I underestimated the mental and emotional stress that comes with running a home, working and studying for a PhD – Dr. Rashidat Akande

Rashidat Akande holds a PhD in Economics from the Kwara State University, Malete. She shared her PhD story with AC narrating how she went into mild depression while running a home, working and studying all at the same time. With support from her hubby, family and friends, she triumphed. Here are excerpts from the interview.

AC: Congratulations on your recent feat of achieving a PhD. Could you please tell us about yourself?

RA:My name is Rashidat Akande. I am from Okanle, Ifelodun Local Government Area, Kwara State, Nigeria. I am a wife and a mother of three amazing children. I am currently an Economics lecturer at Kwara State University, Malete, Nigeria. I am passionate about making social impact especially when it has to do with women and youth development.

AC: What was the focus of your PhD research and what were the insights from the study?

RA: My PhD My PhD research focused on the effect of informality on output levels and economic growth in Sub- Saharan Africa. The research aimed at understanding how the size of informal economy, vulnerable employment and self-employment can affect aggregate output levels and its growth. More specifically, the study analysed these effects on the different sectoral output levels and growth as well as the gender dimensions of the effect.

AC: From Oyo to Southampton to Malete, could you tell us the story behind this academic career trajectory?

RA: Actually, I have a longer story preceding my journey to Ajayi Crowther University Oyo, but I will just summarise it so as not to deviate too much. I struggled with admission after secondary school despite having a good WAEC and JAMB result. After waiting for admission for 3 years,  I put in for a diploma course and applied to Ajayi Crowther University via direct entry in 2007. My diploma courses gave me an edge over my peers because most of the 200L courses were repetitions.  They were quite easy to pass. I had straight As in first semester at Ajayi Crowther University and graduated with a first class in 2010. I proceeded for my MSc at the University of Southampton immediately after my NYSC. I came back after the programme and joined Kwara State University, Malete as an assistant lecturer in 2013.

AC: Many would have wondered why you did not proceed to PhD in Southampton after your master’s programme?

RA: PhD was not really on my mind when I finished my MSc. I wanted to get a job but my father did not want me to settle in the UK because I did not have a suitor at that period and he was afraid I would marry a foreigner and may not want to come back home, so he insisted I come home to get married. When I got back, I wanted a job that would give me some flexibility to pursue other interests, so when KWASU opportunity arose, I took it. I put in for my PhD at KWASU because it was convenient – I just got married and leaving my family that early to pursue my PhD abroad was not going to be an easy decision except I get a funding that would cover the whole family.

AC: How did you cope juggling your roles as a mother, wife, teacher and a doctoral student?

RA: This is the most difficult part for me. I think I underestimated the mental and emotional stress that comes with running a home, working and studying.

I had my first child in the first year of my PhD, at that point I had a very ambitious proposal but lacked enough clarity to work on it. I was really wasting much time despite my supervisor’s warning. I had my second child in the third year of my programme, by then, I had a better clarity and was overhauling my original proposal when I discovered I was pregnant for my third child while my second was barely a year. This was when I slipped into a mild depression – I just wasn’t sure I could carry on anymore with my work, 3 kids and a PhD – I think I became very unproductive for a couple of months and was not showing up for anything.

I was someone that would hardly give up on anything but that period was really tough for me. If not for my husband’s encouragement and support I don’t think I would have been able to bring myself back on track. My husband did everything he could to help, from driving me to and picking me up from work or library when I was pregnant, to household chores, to proofreading my thesis and helping with results inputs during exams. He once travelled with me to a conference to help with our baby. Once he observed any stressor that would hinder my productivity, he would do all he could to support.  Honestly, if a PhD was transferable, I would just award him the degree for his support.

AC: It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. How many people did it take to produce your PhD? What are your words of gratitude to them?

RA: It truly takes a village of support to produce a PhD especially for women who would have to strike a balance between their home front and their career. I got a lot of support with my own PhD and I am truly grateful for that. I truly appreciate the support from my family especially my mum, siblings and in-laws that were turned into nannies. I am grateful for the very strong and forceful push I got from my supervisor, Professor Matthew Odedokun and my father Mr. G.O. Akande. I remembered I would cry and snap at everyone in other to meet my supervisor’s deadlines and my father would always remind me that a finished PhD is better than a perfect one. I am also very grateful for the directions of Professor Pius Adesanmi of blessed memories. I met him in a very confused state of mind and his mentorship and support was unquantifiable.

Like I have mentioned previously, I am truly blessed to have a strong shoulder in my husband to lean on. He has always been the pillar that holds my life together when things seems to fall apart. I deeply appreciate the support I got from my colleagues at KWASU who would always cover up for me anytime I have so much to handle. Finally, to my tribe of amazing friends, who went through similar struggles – Dr Hauwa K. K. Abdulkareem, Amina Olohunlana, Dr. Hadizah Solihu  Dr. Rasheedat Oyoru and all my other colleagues that I have not mentioned here but supported me one way or the other – I sincerely value and appreciate all their encouragement and contributions towards the successful completion of my thesis.

AC: Moving forward, what is next for you after the PhD?

RA: My long term aim would be to build my academic career to its peak as well as making positive social impact to the best of my capability. For now, I have been applying for post-doctoral positions and some of them are promising. As regards my research, I am trying to rework some of my objectives for publications. A doctoral degree comes with his own expectations and responsibilities so I have been working on gathering more transferable and technical skills in preparation for my leadership roles and responsibilities. Most importantly, I am also praying for Allah’s guidance and directions in my choices so that they would be beneficiary for me in this world and beyond.

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