Editor’s note: For the next 3 months, we’ll be accepting and publishing students’ experiences on Nigerian campuses through the #BNCampusSeries. Beyond the four walls of the classrooms, so many things happen on campus, and our goal is to document the various aspects of this phase. The BellaNaija Campus stories will explore academics, finances, love, school anxiety, mental wellness, relationships, and everything in between, and we invite you to be a part of our effort to share the diverse experiences of campus life.
Today, Uwakwe Miriam, a graduate of the University of Benin, is sharing how she struggled to pay attention in classes and had issues reading. She later discovered that she was battling with ADHD. Read her story!
Growing up was very easy for me, academically. I was the kid everyone in my area wanted their kids to be like. Getting a C in junior classes probably never happened. I was shocked when I started struggling in senior classes. I couldn’t pay attention in class and I couldn’t get myself to read. I felt like it would have been easier if I was always basic or not good in school. Being a religious person back then, I did what a lot of religious people around me did by attaching things to spiritual issues and praying about them. I assumed it was part of the generational curses I heard some extended family members talk about, haha. It was sad.
I got into the University of Benin and it got worse; I was struggling more. I couldn’t sit through forty-minute classes in secondary school so how was I supposed to make myself sit and listen for two hours? It felt like madness. Ten minutes into a class, I was already thinking about my mom or just drawing nonsense on my notes. I was doing everything but listening to lectures. A lot of people didn’t pay attention in class because they could read and cover up, but I also struggled with reading and with anything that required attention. When I spoke to an older friend who had finished school and was working, she asked if I had ADHD.
I had heard about ADHD and I knew what it meant but I never thought that was my problem. I researched more and I realised that it wasn’t my village people, it was an attention issue. I had most of the symptoms. A lot of times, parents think their kids are dumb or unintelligent just because they are not doing well in school. There are many factors to a learning process. Sometimes, some people just need to be taught differently to understand. I am one of those people who learn differently and our system only allows for one style. There is no patience to understand each child and what works for them; teachers aren’t even paid enough for that.
At this point, I knew what my problem was but I didn’t have a solution. I was already getting anxious about not doing well in my exams. Two weeks before our first-semester exam, my friend and I went to night class but book was not entering. I was already frustrated because I wanted to do better. Somehow, we started gisting about the course we were reading and I noticed I was excited enough to continue. The next night, I could talk about the topics we had discussed like a pro and I could remember everything. I felt like I had superpowers. Being an active participant while studying or being taught helped me learn and understand. I didn’t drift because it just felt like I was gisting. I also learned that when I’m the ‘gister’, the one leading the conversation, it works even better. I was very present; body, mind and soul. Other friends joined us because it was fun and easier than reading on your own. Generally, I feel like discussions make understanding way better. I was very happy to see that this style worked for a lot of people. We became a studying tribe, we would plan times to meet up and have our discussions. We argued and we played and gossiped about our wicked lecturers, haha.
With time, I found myself in the role of the primary teacher because it worked better for me. I never forget the things I say and how people react or respond. My friend and I continued with this studying style until our fourth year (400 level), and I graduated as the best student in my class, with her right next to me, by only a point or so. I remember calling my mom after my first university exam to discuss how confident I was that I would perform well. I had a strong belief in myself because I remembered the answers to the questions by recalling the actions and conversations that led to different topics. I’m not sure if this is related to ADHD, but I perceive things in pictures. When someone is telling me a story or sharing information, I visualise it as if it were a series of motion pictures or in a comic book format – very visual.
I know it’s not just me; having a reading group helped me become more creative. I would remember moments like when someone was dozing off and nearly fell during our discussions or the witty insults we once directed at a lecturer – anything that could guide me toward the answer I needed. It’s like recalling scenarios first and then the exact words, almost like a flashback in a movie. While it may sound straightforward, it can be quite chaotic. For instance, if I were asked about Aristotle’s thoughts in his poetics, I would first need to remember someone quoting a different philosopher and the heated argument we had before someone finally arrived at the correct answer. If I weren’t a fast writer, I’d find myself lost in vivid imagination, and then boom, time would be up.
The good thing is, I found what worked for me. Instead of teaching everyone to go to night class and sit in silence just to look busy and serious, people should be allowed to find what works for them and their tribe. It could be reading in a noisy room or not reading at all, just listening in class, whatever. Find people who understand like you and are willing to explore with you, like my group. We all excelled academically and socially the way we could, and we were good. After school, I continued on the path of doing life how it works for me. There is no manual because I haven’t existed before; it’s trial and error, but I have had to trust my guts and find my way around things. I have come to accept that a lot of things that are expected of us work in a certain way, which is more suitable for neurotypicals, and being neurodivergent makes it okay to try to do life differently. We are simply different, and that’s okay. I just wish there was more awareness about neurodivergence in Nigeria.
If you are a student/graduate in/from any Nigerian university, come share your campus stories with us! Reach us here: [email protected].