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Olasope...Trajectory Of The Classicist


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Olasope...Trajectory Of The Classicist

BY KEHINDE OLATUNJI

 

How do you feel at forty?              

I am grateful to the almighty God that I attained this milestone. I feel good.
 
What is Classics?

Classics is simply the study of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, but to the illiterati, Classics is associated with music or anything that is related to a creative work. To a classicist and an educationist, Classics means ideas, events and materials that are relevant to the study of the history and civilization of both the ancient Greeks and the Romans.

The Greeks and Romans, as you know, spearheaded what is now known as western civilization and heritage. Their influence and impact on all branches of knowledge necessitated the study of the Classics. In fact, every form of learning embraced what is now referred to as the Classics: Language, Latin and Greek, the knowledge of which leads to a mastery of the English Language since most English words are derived from both Latin and Greek.†Even languages such as Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese and Romanian are ultimately derived from Latin language. †Ancient Philosophy, the beginning of western philosophy and†philosophers such as Thales, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc. We also study Ancient Religion and Mythology, Literature, History, Rhetoric, Law, Medicine, Science, Technology among many others. The Greeks and the Romans were trailblazers†in all these disciplines, thus when we study Classics at the University of Ibadan, for example, we study the foundation, background and the beginning of every discipline. Hence, a Classicist is a jack of every trade and master of all.

Could you trace the background of Classics study in Nigeria?

The history of Classics in Nigeria is really the history of Classics at the University of Ibadan. University of Ibadan was established in 1948 as a College of the University†of London. Thus there was a special relationship between University College, Ibadan (UCI) and the University of London. Our Department of Classics†was among the first departments to be established in the University alongside others such as English, Religious Studies, Mathematics, Geography, Medicine and so on.

 The department (Classics) has grown from strength to strength over the decades and has turned out great administrators, lawyers, politicians and educationists such as JTF Iyalla, Gamaliel Onosode, Emeka Anyaoku, Bola Ige, Obafemi Kujore, †to mention but a few. There was even a plan for the establishment of the department of Classics at the Jos campus of the University of Ibadan (now UNIJOS) in the early 1970s. However, around 1976, the Federal Military Government decided to deemphasise the study of foreign cultures and traditions, hence the jettisoning of the plan and the policy that the course should†exist outside Ibadan.

 Incidentally, rather ironically, there is hardly any university in the UK, Europe and North America without a department of Classics. Nevertheless, our Department of Classics in Ibadan is strong and continues to develop stimulating courses, which blend Nigerian culture with the traditional Greco-Roman culture, hence the concept †Nigerianisation of Classics. The departmental journal, Nigeria and the Classics is a testimony to this. †Many departments of Classics are now embracing what we call Reception Studies, where we explore the relation of classics with contemporary subjects. We have since keyed into this aspect of the classics.

Why is Classics restricted to the University of Ibadan?
 
The indigenisation policy of the 1970s in Nigeria sought to encourage African oriented courses, aside the sciences and technology. The Federal Government then thought that the study of Western heritage and tradition should be deemphasised in order to promote African culture and tradition. And since Classics already existed in Ibadan, it is only natural that it should be left in the premier institution of Nigeria, which is a former college of the University of London.

What are the challenges facing the department?
 
They are twofold. First is the general challenge facing education in Nigeria, especially the Arts. Successive Nigerian governments do not appear to believe in the Humanities. They invest very heavily in the sciences and technology to the detriment of the Arts. The second, which is peculiar to Classics in Nigeria, is the fact that the UI department†remains the only Department of Classics in Nigeria even though we enjoy good relationship with other departments of Classics in Ghana and other parts of Africa. You may say that this uniqueness should be our strength but then, there is no great strength in being alone. However, our department has since taken up these challenges in various ways. It has continued to fill its approved quota of admission with candidates who applied to study the course as their first choice in previous admission exercises.
 
Where can the graduates of Classics be gainfully employed?

Our graduates are absorbed into different †careers† and fit neatly into all walks of life. Our alumni and alumnae engage largely with the mind. They are meticulous and astute administrators, diplomats, educationists, etc.

Right now, on account of the aptitude tests being given by various blue-chip companies, banks and telecommunication companies, recent graduates of the Department of Classics are employed in all these multinationals, because their aptitude is usually very high and the command of English language is impeccable. In fact, some of the present crop of academic members of staff of the department were recruited from†administrative, legal, banking and journalism sectors. †Some of our graduates are also in the academics ó English, General Studies, History, Political Science, Law and others. When you study Classics, the sky is the beginning. In short, the study of Classics prepares one for greater challenges in life.
 
As a lecturer in Classics, are you satisfied with what you are experiencing?

Yes, it has been gratifying teaching and moulding young lives. It is a privilege to be able to contribute to the development of the country and impart positively on the tender minds of future leaders. However, the environment is not conducive enough for teaching, learning and research. There is constant power outage, the departmental library is an eye sore!!!!† I am not really satisfied with the meager investment in education, particularly in humanities.
 
How many students are turned out annually?
 
We have an average of 30 graduates every year and this is as a result of the low quota approved for the department by the university.

How can the Department be strengthened?
 
If the establishment of other departments of Classics in Nigerian universities cannot be easily realised, it then becomes imperative that the department be allowed to admit as many students as possible and employ adequate academic staff.
 
Final word to the public and prospective students
 
The ancient world of the Greeks and Romans may seem far remote but their challenges were not†different from the problems of our daily life today. The study of the Classics can help students make sense of the challenges we face in the world because the responses to complex social, judicial, political and economic challenges formulated in antiquity are still relevant to us.

 In Nigeria, Christianity, Islam, and traditional religious practices provide the moral fibre, which holds the society together. In order to resolve the contradictions in these concepts, the Classics present unalterable truths from ancient historians and philosophers whose answers and ethical arguments inform the way we live today.

Classics offers you †the fascinating myths of the ancient Greeks and Romans in their original form with all the tones and codes of the languages ó Greek and Latin. Latin is a language of Poetry and Rhetoric. Classics is a captivating area of study, rich in wonderful stories of human endeavour, achievements and disaster. The history of humankind from the very earliest times is part of every man’s heritage and Classics ensures that this heritage is not forgotten.

 

 

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Updated 7 Years ago
 

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