NIGERIAN WOMEN IN PHYSICS
Fuwape Ibiyinka A.1 and Popoola Oyebola2
1 Department of Physics, Federal University of Technology, Akure, P.M.B. 704, Akure, Nigeria.
2 Department of Physics, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.
More than 60% of the 100 Million people in Nigeria are women. The status of women in physics is affected by the literacy level in different parts of the country as well as the availability of facilities for teaching science subjects at both primary and secondary levels. Most of the women in the Physics are from the southern part of Nigeria. This is expected since majority of women in the Northern part of the country are not educated.
The survey was conducted with the aid of structured questionnaire developed by IUPAP Working Group on women in Physics. 50 questionnaires were distributed to Physics Departments in Nigerian Universities but there were 20 respondents. The returned questionnaires were collated and analyzed.
The study showed that there is low participation of women in Physics. The enrollment of female students is low as shown in Figs. 1 & 2. Only 6% of Physicists in Nigerian Universities are women, while the remaining 94% are men (Fig 3).
The participation of women in Physics is affected by poor exposure to science subjects at the secondary school. Very few girls enroll in Physics and Mathematics because the subjects are perceived to be abstract and masculine. Physical science subjects are not usually portrayed to be vital for daily living. Physics is poorly taught in the secondary and higher schools.
The study survey revealed that most of the women in Physics developed interest in the subject while they were in the Secondary school. All the respondents indicated that their parents encouraged them to study science subjects. Some of the respondents also reported that their teachers supported their interest in Physics and other science subjects, inspite of the limited laboratory facilities.
Most women in physics were one of the few female undergraduate students while they were in the University. A study survey showed that only 40 female students enrolled for a degree programme in physics out of all the 546 students admitted to Physics Department at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria between 1987 and 1999. The enrollment of female students in the other twenty-six Federal Universities in Nigeria is similar to that of Akure (Fig 3).
Some of the respondents indicated that they received the same amount of attention from their lecturers, while a few reported that they received more attention than the other students. There were also reports that women in Physics sometimes face sexual harassment from their professors or people who are in position to offer assistance.
Almost all the respondents did their graduate studies in Universities in Nigeria. There were complaints of inadequate laboratory facilities, obsolete and faulty equipment, poor library facilities, poor electricity supply and internet facilities. These problems give them tough time at graduate level and slowed down the pace of their research work.
Only 20% of Nigerian women in Physics Department in the Universities in the country have Ph. D. degree.
Most of the respondents have not been exposed to international research opportunities. Almost all the women in Physics in Nigeria work in isolation. All the respondents schooled in Nigeria hence most of them do not have any contact with the international community.
All the respondents are employed as lecturers in Universities in Nigeria. There are reports of very few women in physics who are employed in the research institutes and ministry of Science and Technology.
Some of the respondents from the Universities reported that they have progressed more slowly in their career than their male counterparts. There are also reports of a lot of female physicists who abandoned career in Physics after their Bachelors degree for some more lucrative jobs in Banks and Finance services.
Almost all the respondents reported that they struggle to combine their career in Physics with their marriage and family. All the respondents are married. Most of them got married after their first degree.
More than 80% of the respondents indicated that their marriage and raising of children affected progress in their research work. Some of the respondents complained that it was very difficult to combine childcare with the rigors of research work, participation at conferences and international research visits.
1. Efforts should be made by the Nigerian Government to improve the teaching of Physics right from the higher school by equipping the Laboratories and exposing Teachers to training while still on the job. Physics Teachers should be encouraged to stay on the job.
2. Girls should be encouraged and not discouraged to study Physics.
3. Grants for Postgraduate Studies Abroad especially in developed country should be made readily available to Women to enable them study abroad. Also a collaboration programme could be put in place that will enable a Woman in Physics in Nigeria to visit research centres in developed countries for 3months, 6months, 9months, 1year or more.
4. There is need to organize training on Balancing Family and Career Talks for Women in Physics.
5. Since the career prospects for Women in Physics is limited to teaching in Higher schools and in the Universities lot of Women who would have studied Physics prefer to study Computer Science or other Engineering courses where they can get more lucrative jobs. There is need to provide creative opportunities for Women in Physics as an incentive for them to stay in the field.