Recently the Minister for Education was quoted saying that the quality of education has greatly gone down at the expense of structural advancement at our universities. Having been a university don, no one understands this better than him, but at the same time, to majority of us, he was stating the obvious.
As a person who has been involved with teaching at the universities for close to five years now, I would like to share with the Minister and those concerned in the sector how in our own small ways we have contributed to the poor quality of education after being pushed so hard against the wall.
With the coming in of parallel system of education in our higher institutions of learning, besides so many inadequacies, the teaching fraternity was not sufficient. This forced universities to go and look for what is called part time lecturers or commonly known as moonlighters. This is how some of us got the opportunity to teach at the universities.
Teaching at the University can be very prestigious, but being a part time lecturer, there is nothing to write home about.
First, there is no dignity in recruitment process as a part timer. You just need to know a friend who can link you up with the persons in charge of the many campuses littered around the country. Like in my case, I have taught many campuses where no one bothered to scrutinize my qualifications and competencies. If you are lucky you get your engagement letter when you are claiming your dues. They do this purposely so that they do not commit themselves in any legal way. I know of a case where someone with a first degree teaching Masters Students and up to this point in time several universities where he is teaching, have not been able to detect this.
Part-time lecturers are poorly remunerated and not on time. As I am writing this, I am still owed my teaching dues for the academic year of 2013/14 by several local universities. Money has value. When you are not paid on time, it affects your plans as a person and you end up in a lot of borrowing to bridge the gap. When you take long to pay me little money, I am not so foolish enough to give the best because I have the feeling that you do not value me. So I will make technical appearances in lecture halls and give irrelevant notes to students. Since our students are also not keen and are interested only in marks, I will ensure that I give them their marks as I patiently wait for my money. In several occasions I have given marks to students which they did not deserve, just to make them happier. When the situation demands, I sell exams in advance to the students so that am able to get fare and pay my rent. Tell me how do you survive a whole year without any income when you have bills to pay?
No one holds us accountable. Because universities are busy constructing and opening new campuses, we operate in a free environment. No systems and mechanisms to monitor and appraise our teaching. In order to maximize our payments when and if they happen, we accept to take so many units from so many campuses. Sometimes some of us teach units that are not even distant relatives to our areas of specializations. This clearly tells you that we hardly find time to do serious academic research before we face the students. So surely, how do you expect quality education from this kind of environment?
The university administrations are interested in expansions especially in buildings not because they love to expand university accessibility but because individually they can benefit from malfunctioning tendering processes in our country. When we question why we are not being paid, the response is that the universities are undertaking huge infrastructural development where all the money ends into. This clearly tells you that most university administrations are not genuine and honest. You can’t fail to pay a lecturer for one or two years and expect quality work from the same person. It is like trying to squeeze water from a stone simply because it has been at the river bed for ages. It cannot work. It will never work.
As part timers, no one listens to us because we are never considered bona fide staff of the universities that we teach. We have no union to speak for us. We are essentially on our own and we operate in an environment where we are viewed suspiciously but as miserable fellows who are not blessed to get full time teaching jobs at the universities.
The universities are concerned with quantity. Many buildings and lots of students, but essentially no education. Our universities are stealing from students and conning our society of the much needed competent and qualified manpower. It doesn’t matter the ranking whether nationally or internationally, the fact of the matter is that as a country our higher education quality has gone to the dogs. I say this with a lot of confidence because I know how hugely I have contributed towards that, and I know it is the trend everywhere.
It is a shame that university leaders are praised and receive lots of accolades due to useless expansions at the expense of quality education for our students. We may not feel the impact now but wait till people start dying because of wrong diagnosis by unqualified doctors or medical personnel. I have taught masters students who cannot even construct a sentence. Probably, am also not able to construct one, but how do universities get to know this?
When graduates go out there it is not about how fancy their universities were, but the content necessary for the labour market. We are the custodians of knowledge as teachers, not buildings. We shall continue to mess around with education in so far as the universities concentrate on the less core activities of their mandate and calling. I will continue to award marks even where it is not deserved. I will continue to make technical appearances in lecture rooms and maximize my dues by teaching several campuses with lots of units. I will give out poorly researched notes from google search until university administrators sober up. It is not my wish, am only trying to survive after the universities ignored my working conditions. Till then, the ignorance cycle continues in our country.