried harder. ‘My entire body is on fire,’ and he shook with bawling passion. I was tongue-tied. I allowed my eyes swept his richly carpeted room stacked with electronics. Now and again, I will make a banal suggestion, grunt with pity, but really looking for a way to run away without being unfeeling. Then I told him I had to apply cream on my drying body and left with my freedom.

When I got to my room, I buried my face on my pillow and laughed so much that I soaked the pillow with mirthful tears. It was my first laughter since I got my call-up letter three months ago and nearly had a mini-heart attack at the thought of serving in Osun State. Today, I laughed until humour filled my belly like food.

I am heartless, you say? Well, you are entitled to your opinion. In fact, you haven’t seen anything. I wished I had some petrol; I would have gone to Edwin’s room and empty the fuel on his chubby body so that his body will burn thoroughly. Haha.

This corpers’ lodge is a battlefield. And you haven’t met the female corpers yet.

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