David Ekale has been trained as a laboratory assistant in our various research projects since 1984. He is now a part-time student in Nsukka, Nigeria and reports of his experiences there.
During wor work with the Programme Onchocercoses in Cameroon (1984 to 1987 in Kumba, then in Ngaoundere) I learned many entomological and parasitological techniques, like dissections of Simulim damnosum flies, morphometric description of adult flies, identification of third stage larvae and microfilaria species. cryopreservation of microfilaria species, intra-thoracic injection of microfilaria in vector flies, cytotaxonomy of the Simulium damnosum complex, embryogram analysis etc. To enlarge my scientific background and to learn more about biology and research methods, I inscribed as a part-time student at the Nsukka-University in Nigeria. Here are my impressions as a student of an African university:
My experience in Nigeria
My study destination Nigeria is a huge country with over 150 million inhabitants. Amazing indeed, because despite the huge oil deposits making it one of the richest country in Africa it is still rated a poor country with less than a dollar per person per day; problems arising mainly from leadership style, poor management and especially corruption has a negative impact in the country’s economy. It is like a magnified version of what is happening in most African countries.
Basic necessities like water and electricity is on the order of the day. People must embark on private generators to match the frequent power cuts while trying to cope with the noise they produce. To drink good water you must pay for it.
Business is also on the agenda in Nigeria. Making big and quick money is what matters. “Everything can be lacking, but people are not!” is a common saying in Nigeria. If you have something to sell you will surely find the market.
Despite their high affinity for business, especially in the East, the Christians respect Sunday as a holy day which is reserved for church service and for rest. People are well dressed and most business centers you will find closed.
One has to rely a lot on his luck when traveling the country as every bus is a potential target for armed robbery. This unfortunate situation has created employment to a certain breed of people in pastors’ disguise who take advantage of the situation and make wealth for personal gains. Buses are usually full. As soon as they take off, usually for long destinations (mine was from Yola to Onisha), a pastor emerges for serious meditations and prayers of Gods protection and journey mercies. Holy ghost fire is a common expression used to subdue the devil and people are urged to answer in chorus at time intervals as requested by the pastor. At end of the session envelopes are distributed for voluntary donations. The purpose of the money is either for the construction of a church building or the promotion of church activities. As soon as he collects the envelopes he drops at the next bus stop and disappears. Normally it is so organised that after the pastor departure a medicine hawker comes. They usually praise their medicine as one that cures all types of diseases at once. Nothing is impossible in Nigeria. After sales they disappear with no references.
Like in most of Nigeria, the education system of my Uni (University of Nsukka) is Anglo-Saxon which is internationally recognised and which I appreciate a lot. Education is open for everyone – in my class of 30 students half of them are women with a good number of them either pregnant or having babies. This is tolerated as long as the babies stay quiet. One has to be well equipped to face the challenges.
Onisha, some 2.5 hours away from my student town Nsukka, has the biggest market in Africa. There is nothing you are looking for which you won’t get. Since armed robbers always target the buses destined for the market for the obvious reason that passengers are carrying money, the driver union have decided that the drivers go to the market by day. Armed robbers find it only convenient to operate at night. Later, leave Onisha at night with the goods the customers bought. Because armed robbers are only interested in money they leave the buses alone. This strategy, punctuated by many police checkpoints along the way, seems to be working for armed robbery control.
Reincarnation, especially among the Igbos tribe, still have a strong role in the believes of Nigerian people. For example, abnormally born children are referred as Obanje. These children are regarded as outcast with no value and abandoned from the society: children affected by sickle cell anaemia, jaundice or epilepsy are usually among the victims.
My sincerest thanks go to the German government and the DFG Project for making my studies in Nigeria possible. Their financial support enables me to fulfill my dream to get a Universities degree in Biology. May God bless them as he has blessed me and my family!