I never thought that I would fall victim to the non-academic staff bullying in my school. You see those clerks, typists and secretaries, and other non-academic staff in schools – those people who serve as gatekeepers of the HOD, dean and the rest – fear them!
I’ve been running my postgraduate program since 2018, I had heard so many non-academic staff oppression tales from my colleagues but I could never really relate – I mean, I just show up for classes and disappear right after so I’ve never really had the opportunity to witness or experience any of such, which is why I was stunned when the mountain eventually came to Mohammed.
We were scheduled to defend our research work in the department last month and, as usual, we had to put together an entertainment package – I don’t mean small chops and soft drinks o, I’m talking about appetizers, then party jollof rice with plenty obstacles in it, and drinks – for the lecturers that would be in attendance. We were just 3 students scheduled to defend that day and the estimated number of lecturers that were expected to show up was 35.
We were stretched thin financially but we pulled through, and the event went well enough. Trouble started when I came to school the following week and I was called by Mrs A at the departmental general office. She told me that last week, when we defended our research work, we didn’t give food to the non-academic staff and so she was going to seize my file because I was the one they saw distributing the food packs. She expressly told me that my file wouldn’t make it to the postgraduate school because of a plate of rice.
Guys, I was enraged, but I tried my best to remain calm while trying to explain that the food was already packed, that instead of the budgeted 35 lecturers, over 50 of them showed up and the food packs were not even enough. My explanations fell on the deaf ears of the elderly woman who kept insisting that she just “wanted to inform me to be ready to bear the consequences that will follow.”
I was especially stunned by the fact that of all the non-academic staff, I was most familiar with Mrs A whom I always gave lifts whenever I saw her standing at the school junction. We always spoke well on the short drive to school and I had come to see her as a motherly figure I had the privilege of being in acquaintance with in school.
I was hurt and more than disappointed that she would champion such a threat against me. She also told me that I drive to school while they have to trek from the department to the postgraduate school to courier our files to and fro.
I couldn’t help but wonder if she would be okay with a non-academic staff victimising her child, or that of someone she knows, because of a plate of jollof rice. I quickly stepped out of the office before I would say something or react in a way it would regret.
A quick phone call to my husband who asked me to buy them all drinks and forget about it eventually solved the issue. But I can’t help but marvel at how decayed the Nigeria educational system has become. Why are we cooking jollof rice for lecturers to come and do their jobs? How are we owing the non-academic staff jollof rice too? Just because we want to graduate!
Almost everything in Nigeria is designed to work against the average young person and it’s really sad. But be that as it may, I’m relived that I was able to solve the problem because, honestly, I no get strength for wahala. May God help us all in this country.