ACADEMIC STRESS IN NIGERIA: CHANGING THE NARRATIVE.
– Class of 2020 Millennium Fellow.
The pertinacious problem of mental disability, constantly plaguing existence, is indeed alarming.
Noting that Mental wellness is the psychological ability of an individual to effectively respond to its environment and its changes. According to the World Health Organization, mental diseases, which also include stress disorders, are the top leading causes of death, most especially amongst adolescents and young adults. Stress is a natural psychological challenge that transcends the boundaries of developmental stages, sexuality, academics, amidst others. Simply stress -depending on stressors, capacity- can either be positive or negative.
Academic stress is a factor that impedes the ability of a student to adapt to academic requirements and the environment. Stress could arise in forms of parental and societal expectations, peer pressure, examination, availability of resources, the mere competitiveness of the academic environment, etcetera.
The university is a platform to learn with minimal or no stress remains a paradox in Nigeria, as issues plaguing studying remains on a constant rise. Students suffer the stress of finishing top of their respective fields as therein lies the estimation of their success, with little or no consideration of their strengths, likes, and decisions, and constantly expected to live out the dreams of their roots, with little or no empathy for his/her own choices.
These situations, amidst others, have given rise to prevailing issues faced by the world, such as suicide, drug abuse, severe mental disabilities.
Though the cost of mental treatment remains low, the demographic of those in need largely tips the scale negatively;
Nigeria -1970s-, credited with the best academic standards in Africa, with international students enrolling in their mass has deteriorated drastically.
The academia is truncated by strikes, thus, leading to insurmountable pressures on students to cover for lost times, coupled with cumbersome but largely irrelevant academic workload.
Let’s not forget that gaining admission into higher institution in Nigeria comes with a great deal of mental stress.The majority of aspiring undergraduates are skeptical about their chances of being admitted fair and square.
This further corroborating that academia plays an enormous role in the mental disorder of youths in Nigeria.
The effects of mental disorderliness caused by academic stresses are so disheartening. There’s barely a graduate in Nigerian Universities that have not heard at least a report on suicide cases during their undergraduate study. Imagine a country educational institution that has made the suicidal record an experiential moment for students before graduation. Beyond the condemnable suicidal statistics, students undergo regular harassment on campus, particularly the female gender. It is, however, disheartening to discover that the community has accepted academic stress as an inevitable experience for all students.
There is an urgent need to create a paradigm shift to save upcoming generations from this grave injustice.
To, however, change this narrative, there is a need for a more pragmatic approach to solving this existential problem. Academic programs should be more flexible – to allow a wide variety of choices to students. Academic requirements should be less cumbersome and choking, to allow time for extracurricular activities for students.
Lecturers should be more receptive and attentive to their students, judiciously following up on these students: this will aid in the early detection of students with mental disorders. Oftentimes academic calendars are rushed, to meet up with lost time, leaving the students to pay the price of the incessant strike, and consequently increasing the amount of stress being faced by students as they struggle to meet up.
The guidance and counseling unit of schools should be more accessible and friendly to students. More profoundly, students with mental disabilities often shy away from seeing an expert due to stigmatization; this unit should be made more flexible and accommodating to students. Also, the guidance and counseling unit of schools should have monitoring and evaluation (M&E) procedures for all lecturers and students.
The M&E process would help keep lecturers in check and also aid the early discovery of students suffering from mental illnesses.
In addition, the masses should be sensitized on the importance of speaking up for traumatized students; this would help curb mental disorders arising from home through early detection. Considering the contrasting view of the public on speaking up for traumatized which encompass; fear of stigmatization, ignorance and misconceptions, agencies dealing on mental health advocacy should increase their reach to the least educated and most vulnerable in the country.
Germanely, the hallmark of quality education lies in a memorable and insightful experience available to students in their academic sojourn. It is, therefore, imperative to create enabling environments that would guaranty the physical and mental safety of all academic-stakeholders to foster decent and sustainable impacts.
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