L.I.S.A.: What is the status of the humanities in Nigeria, your home country?
Sallek Musa: In Nigeria, particularly in Northern Nigeria which I am conversant with, when one observes from a distant, the humanities and social sciences appear to be bourgeoning and perhaps, the most promising faculty. The admission rate for new intakes, graduating students, and the number of departments is usually high, often boasting the highest statistics compared to other faculties. As the student number is high, so also is the faculty. At the University of Jos, where I studied for BSc Sociology for instance, the humanities and social science faculties had many professors, senior lecturers and seasoned academics in the faculties.
However, while the statistics indicate an encouraging report, a deeper observation would reveal some discouraging facts about the status of the humanities and the social sciences. A key factor responsible for this is that many students enrolled into the faculty were admitted to take-up studies in disciplines outside of the humanities or social science faculty. One key reason for this is due to one or more deficiencies in the basic requirements for studying in the faculties they are admitted into. In many cases, universities offer admission to students who excel in matriculation (JAMB) and post-matriculation examinations (Post-UME), but might be awaiting their (high) school examination results. Where they do not meet the basic requirements for the courses of their choices, particularly in the natural and medical sciences, they are forced to change to the humanities or social sciences faculty. Others are advised to change from other faculties to the humanities for beeing unable to meet the minimum points required for promotion into higher levels. Along with this, securing admissions for undergraduate studies in Nigeria is highly competitive, many times applicants are offered courses they never applied to. As such, some simply find themselves studying and graduating in the humanities because they do not have other options.
Generally, this undermines the commitment of the students to study. I myself was a victim of this, so were many of my colleagues, and to date, I still come across many students experiencing the challenge. In my case, my grade point in my first two years of study were below average, and I was only able to overcome the problem because of the kind and passionate advice and encouragement I received from two faculty members. The problem with the admission system in Nigeria is that it trumps other disciplines as ‘prestigious’ while it fosters a status of ‘less importance’ to the humanities and social sciences. Typically, this is reflective of the general political and societal conception of the humanities and the social sciences. For example, parents discourage their children from joining the humanities and social sciences while forcing them to study ‘professional’ disciplines such as medicine, law, and accountancy even when they are not passionate towards this.