Letter: In the bad books

January 12, 2001

Protests by students and lecturers at the University of Ibadan against a visiting World Bank staffer trying to foist another large loan on Nigerian universities was sadly familiar ("Loan plea gives rise to angry protests", THES, January 5).

Why should Nigeria have World Bank money when local universities had little to show for the $120 million borrowed in 1991-92?

As a full-time doctoral student at Ibadan then, two recollections from that time spring to mind.

One is of the acting head of the history department glumly showing me the order slips from which she could choose to replenish the library courtesy of World Bank money.

Instead of books on African and imperial history and historical methodology, the order slips (from Blackwells of Oxford) covered a multitude of irrelevant titles such as The History of the Czech Church in the 13th Century . Although our department resisted the fake largesse, others did not - and useless books and journals flooded library shelves.

The second is of the university library having its reception area sectioned off by heavy swing doors and two parallel rows of air conditioners installed in preparation for the computerisation of the library's book collection and borrowing system. In a hot, humid country noted for its electricity power cuts, such inappropriate technology meant that not a single book has been catalogued on the shiny row of computers.

Seldom has the university's motto been more appropriate: " Aluta continua et victoria acerta ".

Simon Heap
Senior researcher
International NGO Training and Research Centre
Oxford

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