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A Tale of Two Worlds – Part 2 (The End) By:- Itodo Samuel Anthony

A Tale of Two Worlds – Part 2 (The End) By:- Itodo Samuel Anthony

It was in the second semester of my masters program at Heriot-Watt University and I was just adjacent the Institute of Petroleum Engineering car park when this young man with a backpack walked briskly to catch up with me. I was listening to Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ and I wasn’t particularly in a mood for any interaction, but his enthusiastic “hello” infected me with a change of attitude, when I saw he wasn’t just doing a ‘greet and pass’ but aiming for some interaction.
“Are you a student here?” He asked. “Yeah, Reservoir Evaluation and Management.” “Okay, nice. Where are you from?” “Nigeria.” “Cool, we get a lot of students from Nigeria. Are you enjoying your stay in Edinburgh?” “Yeah, it’s a nice city and this program is also great.”

He was heading towards my lecture hall so we went on together, making light conversation on sundry issues. In a community where the typical student minded his business with earphones plugging ears on walkways, I found him sort of refreshing. His interest in me wasn’t feigned as well, I could tell. I summed in my mind that since I had not met him before he was probably one of those postgrad or doctorate students. Then as we approached the door to the building he introduced himself while offering a handshake… “My name is Eric, and I will be taking you on Reservoir Simulation later on in the semester.” Dafuk! So I replied, “Cool, I had no idea. Nice to meet you Eric, my name is Tony.” “Alright Tony, I am sure we will have other interactions during my lectures.” As I made to grab my door key, he quickly used his to open the door and then held it open for me to pass.

The simplicity of my lecturers abroad got me thinking about the hellish system I had back at Uniport where lecturers were mini gods…many of them easily having your fate in their hands. One of my greatest discomforts in class in my early weeks at Edinburgh was having to address my lecturers by their first names, and I think all the Africans suffered that discomfort too. When Europeans asked a question they’d go “Andy, could you explain this bit for me…?” But when the Ghanaians and other Africans in my class addressed the lecturer it wasn’t Andy, it was “Sir”. I could see the first lecturer we met wasn’t comfortable with this “sir” thing but of course the department was used to having loads of Africans so he understood. It took me three weeks before I started calling him “Andy” and even that came with some tinge of guilt.

All our lecturers were easily accessible. You could write emails and be guaranteed a prompt response. The lecturers always had their doors open if they were around; I think it was a university policy. So no, you didn’t have to knock on a door to know if the lecturer was in, you just walked in because as you passed by the aisle you could see them at their desks. In Uniport you had to knock several times and you wouldn’t even get a response even when the lecturer was in. Sometimes you took the law into your hands and turned the knob only to have the door open with the lecturer comfortably poised with some female student after which you’d get a “My friend get out, who asked you to come in!”

My lecturers were just John or James or Andy. They were only ‘doctors’ on publications and the labels on their doors. When they introduced themselves they didn’t tell you they were professors. They rode the bus with you to school; some of them jogged to school on certain days and this particular American lecturer had a penchant for riding a bicycle to school. In fact once he sent an email to the entire class saying a student had chained a bicycle in the path of his own bicycle and he wanted to go out. There were pockets of laughter in the class as the email came into our iPads. Lecturer that doesn’t have jeep is that one even a human being?

Lunch break was always a great opportunity to interact with lecturers in a truly relaxed and non-academic environment, some of who would bring their lunch to the collective lounging area to eat with students. No, you couldn’t tell lecturers from students during those sessions.

In Nigeria there are professors who wouldn’t answer your greeting if you didn’t add “Professor” to their names. There are lecturers who’d be in their offices, laughing loudly with your female classmates but wouldn’t answer the door when you’re knocking outside with a serious thesis supervision concern. And there are those who would stoop so low as to fail students for not buying their handouts or sleeping with them. My lecturers abroad took great pride in having students excel in their courses, one of my mates got a 98% on one of our exams and the course lecturer was very proud. In Nigeria there are lecturers competing with their students. Lecturers who are telling students “In my course, A is for God alone, B is for me, C is for the really intelligent student…” There are lecturers who get threatened when their students are approaching First Class.

Here, the teacher is a god who must be worshipped. It is probably one of the reasons that Africa has conquered space. We are gods. It is indeed a tale of two worlds.



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Posted by:- on October 12, 2018.

Categories: Literature

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