- Behind the institution’s ranking as the best state polytechnic in Nigeria are a hardworking workforce and multiple stories of grief, depression, and regrets.
Funmilayo* was 28 when she started working at The Polytechnic, Ibadan, as a youth corps member.
In 2015, she was formally employed on a part-time basis as a teaching assistant. According to her letter of appointment, she was expected to “teach for four hours a week at the rate of N5,000”.
Funmilayo, however, works just as much as regular members of the academic staff, if not more. A single mother, she now has two children of school-going age and will be 40 very soon. But her salary has remained N20,000 a month — N19,800 if you deduct taxes.
The Polytechnic Ibadan is a tertiary institution owned by the Oyo State Government. It has well over 200 part-time lecturers (unofficially, teaching assistants), estimated to constitute about half of its academic workforce.
Hoping they would soon be gainfully employed, most of them have worked diligently for a long time — some who spoke to HumAngle have worked as many as 14 to 18 years. They feel stuck and as if the school has robbed them of a huge part of their lives, many of them said in describing their ordeal.
Funmilayo currently goes home at the end of the month with less than N10,000 because of a N150,000 loan she took to pay for her post-graduate studies. She had enrolled with the hope that she would have an upper hand when it is finally time for appointments. Her poor salary, in fact, pushed her to sell some of her properties to keep body and soul together.
Among other work-related expenses, she spends N300 on transportation, sometimes even on weekends. She has yet to pay her house rent of N150,000 this year and her landlord’s threat to evict her hangs over her like the Sword of Damocles. Her salary is just not enough and she is tired of waiting.
“I even told my colleague that I am ready to leave. But then, I have been there for over 10 years. The child I was carrying then is now in Community High School. I keep hoping that things will get better, but it is as if my hope is being cut off. They are just using us,” she says in a tired voice.
The school management has constantly promised to do better, but Funmilayo’s experience suggests that the management cannot be trusted. She was first denied a full-time appointment in 2011 during the administration of F.A. Adeniran and then in 2015 by the Professor Olatunde Fawole-led management.
Again, on February 13, 2019, 56 part-time lecturers, including Funmilayo, were given letters appointing them into full-time positions. She was excited! She borrowed N3,750 to get her medical clearance done and a little more to celebrate with colleagues and other well-wishers.
She did not mind, thinking she would comfortably pay back the loans after receiving her first salary. She even went to church and gave testimony. Some colour was finally returning to her life, she thought. But not for long.
She started hearing rumours about a possible withdrawal of the latest appointments but did not think it was possible. People assured her no such thing had happened in the past. In the last week of February, however, she received a call from her Head of Department, who asked for the letter’s original copy and said the management “wanted to do some things about the appointment”. That was the last time she saw the letter. Her faith suffered a huge blow.
“Since then, I have vowed that there is nothing that can happen in my life that would again take me to the front of the altar,” blurts Funmilayo, referring to her testimony in church. “No, no, no… It can never happen again.”
When this reporter called her on the night of November 2, she held some tablets in her left hand and was about to swallow. The stress of invigilating a hall full of about 3,000 freshmen at the polytechnic was starting to get to her and her voice had become brittle. She is also treating arthritis.
“I went to the hospital two Fridays ago to see the doctor. I could not even buy the amount prescribed for me. I just told Kunle Ara (Pharmacy) to sell a third of the dose and that after taking that one, I would return to get the remaining,” she says.
Because of Funmilayo’s underpayment and constant struggle to keep head above water, she also blames herself for her father’s death in 2018.
He called her one morning to complain that he did not have any money, and she promised to send something within the next two days. In the evening, one of his close friends called to ask for help. “Your dad’s friend has been hospitalised,” he declared. He called again the next morning and insisted she came to Oluyoro Hospital. Getting there, she realised it was her dad who needed help. He had lost his speech and had only N95 in his pocket.
“The money could not have transported him home from the church he went to. He needed like N180 to get back home,” says Funmilayo. “The morning he spoke to me was the last time I would hear his voice. He spent like two weeks in the hospital before he died. I think it was because of me…”
A day before her interview with HumAngle, someone informed Funmilayo that she saw her mom— who is aged somewhere between 65 and 68—hawking drinks and sachet water at Gbagi Market, Ibadan.
Before her father’s death in 2018, she had also caught her carrying others’ luggage for a fee to sustain herself. A demoralised Funmilayo had called her sister to the scene and they both wept. She now hesitates to reach out to the old woman.
“If I want to stop her from hawking, do I have anything to give her?” she asks before a long pause. “I believe in God but … eh, my faith is shaking. My faith is shaking.”
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