This article may not go down well with a lot of Nigerian lecturers, but this issue needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Some lecturers are no longer guilty of this but I heard that a lot of them are still clinging to the old method, you know, when lecturers were treated as the demi-gods of the academic world. The area I want to address here is on the attitude of some lecturers towards the supervision of students’ research work. I’m not here to discuss the issue of those that only ‘touch’ their supervisees’ works if ‘fat envelopes’ accompany them; nor am I here to talk about those that ‘carry out’ the research and write the reports for their supervisees at a fee. No, those are stories for another day. My interest in this article is on those who make themselves unapproachable to their supervisees, thereby failing to guide them appropriately.
My experience during my BA research work and report writing wasn’t funny. The lecturer assigned to supervise me was always harsh to students – you know, he shouts at us and gives us the impression that he shouldn’t be disturbed. More so, he was the immediate past Head of Department of English and was always at a logger head with the present one.
In those days, we drop the files containing our works on the supervisors’ tables and then ‘disappear’ for two or three weeks, or just as long as we feel the file must have been attended to and dropped with the department’s secretary or clerk. So you see, we don’t even go to the supervisors’ offices to check for our files. When we pick our files, we spend another two or three weeks wondering what the red ink comments are trying to tell us. Do we dare approach our supervisors if we don’t understand? Who dash monkey banana?
So, what do we do? We go home, sit down and try to unravel what our supervisors meant by “recast”, “expand”, “rephrase”, “expunge”, “explain”, “What is the relationship?” or whatever is written. We were even happy when we see things like that, trust me. It was better than seeing two long strokes running through the page with captions such as “not accepted”, “redo”, “cancelled”, “rejected” and things like that. Honestly, course works were more fun in school than writing projects. Truth is that in course work you don’t have to get your lecturers ‘angry’ by asking questions.
So you can imagine how exhilarating I felt when I took my file and saw, “Approved for typing and re-submission”. This doesn’t mean my work won’t still be corrected or cancelled, but at least I was getting closer to the end. I typed, received corrections on typo errors and was asked to submit to the department for their own verdict. There, I finally met the baptism with fire. Yes, my supervisor has just been doing the one with water and air. In fact, I didn’t even know what writing project was until the names of those whose projects were rejected were published and there, my name was staring back at me – my months of sweat and incessant prayers were deemed unfit for external defence.
I went to the secretary and collected it. I checked and rechecked but there were no comments from the HOD, or whoever that was in-charge, specifying what the problem was. I summoned up enough courage and went to see the HOD. You know what he told me, that I should go back to my supervisor because it was his duty to find the faults in my work. Chai! Me that was already doing thanksgiving that I am free will start from where I didn’t know again.
Well, I went to see my supervisor. This time I don’t have to drop the work and go, I had to sit down and discuss with him (Did I just say ‘sit down and discuss’? If I hear. Of course I have to stand by the side and narrate my ordeal). Anyway, my supervisor flared up and sent me back to the HOD saying that he was already done with me. You know what my people say about what can’t kill you making you stronger? That was me then. I gathered strength and courage from nowhere and started pestering these two men. Of course they kept turning me round and round until I found my tears (the greatest secret and weapon of every woman *wink*). Honestly, I was getting so frustrated that my strong-will disappeared by itself. One day, I waited till late afternoon for the HOD to come to work (it was his turn to send me to the other party with messages of his incompetency). When he saw me and told me to stop bothering him, I had to let the tears flow. Truly, tears can move the hearts of men. The HOD relented and told me what was wrong with my work – inconsistent referencing style (can you just imagine).
From the HOD’s parking space (that was where we were when he finally told me the cause of my immeasurable pain) I went in search of my supervisor (with the tear stained face and all). When I saw my supervisor, he just took one look at me and asked me to hand over my work to him. I didn’t tell him what the HOD said (maybe that would have gotten him angry again) and I didn’t effect the corrections. He just collected the rejected four copies of my hard bound project papers and that was it. I didn’t hear anything about my project again. And when I saw my transcript (for my Master’s programme) I saw B against project.
“Why is she writing all this”, some people may wonder. Well, here is the main gist. When I relayed a little bit of this story some days ago to someone, just as a joke, I found out she passed through something similar while running her Master’s programme so that she ended up staying up to five years for just M.Sc (in the same school as mine but a different department). A colleague of mine told me just this Monday that he is also having a similar issue presently and he has been running his PhD programme since 2009 and he keeps receiving corrections after corrections without a tangible guidance on how to go about it (in that same school but a different department too). Honestly, some Nigerian federal universities are becoming unpopular for delaying students’ graduation because they fail to guide them in their project, thesis or dissertation. They need to make changes as soon as possible.
I know that we have lecturers who make out time for their supervisees, but there are still a large number of those who don’t. Maybe these lecturers in question are too busy because of their demanding lecturing works, or maybe it’s because they have so many supervisees assigned to them, or it could be because they have their own research works and reports to tidy up. Whatever their reasons are, they need to make out time for their students. All that the students ask for is guidance, nothing more.
However, the lecturers that could not afford the time for regular face to face meetings with their supervisees could resort to the use of modern technologies and the internet. They can start by exchanging email addresses and phone numbers with their supervisees. Then they should make available the department approved structure for the project/thesis/dissertation and the referencing style to these students. They should encourage their supervisees to contact them electronically. However, they need to let them (the supervisees) know when they (the supervisors) can be disturbed. This means that the students can send their works through emails and the lecturers can go through them at their spare time. The places the lecturers query should be highlighted and comments on them given as footnotes or endnotes. When this is judiciously done, the supervisees will have their works done on time and the supervisors would have done their own part of the work under less stress. At the end, everyone is happy.
Dear lecturers, gone are the days when your students should be afraid of you. Be their mentor and enjoy seeing them blossom.
Remember, the hustle is real. Let’s heal Naija.