In the human society, we belong to different institutions which make up the society as a whole. As society develops, there are changes in the institutions and organizations. Sociology owns the role of systematically studying the changes and the issues facing society, giving sociology an integral role in the developmental process of a country. Nigeria is a developing country, but sociology is treated as a second-class degree by a significant number of the country’s population.
In Nigeria, sociology is not given the degree of respect it deserves, as most people think students who are undergoing the course are wasting their time. They feel sociology has nothing to offer to Nigeria, which would not have been the case if sociology was given its own place on the podium. It is saddening when people advise students of sociology to leave the country after they receive their degree, so they can practice in other countries. If the practice of sociology is so important in other countries, what makes it of less importance to Nigeria? Nigeria is a developing country, and to develop, we need to do this development work ourselves, but when those who can help the developmental process are being advised to leave the country, how do we develop and stand shoulder high with the developed countries?
There are about 72 universities that award a degree in sociology in Nigeria. It is called the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in some universities, and others call it the Department of Sociology. It is quite difficult to give an accurate figure of the total number of sociology students or sociologists in the country. There are thousands of sociology graduates and current students in Nigeria, but hundreds of sociologists. That means we have thousands of people who studied the course, but we have hundreds of those who are really sociologists because the others have diverted. This diversion is because of the second hand treatment the students of sociology get.
Sociology is undervalued in Nigeria. It is among the courses some people see as a waste of time. I remember asking a friend who also studied sociology where he thinks sociology’s place is in the hall (Nigeria), and he said it is thrown out of the building. His response explains it all. Most people who studied sociology end up diverting when they are seeking jobs. When you get to some firms seeking employment, and they see you have a degree in sociology, they will say, “what would we do with this?” They hardly give you a chance to explain how you believe your degree can work in their firms.
In Nigeria, most people with a degree in sociology are lecturers or social workers. They lecture students who seek knowledge in the field, and carry out research. Social workers are seen in government parastatals, such as in the Ministry of Women Affairs, where they deal with familial issues, issues concerning juveniles and so on. With a degree in sociology in Nigeria, you can also be a social researcher, which is mostly done by the lecturers. You will also find a large number of sociologists in banks. No, they are not there as the human resource personnel, they are cashiers. Restricting careers in sociology to lecturing and some positions in governance has degraded the importance of sociology in the country.
Sociology covers all the institutions in society, and students of sociology choose to major in their area of interest. For example, students could major in health, family, crime, or rural development, among several others. We need Nigerian sociologists working within these institutions in society, and to attain this, we need to stop treating sociology as a second-class degree.