A journey and the crossroads
Actually my skepticism about Nigerian university educational system started way before I was admitted into Lagos State University (LASU) to study Communications. But as a Nigerian boy with Nigerian parent, airing my views for discussion is farfetched. Till today, the last generation parents still place university education on the same shelve with literacy. This has spread to some today’s parent also, probably because the need to survive in the economy do not give room to sit down and re-strategized since higher level of education is not solving unemployment.
I needed a reason to be in school so I won’t easily drop out. With a little thought, I see the university system as a best and the biggest place to see like minds, share and learn skills with them and start a business ring with your crew, so I set out.
I never looked like someone that will give the university education a chance to pass through me. You can’t gang me up the unserious elements though, because my hate is intellectual. It wasn’t hard for category to add me with the rogues. I was a rogue. And I want to bank on it in the future.
With that background, I guess you can image how shocking it is for me and my colleagues when I ended up in the university system. It wasn’t something I fancied. I mean, unlike some young people fantasize to be a lecturer and mingle with young people to ‘relate’ and be excited, I will rather choose to be recruited into 2nd world war army than to be a lecturer in the university of Charlie’s Angels.
Apparently life is a journey, and it can be until you are at one cross road, that you will start seeing a pattern. The university system that trained me, created the false sense of importance like the average Nigerian university system supposed to. However, I can’t underrate the effort of the Lagos State University: School of Communication, in trying to level the system with reality. They actually tried. I could remember, journalism was so much instilled in us that we carry the same spirit as the late Dele Giwa. The broadcast unit, which I belong also tried but like every other institutions, the practical wasn’t great. I am a practical guy, and I self-developed myself, and that must have gotten me back into the university system as the trait was noted my mentor, Dr. Adeyemi Ridwan who facilitated my first university employment.
I got the award at the end of my undergraduate days for being ‘the most outspoken’, that should lay a background as I explain my will to try everything I could to have the first university I worked to be the best in graduating mass communication students. That was almost achieved. I was absolved as a technologist. I discovered the heart of Mass Communication in an institution is the studio, manning the space made me important. However, in the hierarchy of staff importance in the university system, the technologist are next to the sweepers. In fact, most counted them out as non-academic staff who should be shooed away when important things happens. This was disturbing for me. I couldn’t blame how my efforts are trashed on the staff though, because the system made them believe it is ok. I was told to start writing papers for publications to grow in the ranks but I saw that as a threat to my skills that made me a studio king. Yes, a ‘king’; for a students that graduated in a university with a verse knowledge of media production backed by the theories, I understand that I can operate in and out of a university system. In fact, the production personnel in the media industry are more paid than the other personnel. And how a university system (which is supposed to be a home for intellectuals) inverted the pyramid of importance marvels me. The people on top had to write papers. I have to write papers while keeping up with the fast growing media technology to stay relevant just because I graduated as a more resourceful student in school.
It was the era the university started pushing for entrepreneurship in the system and I have wondered how this will work, so instead of writing papers, I started writing articles, apart from the ones writing about the bad curriculum, the most concerning one that spoke about entrepreneurship was the one I nicknamed enterpreneurshit.
My journey from here is the one of discovery, where did we get it wrong?
“I have become ‘MEDIA’ the antagonist of our university system”
When I was in school, I challenged myself to become a ‘media’. What this means is that, if you lock me indoor for some months with a camera and computer, I will run a tv/radio station that will run 24hrs programming with my skill, education and talent. This was fully achievable when I mastered character animation. And I talked about this idea in my underrated animation called “Plan ‘Be”, which spoke about using CGI characters to run media content (an idea I planned using to become ‘a media’). “Plan ‘Be” is also a philosophical work asking an ethical question on the creation of CGI, which today turned out to be a form of prediction and seeing the future of CGI. And last year, a movie was created whereby an actor that has died since the 90s was brought to life. CGI can manipulate reality and how can that affect perception? that’s the ethical question and more.
Growing up got me to understand the basic sense that the media content creation is better done as a team. I had different efforts to create teams within the students. I create the Gohard media Movement, a female, media production team. ‘Females’, because somehow, we have more females in mass communication than men, however as brilliant as the results show they can be better than their male counterparts, the natural aura and social stigmatization draw them back from being part of the production aspect, thereby limiting their voice, and employability chances (more detail on these was covered in my article: Connecting Mass Communication Class with the Industry: The Gohard Movement Story. Read here: https://www.tekedia.com/connecting-mass-communication-class-with-the-industry-the-gohard-movement-story/ ). I also had the #team, which includes very talented male students. My discovery is that, the students consciously or subconsciously put the skills less than their secondary focus. They see it as hectic pastime, done only for the love of it. The implication is that, they don’t put value on the skill even if eventually they learnt it, thereby unable them to initiate entrepreneurial activities in media after leaving school. These students go back to the norm of holding up certificate with the million others to look for job that is not there, totally forgetting their edge. When they finally get to know the importance of the skills, they already forget the skill and had to go back to selling underwear or working 24/7 in the banking sector, or even engage is something worse. I should at this point exonerate the stories that turned out fine but outside the discipline on their certificates.
When the teacher that teaches you the most value is devalued, you can’t value what was thought. That is the truth in this case. More truth to come.
The consequence of these is that the profession is now hijacked by people that get to see the value, learnt the skill and start to practice without knowing the theory, thereby becoming the fourth estate of the realm, mismanaging information and causing problems. And you can’t stop them because you didn’t teach them.
Yet, these people will never come to the universities to share their field experience with the students because the professorship system won’t pay or respect them since they are seen as ‘artisans’ and cant be reckoned with. The students then graduate and become clueless.
UCHE, my GUY
In my last article on the topic, nicknamed ‘enterpreneurshit’ (titled: WHY ENTREPRENEURSHIP CAN’T WORK IN OUR UNIVERSITY SYSTEM Read here: https://www.tekedia.com/examining-the-nigerian-university-system/), the concluding part encourages every skilled persons to stay off universities (esp in Nigeria) as it will just waste their time. You won’t be respected or well paid, and you are needed somewhere else where you will get all these. By staying in school, you are misleading students by giving value to them which they won’t value and will waste their own life knowing they have it but couldn’t reference it until it is too late. I mean, if you leave school, and pay separately to learn how to edit video, you will focus on the skill to get value for you money. But who ever paid for university education paid to pass exams and get the A4 paper (certificate, which in Nigeria today keep getting devalued).
Early this year, I took the step also and left the educational sector, however, not until I corrected a misconception I had about the university system.
It will be wrong to blame the Whiteman for bringing us education, what I did blame them for is giving us a template that will ruin our workforce. A template that focus on research and thesis and not what to research. However, the Whites brought us also technical schools, and polytechnics which are supposed to populate towards industrial growth, but we misuse it. For paying university graduates higher, it reducing these workforce, everyone wanted to be in university. However, university is for research. In the way I think it should be, a BSc holder should be for 100 graduate from the technical schools and wages and salaries are supposed to be at the same level accordingly. At professorial stage however, it will be clear that an individual went through education strictly for the sake of knowledge and research and not for money or just making ends mean. Correct me if I am wrong.
When I discovered this I feel I am the one fundamentally in the wrong ring. I also know I am not tangibly going anywhere in terms of promotion. How did a studio even get into the Mass Communication department in a university?
CREATE YOUR HAPPINESS: I CREATED UCHE my Guy
Late last year, I and my technologist colleague lost a contact that will pay us 10 times what will make a year annually. The animation deal was perfect for us as my last animation work made 3 years before, was called to be screened at the Lagos animation festival. However, we lost the deal because the characters in the animation do not pass for 2020. I told my colleague, ‘bro, do you know I have the software that will produce something better since last year but the university work won’t let me update my project?’ we were deep into helping others but forgetting to help ourselves.
That’s coupled with my initial skepticism within the circle of our university system made me drop off the uni-ride. On my way home, I opened up my studio to start work and I immediately got a deal that paid me double of what I get as wages. That gave me time to work on creating a worthy character can that pass for the year.
Uche, was given the name for various reasons, taken particularly from a friend I had in school. She is brilliant and intelligent and fold of me. And I am fold of her too because my joke never get over her head. She is the beginning of the feeling I do have when I see a young intelligent Nigerian. How I wish, I just give them a future, so that they won’t be a waste or pass through those hurdles that do make a good person into a monster. Trust me, I won’t agree that the country is so blessed with intelligent people if I had not being in the educational circle so I won’t say I wasn’t served. But, as my hope is dim, I try to work them up to their greatness, and the feeling that I might fail kick me in the nuts over and over.
Uche. As a Yoruba guy, choice of an Ibo name represents the business sense of the Ibo people in Nigeria. Most of us must have seen an Ibo guy that grew from nothing on our streets and later threaten to buy our town while bringing up some other siblings in the cause, following same trend. What does that tell you? A working template, business skill and system, something tested. I don’t see a research paper on that. I don’t see my professors bringing that to the table of university entrepreneurship table. And that is what Uche was made from. I character to represent and be the face and inspiration of Ashnimator studios 1.5; the business scheme to launch my studio into business and not just a place or art and learning; to Ashnimator 2.0
Righting the wrongs
In this journey, I figured out that it has become harder to ignore my immediate past. All my students that noted my move had always commented ‘but you are a ‘teacher’, which I will just smile to, for I only understood that it was a random wind that took me into education. I might have learnt a lot and that is just what it is; life lessons to understand Nigeria better. Nevertheless, I developed a passion unknowing to me. And I got to start linking the crossroad and found a pattern. I had a history of teachers; my grandmother was a trader, then a teacher. My mum is a nurse, then a teacher (still a lecturer). And I have always argued that this country’s can only be solved when the educational system is consciously reformed towards development AND the media is programmed to reinforce education both overtly and subliminal. That might explain why my #endsars stance is unique.
The media cannot be sanitized if those that lack the theory do handles the practical. This has pushed me and Uche to initiate the CREATE YOUR HAPPINESS concept.
Since the fundamentals of the university system and technical schools are different and we have 80% of Nigerian workforce learning not to be a force at work in the university, how can this be fixed? Then, I have wondered why can’t university system also have a separate technical arm that will invite graduates to learn the technical skills of the theories learnt in school and encourage the students to also take courses if they wish. Mind you, this is not the same as entrepreneurship scheme where we pretend a computer science lecturer can actually code. This is where we go out and seek a specialist to take the course and pay them accordingly.
These will sure boost the credibility for a university education, fix the large gap, profit the students, build true work force, profit the university, allow for productivity within the university, makes research easier and sanitize the industry since people equipped with the theory can now face the music.
Did this idea just exonerate the university system from the failure of this country? (*laughs) not totally. Currently, I and my guy Uche being working on a proposal that will work for a university to build this idea and because a large edge better. If you are in, lets create happiness together.
(watch the 2nd animation of Uche https://www.instagram.com/p/CNhVapehzDQ/?igshid=1jpey7tmefemv )