Scaling Through My Final Year Undergraduate Programme
As an undergraduate in a Nigerian institution, majoring in biological sciences, you are no different from an Art major. All your years, you are busy immersed in outdated theories that require you to have retentive memories before you'd pass. Saddled with an unimpressive Nigerian educational system, the system seeks to kill and demoralise you. The system compresses you and makes you smaller. The system doesn't want to see you survive. You are constantly grasping the straws. How will you really survive? When the system doesn't cater for you. The Nigerian system goes out of its way to kill and destroy you. But work is the most exhausting part of it. Because it's what you need for survival. You can't survive without work, so you let it define you.
Here, in my final year, I am saddled with work. Hectic work that will come to be my final year undergraduate programme. I must scale through this before I graduate. Whenever I am walking through the University environment, I am greeted with the singing voices of the cab riders. The cheer movement of students, strolling around the school vicinity. There are bushes that flank the University. This is unlike Lagos. Lagos is a little city in Nigeria by landmass but one of the most populous cities in Africa. Almost all the trees in Lagos are gone. The houses are compressed against each other. I hate it here. The sun is quite piercing, powerful and goes deep into the core of your skin. Everywhere is congested. So, University of Lagos, gives me another outlook of Lagos. There, I am seeing bushes. Sometimes, I see monkeys hop around the University trees and cars stroll past. The Atlantic Ocean flows across the University, almost rounding it and there is a long bridge, called the third mainland bridge. It snakes across the ocean to Lagos Island. When you are in the school environment, you easily hear the cars and trucks honk as they move past. Especially the cars, while I'm laying in my hostel. The dilapidated building. Staying in one of those rooms is difficult. Sometimes, I believe it's work. A hectic work. Why? Because it's stressful. Because it breaks my soul. Work has a way it shatters your soul and weakens your body. Work is not only about leaving your house to slave yourself under a capitalist environment. I define my own work to be something you do but feel it slaves you. Something that crushes your spirit.
So, in the University of Lagos, there are things which I hardly see around Lagos. The beautiful aesthetic. I would say the Nigerian government really put up some good work. There are flowers. The road is well tiled and demarcated. There are a few uncompleted buildings. You might see, "Men at work" signpost there. Able bodied men, working. You might be lucky to see a woman carrying a bag of cement or building materials. Nigerian women really work hard.
I hate my project supervisor, a PhD holder, who would later become a professor while still on my undergraduate programme because I have been in this school since early 2020 and still an undergraduate. The first day he assigns I and other four course mates with the project topic, we are saddled with whatever it pertains. He will not assist us and he didn't. We struggled, we grasped the straw. We multitasked and now, we are almost there. It was the Weed Protein Concentrate, right? We must extract coagulum from leaf juice and use four extraction methods to extract protein.
The final year undergraduate programme has come to become the most part of my life. It has come to become what drains my mental health. Though I am not doing more than two courses, it wants to kill me. It wants to eviscerate me. It wants to strangle me. Every day, my bones drain. I have been here since early 2020, yet I haven't graduated. There is always covid19 outbreak that keeps derailing us. One that doesn't want us to achieve our full humanity. The federal and state Universities in Nigeria, cannot adapt to changes. They wanted us to resume physically. And when we finally resumed in 2021, then another wave of the virus came out of nowhere and sent us away. It sent us packing. It means that we will keep struggling to implement online classes to get our footings. Every day, the final undergraduate programmes become toxic to my body.
I have invested all my energy here and I want to graduate. I have invested all my time and money. Sometimes, I feel it's unending. Why does it want to end me? While we plucked off the leaf, I am sitting on the long wooden chair, staring at my coursemates. Sometimes, beads of sweat riddled across their faces. We are inside the little old building that has outlasted its years, in the botanical and zoological garden. The garden harbours crocodiles, monkeys, baboons and mosquitoes. The mosquitoes are the most obvious. While we worked, we hit our bodies, sometimes there was a splatter of blood. We clean it off. Why? We must keep working. We must do this or else, we didn't care about our degree certificate. Nothing else scares me, more than that fear. It is shameful for the university of first choice.
I believe I hate it there, but what would I do? It's my work. It is my job. I need to complete it to get this certificate that they believe will define me. I know it will not define me, but why would I want to drop out of the University after those years of slaving myself? So that when I get into an argument with a stranger, I will tell them that I am a graduate and out of their league. Maybe it might also be when I start living alone and have new neighbors and we are having an argument? Maybe when I start a brawl with someone in the traffic? I will tell them that they are out of my league. I will win the argument easily. That's Nigerian culture. Tell them, they are illiterates because they didn't attend Universities.
My undergraduate programme in the varsity is meant to last five years, but here I am spending six years with no extra years. I must get that degree. I must grab that certificate. It doesn't pay to drop out over here. I think it's worse being a drop out than one who never attempted. What would it profit me? The sun is beating aggressively outside the hut and sometimes, I squint. I will call it a hut, because it is barely a building.
We must finish plucking the leaves. One of the leaves has a needle-like body and it pricks my hand, it hurts but we must complete it. This is the first stage of the project. No matter how work defines you and you don't want it to define you, it must. That's how you will survive. That's how you will be the best at your endeavours. Everything is exhausting but you must survive.
I hate my undergraduate supervisor because he has everything to say about our project. He doesn't stop adding new leaves for us to work on. He doesn't stop suggesting new extraction methods. We are tired. He keeps adding new experiments. Sometimes, we get tired. We don't know if we should continue with this or stop? I want to get to that point where I can tell work, No. Where I can stop work and do it at my own time. Some of my project mates are determined. No matter what we are given, they are pumped. We are five, including me and one is the most determined amongst us.
Work has a way, it zaps your energy, most especially when you are forcing yourself to do it. The best type of work is the one you are determined to do. The one you placed all your body and mind. My mind is not in this one. It has wandered away.