There are very few female professors of international reckoning in Nigeria’s Communication and Media Studies discipline. Among them is Nkechi Mercy Christopher, an unassuming scholar whose story to the top is very interesting and inspirational.
Professor Nkechi Mercy Christopher is a lecturer at the Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan. She is the fourth female Professor of Mass Communication in Nigeria. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Linguistics from University of Benin and a Master’s Degree and PhD from the University of Ibadan. She was elevated to the rank of professor with effective date of 2014. She is the second female Professor in Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, twenty years after the first woman recorded the feat. Her area of specialization is Literacy Development, Language Arts, Book Publishing, and Communication Studies. One of her stand-out research works is “Teacher Motivation as a Factor in Language Teaching and Learning in Nigeria” published in Journal of NELTA in 2012, has been widely referred to by scholars in the language teaching and learning field.
How she came became a communication scholar
Prof. Christopher’s story is truly inspirational. How she ended among the top scholars in the communication education profession was not initially by design. Here’s what she told Tribuneonline in an interview about her story to the top;
“Most children in Nigeria grew up not knowing what they wanted to become. That was not the case with me. For instance, I decided to study linguistics because I felt that meant one would be able to speak many languages and was hoping I would work in an international company and be able to travel abroad. What I wanted to be wasn’t quite informed but it was circumstances that led me into what I eventually became.” Sure she was right. Today, she is one of the top female professors of Mass Communication in Nigeria. She said she came into the Communication Arts department of the University of Ibadan as Youth Corper and decided to further her education in the department up to Ph.D level. That was how she ended up a communication scholar with passion for the job.
Major challenge in her career
Here’s what she said about her major challenge as a female scholar in communication education; “I finished as far back as 1987 when there were no jobs. So I sent about nine years at home doing my Ph.D. To be candid I never thought I would be a lecturer; otherwise those nine years shouldn’t have been spent at home. It was when I finished my Ph.D that I was offered employment as a lecturer in the department. My major challenge I would say was that when I came into teaching I found it a bit difficult because my background was in linguistics whereas I was employed to teach language arts. They were two different things so it took me much effort and I was to engage in a lot of reading. Somehow that has helped me. It made me travel a lot for conferences.” She eventually overcame that challenge and found her way to the top of her career.
Major Turning Point in her Career
Prof. Christopher cites an event she attended in Port Harcourt, Rivers State Nigeria, as one of the most inspiring moments that played a role in who she is today. According to her; “God used the RAN (Readers Association of Nigeria) conference I attended in Port Harcourt 2006 as a turning point in my career. I delivered a paper there and I was appointed South West coordinator though I left before the election…. The paper and the position both bore fruits. I was contacted by one of those I met there to assist a Nigerian in the UK to complete his study questionnaire. So I seized the opportunity to request him to connect me with a lecturer I could collaborate with. He connected me with someone beneath that capacity but who invited me to participate in a conference in the UK under his Special Interest Group. That was how I started attending international conferences which made a whole lot of impact on my professional development.”
How to combine womanhood and scholarship
On how women in academics can successfully combine their work and home duties, Prof. Christopher said; “Well, there’s something called self satisfaction. You have to have that satisfaction. If you don’t work for it from the beginning you won’t like it both at home and at the work place you won’t be satisfied. There’s no way you’re going to be an expert in anything. There’s no way you can ever be the best mom on earth so you have to give and take. Let everybody know you need to do what you ought to do and do it from the beginning. You have taken the profession so compete with your male colleagues to be the best because if you lose ground you won’t like yourself eventually.”
This sure is a great advice to upcoming female communication scholars who want to excel in the discipline. Prof. Christopher is truly a role model and an inspiration to the younger scholars, especially female graduates of Mass Communication in Nigeria.