Sunday, October 15, 2006

An imaginary monologue from a Nigerian university lecturer

I have been reading some recent research on sexual harrassment in Nigerian universities, and it filled me with anger, and then with a profound sense of sadness. I then bashed out the following, to try to make some sense of the life of a lecturer who avails himself in this way.

I wrote it in a few minutes, its clunky and there are idiomatic problems amongst others. It would be interesting to try to extend it into a fuller length monologue that could be performed - do you think it would be worth it? The text would be a partial success if I could get the listener to sympathise with the tragedy of a man who sleeps with his students for favours. Imagine a darkened stage, with a solitary figure on a solitary chair, a candle on a table next to him..

What do you want me to say? I am paid a few thousand naira each month to scratch an existence like a chicken in the yard – that’s if I get paid at all. What would you have me do? We all have to find ways to get by. How could we live if we didn’t sell our notes to the students? How could I feed my family? How could I mend my shoes? Haba!

What do you mean my lecture notes are out of date? Some of my references are in the early 1990’s, is that not good enough for you? Where exactly do you expect me to get new material from? There is nothing in our library but dust and mould, and I haven’t been overseas since 1987. And don’t make me laugh and then cry if you think I can go online – when we don’t even have light on campus!

You think I should not help some of my students out? When the new girls need to find room in the hostels and there is not enough space for all and I can help ease their troubles, why shouldn’t I? They come to my office, we sit and we talk, I listen to their problem and then I sort them out, as it is in my power to. It is alright like that.

So what if they also sort me out too?

When they wear short skirts and show their shoulder, and come knocking on my door, it means they are also willing to come to the party too, you no sabi? Why should men always take the blame when it is the girls who are offering themselves like luscious fruit to be plucked?

And when they want to do well in their exams so they can get certificate and then get a job, why should they not come to see me, so we can sit down and talk it through? And if one thing leads to another, why on earth not? How many of them think this is wrong? Of course, it’s not just the girls I help. I take a dash from the boys to solve their problems too. Don’t misunderstand me: I am not like some others: my bushmeat has to be in a dress and have a nice smooth skin and a pretty smile.

My friend, you have not lived my life. So please don’t sermonise me with your air-conditioned attitude. You don’t know how difficult it has been to keep head above water these long years. We sell our notes, we pick out a little bushmeat each year, we let the days pass. This was not how I wanted my life to be, all those years ago, but this is what has happened.

And so let it be my friend.. Everyone gets what they want, so long as they really want it. Let my life pass, and I will let yours.


Nkem 12:53 am  

I don't know about this Jeremy. You're taking the "explain does not mean excuse" route, and it doesn't work. Nigerian lecturers aren't the only ones in the world who are badly paid, if it all. Unless there's evidence that not getting paid leads to committing sexual crimes is a phenomenon unique to university lecturers the world over, I remain to be convinced.

Talatu-Carmen 6:21 am  

Hmmm... interesting monologue. You could make it a performance piece to go along with Eedris Abdulkareem's Mr. Lecturer...

Jeremy 9:35 am  

Hmmm. The point wasn't supposed to be about sexual abuse being a consequence of low pay.

It was more to show the sheer degradation male lecturers have gone through in the past 20 years, the key pivot being their loss of power and status being compensated for by exercising sexual power over others in a classic perpetuation cycle (in this patriarchal context, female lecturers are not given the opportunity for such means of compensation). But given that you picked up mainly on the pay aspect, I think it needs a lot more work.

But here's my question: when you try to examine the lives of fallen figures, either you take the 'explain does not mean excuse' or you take the 'explanation excuses' route. The first elicits a sense of tragedy - as with the various forms of blindness of Oedipus. Very rarely would anyone want to take the latter route, to avoid a sense of deterministic justification projected onto events. What other routes could one take?

The key point was to convey a context where a weak individual is almost bound to fail. We then start to see that it is not just the individual, but it is also the context, which is to blame.

My Talking Beginnings 2:56 pm  

I am glad for my certain opportunity at studying in the UK but at the same time feel an awful shame at the situation. University life here is so different to experiences recounted to me by friends who schooled in Nigeria but at the same time not entirely so.
At the moment, i am experiencing serious difficulties at university due to cock ups within the faculties that share a joint responsibilty for my course and no one seems to know and have appropriate answers to my questions. One of the lecturers even hinted at dissatisfaction (reference the strikes experienced in UK universities last year)amongst the ranks hence the pass-the-buck/dodgy bereaucracy that seems to explain my situation.
All said, there is still decency and decorum. to a certain degree, everyone is answerable to everyone and the lecturer's desire to perform shines through the contstraints of doing his job.
I never went to University in Nigeria but i know there are serious issues there (which i feel i ran away from instead of confronting). I think lecturer behaviour is just one of the primary factors of discussion and not the focal point and until the whole system is revamped, this sort of senarios will continue to be replayed unfortunately.
P.s It is disgusting to see all the government kids here. I stay away from them (i know it could be pathetic to do that)as i want nothing to do with them. They are the products of our shortcomings...wasteful, unintelligent and unfair.

Shango,  4:08 pm  

I'm all for female equality: there was this gorgeous PhD at UniBen when I attended; I would have loved to afford her the kind of "compensation" you're talking about, but I wager women lecturers don't waste their time thinking too much of silly things like "loss of power and status" then compensating for it by "exercising sexual power" over anyone, except maybe their hapless husbands or boyfriends.

I think I see your point (as a man myself, obviously) from a 50,000-ft perspective of male lecturer frustrations, but wrong is wrong is wrong is wrong. Like Nkem said, there is simply no excuse whatsoever for taking advantage of teenage twat, however fun that is! It's a violation most foul of the tenets of education passed on through the ages.

Okay, I'll step off my soapbox now. Carry on.

Soul 9:03 pm  

erm shango..
in your haste to be funny, you end upcoming off quite repulsive... even whilst denouncing bad behaviour...

'female twat'? come on... that is such a degrading term used to describe female genitalia.

So you would have loved to afford this PHD some 'compensation' along the same lines hnnh.. come on man..
don't ruin the impact of what you are saying with degrading language and bad jokes.. it's unnecessary

oguchi 6:55 am  

the whole system is corrupt there's no where to begin, no one is clean, a terribly sad state. God dey sha

Shango,  2:03 pm  

@Soul: What's wrong with teenage twat? First, I love teenage twat, second, it's got such a lively sing-song property, doesn't it?

Teenage twat.
Teenage twat.

See what I mean?

Something to calm your nerves:

A guy calls a horse rancher and says he's sending a friend over to look at a race horse he wants to buy. The rancher says "how will I recognize him?"

"Easy, he's a midget with a speech impediment"

The midget shows up and the rancher asks him if he is looking for a male or female horse.

"A female horth"

So he shows him a prized filly.

"Nith lookin' horth. Can I thee her eyeth?"

So the rancher picks up the midget and gets him eye to eye with the horse. Puts him down.

"Nith eyeth, can I thee her earzth?"

The rancher picks up the little fella again and shows him the horse's ears. Puts him down.

"Hmm, nitrh earzth. Can I thee her mouf?"

The rancher is getting impatient with having to lift the midget every time he asks a question, but he picks him up again and shows him the horse's mouth.

"Hmm, nith mouf, can I thee her twat?"

Totally pissed off at this point, the rancher grabs him under his arm and jams the midget's head as far as he can up the horse's twat, pulls him out and slams him on the ground.

The midget gets up, sputtering and coughing and says, "Perhapth, I should rephrathe that. Can I thee her wun awound a widdle bit?"

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