The Nigerian University Professor...

A part of the activities of the University Professors is serving as external examiners to universities other than theirs. The appointment of external examiners is a worldwide practice for quality control. Professors can be external examiners for undergraduate or postgraduate programs. While the external examiner for a postgraduate program can be for a day if it involves just a student, appointment as an external examiner for an undergraduate program lasts for a whole academic year.

The external examiner is required to moderate the question papers and marking schemes of all the final-year examinations for the first and second semesters of the program. The Examinations Officer will travel to the University of the External Examiner with the question papers and marking schemes for the Examiner to moderate for each semester. I had traveled to Kano for that exercise while I was an Examination Officer between 2006 and 2008. At the end of the academic year, the External Examiner is required to travel to the University to examine the final-year project of the students and also to moderate the answer booklets and results.

I was recently appointed as an External Examiner for the physics department of a Federal University that is about 210 km from my University. I performed the moderation of the question papers and marking schemes for both semesters. At the end of the session in October 2023, I was invited for the external examination of the students' projects. While planning to go there, I inquired about the number of students to be examined and I was told they were a bit above eighty (80). I was like, wow! The funny thing is that you do this job, especially as a first-timer, without knowing how much you will be paid for it.

I was wondering how I will examine 80 students in 2 days. The university is about 210 km from Zaria and I need to analyse the economics of the trip. If I am to drive my car, I will spend about N40,000 on fuel for the round trip. But my instinct was telling me that using my car would cost more than I would be paid. So, I joined a public transport and it cost me about N4,500 to the University. 4

Four (4) passengers including myself were squeezed like sardines in a pack in the passenger seat of the vehicle.

I got there and examined the 80 students and moderated the answer booklets of their final year's students for 2 full days. I examined 40 students each day. I was exhausted and needed enough space to relax on my way back to Zaria. So, I paid for 2 seats which cost me about N9,000. This made us 3 on the passenger seat to Zaria.

Just a few days ago, I received an alert of the payment for the one-year job. I got an alert of N138,920 six weeks after the job. My breakdown shows that I was paid N80,000 honorarium for the one-year job as an External Examiner for the University, N50,000 for accommodation for 2 nights to examine 80 students (25,000 per night), and N8,920 for transportation from Zaria to the university and back to Zaria (20 naira per kilometer). Payment for 2 nights implies that it was assumed that the job was done in one day. Yes, the University management assumed that I examined 80 students in one day.

At the end of the day and even without using my car, I spent more on transportation than I was paid. For the moderation and examination of the students for an academic session, I was paid N1,000 per student for the exam moderation, reading of the project work, and oral examination of the students.

However, there was a circular in 2022 that reviewed duty tour allowance (DTA) and transport allowance per kilometer for public service. According to the circular, a Professor is meant to get N37,500 per night as DTA and N75 per kilometer for mileage. While it is in operation at every other MDA, under the current fuel subsidy removal regime university professors are expected to travel at N20 per kilometer and can't lodge in a hotel that costs more than N25,000 per night.

While the political class has subjected academics to abject poverty, the managements of our universities are still expecting us to travel with N20 per kilometer, lodge in a hotel that is not more than N25,000 per night, and then do oral examinations for 80 students in one day. They possibly felt that we could manage it after all are already used to poverty. It's sad that we are not regarded by political class, lost respect in society,  and we also don't seem to have regard for ourselves within the university system.

At least this University paid even though what was paid was ridiculous. I also got a nice reception from the department. For over a year, the other University has yet to pay the N50,000 for the professorial assessment of their staff and refund the N2,500 postage charges to send the assessment report. That is Nigerian academia.

Dear public University managers, why do we find it difficult to spend money on academic activities, the main activities of the universities? Does it still cost you 20 naira per kilometer to travel to Abuja for an official engagement on behalf of the University? The excuse is always that the University has no money. Then, why do we like to pretend that all is well when it is not? Why do we window-dress our programs for accreditation when we can't properly fund the programs? Why should we be expected to drain our blood to keep public universities open? The external moderation and examination is a requirement for the award of degrees and it should be properly funded. Otherwise, It should be suspended till there are enough funds to execute that component. If we really desire to make progress, we need to stop the window-dressing approach and tell ourselves the truth.

Dear senior colleagues, my respect for your sacrifices and the risk of traveling between states these years on our bad roads for external examinations at this ridiculous honorarium and allowances. I don't want to blame you for the sustenance of this slavery. But this treatment continued because you accepted it and MILT for these years. Even as teachers, we need a proper reward here on earth as we all strive for heavenly rewards.

Our old senior colleagues are already used to it. But to the new professors who will be taking up external assessment responsibilities, before going out for any external assignment, the supposed community service, to other universities you need to be sure that the transport allowance will take you to the place to do the job and that the night allowance can afford decent accommodation.

Don't be enslaved by the words "community service". There is no free meal anywhere in the world. Somebody must pay for anything called a free meal.


Prof. Abdelghaffar Amoka Abdelmalik, PhD.
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Copyright © Amoka 2023


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