The truth about AAU

January 9, 2009 at 8:42 am 15 comments

After much deliberation and soul-searching, I’ve decided to publish this post for an ex-Instructor of mine. May not be much use in changing the behaviors of the Instructor under question. But it may tell all those who do not know how bad things are allowed to go at that sacred place.

Dear Sir,

When the news of you earning your PhD and adding the title “Doctor” to your name reached me, the first thing that came to my mind was a poem:

Before you gave me African Literature, your fame has preceded you. “He’s the only one they got who knows what he’s talking about”, one of your ex-students from Kotebe College has reassured me, “He even has written books on it!”. The only thing I should be forewarned with when it comes to you, he said, is not to ask questions. For you are notoriously arrogant, and are known to verbally abuse and throw things at those students who failed to impress you favorably. Which I felt was a fair deal. After all, all great lecturers were insulting and abusive: Dr. BeFikadu Degffie, Dr. Mesay Kebede, Dr. Getachew Bolodia (nefsachewin yemarewna). What is important is getting what one should out of the course. Being a skilled “WenBer Gotach”, after all, won’t get any one of us anywhere after we graduated [some of us taking longer than others to change our F’s to C’s and reach the grade floor of 2.0].

Then summer came. “African Literature”, one of the course-offerings read, with your name next to it. I’ve always been guilt-ridden by the fact that I knew more about European literature than I did my continent’s. And that I could talk more about Dickens’ works than I could Soyinka’s. So I was excited. Excited and apprehensive. I went directly to the book store and bought your “Map of African Literature”. You have to be prepared, I told myself, this isn’t one of those 2.50 & above Cumulative Average instructors who got the job because he spoke better English than the rest of the competitors. Or the Master-student turned fellow classmate who everybody knows made it through by reading from the “a’teriras” on his hand. [The Assistant-professor who gives the best grades to those who showed improvement in their Creative Writing Class instead of those who knew how to write (the later need no encouragement, he believes). Or the Doctor who spends half the time by taking attendance and the other half with talking about how things used to be while he was in Germany.] This was you. The you who wrote books. Translated novels. Argued fierce arguments on those “literary discourses” Baahil Ma’ekel prepares.

So.. even though you weren’t one of the half a dozen or so instructors who neither wrote books nor did anything extraordinary; except for charging the “believer” in us and making us realize we can be better than what we’ve been told or thus far believed; those handful “YeEwQet Abaat/Enaat”s who did not bury their talents even when they were passed by (time and again) for not having the proper connections or refusing to sell their honor, I was ready to receive what you, dear Sir, were willing to give me.

You came to class, you didn’t tardy, you came to class for three consecutive days. You talked about the “slave writing” era of the African literature with your back to us, about France’s Assimilation policy and the Negritude movement. You didn’t acknowledge our existence, but you seem to know what you are talking about. [You definitely gave better lecture than the two other lecturers I later saw: the restless young man who doesn’t seem to have come across the word “symbol” or “imagery” in his years as a Student and Lecturer and the fatherly PhD who once mocked the proverb “..affetAtene ende Gundan, achekakene ende enate” with the question “how can a mother be cruel?”].

You finished your lecture on time and told us a term paper is expected of us. “Not more than 12 pages,” you said sternly “on either setting, point of view, theme, character analysis or plot. I’ll give you three weeks. 12 pages of term paper on an African novel of your choice”. Then, you went missing. Six weeks passed before you showed up your face. “Where are your papers?” you demanded. Those handful of us who came bowed our head in silence. That made you mad. Really mad! You called us names and slammed the door on your way out. We have to tip-toe in and out of your office to give the paper to your secretary while you typed away your Doctorate Defense on the computer.

Then.. it was exam time. We poured over your book. A book many of your proud ex-students told us has been published time and again. A book they swore hasn’t got one student’s plagiarized research paper in it (unlike “Yesinetsihuff Meseretawiyan”, a ‘fana weGi’ text book that has become the source of many a bitter joke between post graduates). The fact that your book seems to have gotten 95% of it’s material from other published works didn’t bother me. The repetitions and the spelling errors didn’t make me think twice. When I came across the paragraph that discusses “No Longer at Ease” and wonders “I don’t know if Achebe is trying to tell us Oki Okonkwo is the grandson of Things Fall Apart’s protagonist”, however, I was convinced you didn’t even bother to take a look at your own writing! For only a few pages earlier you have claimed Oki was Okonkwo’s grandson. A truth anybody who read both books and can put 2 and 2 together can clearly see.

Then.. we were told you have become a doctor. A Doctor of Philosophy, none the less. And we bowed our heads. And wondered.

“What is knowledge”, we asked ourselves, “if it can’t create a more responsible person out of you? If it failed to make you behave better, share better, sharpen your ears so you could heed to the plights of the millions in need of your help?!”

Or would you be content enough [now that you have won the race for Doctor-dom] to become a teacher – for a change?


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A “Genna” Special Zikr’e Wegayehu

15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mamitu  |  January 9, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Abesheet, this brings to mind a time when a frustrated friend said “I am going to steal the Doctor from this guy and that will be the last time we will hear from him” when refering to the big folder that the good Dr. F. (given to him both for his first name initial and for his love of giving F to female students that do not accept his indecent propostion) always brought to class and looked back every few minutes while giving a lecture. Dr. F. has been lecturing from the same folder for two decades that he even has a joke to go with different chapters. Our seniors would ask us did you reach “the joke when this and that happened” and they would say oh you must be on the chapter that discusses about this subject or that and they would be right. I tell you AAU has many lecturers that should have no buisness teaching anyone.

  • 2. fasika  |  January 9, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    I was hoping this article would be about AAU as the title suggests and not about one hapless “teacher” that was disappointing. Even then, I don’t see how his alleged guilt would disqualify him from being a doctor. As far as I know PhD s aren’t awarded for the excellence of teaching but for some “research” work unless it is an honorary award.

    About the teacher, he is not a lone creature as your article correctly suggests. I think the Ethiopian education system, the University system in particular, is more than disappointing. I sometimes wonder why it exists if it doesn’t teach students properly or produce valuable research. I am sad to say that I am yet to meet a person, in Ethiopia or here in Europe, contented or even slightly happy with what our universities are doing.

  • 3. habeshaviews  |  January 9, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    You know they say a PHD is Poor Hungry and Desperate . So what the heck ?..I know a lot of them who would talk about the milk they drunk in Manila or the coffees they took in Germany than discussing the lesson. They care less about you…AHs ,quoting Stewie “Whaaaaaat can we Do ?” AAU is full of them.

    I am glad this is about a specific person not the insitution as a whole.

  • 4. Totit  |  January 10, 2009 at 7:19 am

    Hey Abesheet…SO which part bothered u more…the fact that he did not deliver or the fact that his publication was based on previous works…and can u really write about African Literature without basing ur writing on previous works…maybe I dont have the full picture of things…

  • 5. abesheet  |  January 12, 2009 at 6:17 am

    I am glad this is about a specific person not the insitution as a whole.

    If i started it, others will follow. That’s what I felt when i hit the publish button on this post, Habeshaviews. Thus the title: “The truth about AAU”. Still, i’d like to think there is more to it than the case of one instructor who shouldn’t have been allowed to teach a course becoming a doctor in it.

    the fact that he did not deliver or the fact that his publication was based on previous works…and can u really write about African Literature without basing ur writing on previous works…maybe I dont have the full picture of things…

    Maybe i haven’t let you, Totit 😉 . Now, if the book was published online or could in some way be made available to you, I’d have asked you to check it out and tell me what you think. Such oppotunity not presenting itself, my going on about how there doesn’t seem to be an opinion (one opinion) of the writer’s in the book [which copied 90% of it’s material, without even bothering to change the language of the plagerized web published works, and composing the rest 7 or 8% from paragraphs after paragraphs of the novels mentioned, sometimes repeating some for more than two times) may sound meaningless. Still, that’s one student’s opinion. An opinion the reader is free to credit or feel [and say as much] it doesn’t hold water 😉 . Nice to see you again sis.

  • 6. Totit  |  January 13, 2009 at 6:18 am

    Well U just have to wait until u graduate and share ur piece of mind with him…:) U become untouchable after that…I know it is a shame …sometimes undeserving people gets rewarded for other peoples work …but I think AAU in general, I think are filled with hard working people…arrogant, but still full of knowledge…that is my point of view as a graduate of 4 kilo…maybe things r different when u go to 6 kilo…for sure the atmosphere is quite diffrent…:)

  • 7. abesheet  |  January 13, 2009 at 7:10 am

    Yeap, that’s what i’m gonne do Totit. I’d sit him down and say “Se’Debshign atbelegnina chinQilat yelehim, or yalehin alteteqemkibetim!”. My only fear, I won’t be around long enough to graduate 😦 .

    but I think AAU in general, I think are filled with hard working people…arrogant, but still full of knowledge…that is my point of view as a graduate of 4 kilo…maybe things r different when u go to 6 kilo…for sure the atmosphere is quite diffrent…

    I’m sure there was a time in Sidist Kilo Campus that statement would have been true to the majority of teachers. But not today. Most of the instructor/lecturers are either unqualified, busy with prviate colleges to show up [prepared], or are too old, too bitter or arrogant to be of any use when they do. The few good instructor/lecturers who remained look discouraged and disheartened.

    The beginning of the end no doubt came when EPRDF showed it’s distrust of “Mihurans”, especially those “teb acharis” at Sidist Kilo, by kicking a good number of them out in the first few years of coming to power. Disillusionment [as to his/her role in the soceity], inability or unwillingness to adopt to changes, “yeMoral WudQet” or “ZiQtet” coupled with “Yenuro wudinet” and all the lab-rat treatement the Education sector has been getting of late no doubt contributed to nobody bothering to live upto [anyone’s] expectation. “Endetebekut aydelem” is the disappointed response you get from Extension division students as a whole, with some complaining how harder they were forced to work even in “tinanish collegoch”. When you learn how a proposal was made for the Language and Literature Department to have it’s students graduate without writing “Ye MemereQiya Tsihuff” you’d understand how bad things have gotten.

    The fact that 98% of the graduates leave without having a clue as to what they have been taught [I should know, I lived with those from my batch for 5 years!] and those who do do not have to attend more than 2 classes [one to have your name registered, and the other to take a mid-exam or presentation] to score A pluses, i believe, shows how down the hill the institution is going. Not that a look at the TV and radio programs, newspapers and published literary works won’t bear ample witness. A class mate of mine once observed how none of the well-known Ethiopian writers (or media people) were AAU graduates [Bewketu Seyoum, Fikremarkos Desta, SerQ Daniel aka Gobena Daniel]. My response was: “ene Zerihun Asfaw beEnchichu eyeQechut beyet bekul beqlo zer yihonal bileh newu”?. Maybe I was right, maybe I was wrong. But doesn’t the above mentioned fact alone say it all?

    Fortunately, or unfortunately, I’ve heard the government is planning to close the Literature and Language Department at Sidist Kilo in favor of “Kotebe Memihran College” handling it. Judging by how the “believers” are mostly ex-Kotebe teachers, a new day for “YeEthiopia Sine Tsihuff” may be in the making.

  • 8. Totit  |  January 15, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Hey Abesheet…weregna atebeyegnena…( u know anybody that statrts with this is really weregna…I cant help it), what year are u…and why arnt u gonna finish school?

  • 9. abesheet  |  January 20, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    weregna atebeyegnena…( u know anybody that statrts with this is really weregna…I cant help it), what year are u…and why arnt u gonna finish school?

    Lol.. nah.. it’s a good question (a question I’m sure others were too timid to ask 😉 ). Well, I should have graduated by now, that much i can tell you. I did not due to the number of courses i cut to be around my husband as much as I can when he was here in Addis, for more than a year. Last time I talked to my advisor, he’s informed me I have about 6 more courses to go before earning my degree. The sad part is, the courses don’t come as often as you want them. TWO is the best you could get a semester, if that!. The choice, therefore, is to remain in Addis for one more year, waiting for courses that may or may not get enough students to take them [33, i believe, is the lowest number] with my husband, who asked me to book the flight now so i can fly to him the minute i got the visa, living alone for almost three years. Or go to America and pray I’d be able to do something about it next time I come. Pretty much a rock and a hard place!

  • 10. Linda  |  September 30, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Hi there Habesheet,

    Me too I wonder how I didn’t come across your blog before, I enter ‘Sisay Negussu’ in google and somehow this article pops up in the results and I, being a newly hired ‘one of those 2.50 & above Cumulative Average instructors who got the job because he spoke better English than the rest of the competitors’, was very much interested to read about the truth.

    Yeah, I too fear that Imagery and Plot is all I’ll babble about once I start giving classes, continuing the mediocrity of some of the faculty of that department. But I believe, what will make me different is that I’ll try, I’d admit my shallow repertoire and teach hard while I read hard to be a great teacher all can look up to.

    Thanks for the very witty article.

  • 11. almaz  |  February 26, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    I would like to say thank u for my teachers of 1981till graduation in extension class.They were really a wonderful teachers and i ‘m following their example to be a good teacher.To mention some of them;Derese Endeshaw,Tsegaye shanko(god bless his soul),Tesfaye Teshome,Sahluetc—-Students like Papy Foranti’and Olkaba Gudina .I HOPE THEY WILL CONTACT ME.

  • 12. semenawork  |  April 15, 2010 at 2:10 pm


    Here’s sharing an article on a similar topic…promoting my blog as well…

    Check it out at

  • 13. SHEMELIS WESIN  |  May 24, 2010 at 6:24 am


  • 14. Astuka  |  June 17, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    To my ex-instructor, Zerihun Asfaw, I have been heralded about the shameful scare you have faced with from one of the uncontested MA student. It is not surprising for me to hear about your voracious sexual appetite and your doings in forcing female students either to indulge your sexual desire or to be dismissed, if not, delayed at least a year. For fear of that I was one of the victims who contracted HIV infection from you and I am waiting for death.

    Now I am always tearing even though I could not change any thing more. However, I am happy at the moment because you have been given a lesson for once and for all not to raise such shameful, fatal and unethical behavior. I greatly thank this woman who disclosed you to the public and brought a lesson to you and to others who are said to be sugar dads.

  • 15. Astuka  |  June 17, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Very surprising! How old is this Person?

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