I don’t really like talking about trends. However, there are some issues that we need to lend our voices to. The recent #sexforgrade trending on twitter and other social media platforms is really one of them. It is an issue that concerns everyone in all aspects of society; the parents, the education ministry, the government and most importantly our children.
Academic institutions in Africa, particularly in West Africa, have been facing allegations of sexual harassment by lecturers. However, the trend was triggered following the release of a documentary video by BBC. After gathering numerous testimonies, the media organization sent undercover journalists posing as students to the University of Lagos, Nigeria, and the University of Ghana. The two lecturers; one from UNILAG, Dr. Boniface Igbeneghu and another from the University of Ghana.
Sex for grades is one of the challenges facing the country. Like most of our problems, it comes with the issue of power; who is superior and who is inferior. Obviously, the government agents are believed to be more powerful than the masses, the lecturers see themselves as gods over the students, and so on. This goes a long way to show the uneven distribution of power in Nigeria which leaves those at the end of the ladder vulnerable.
Of course, many universities in Nigeria have records of sexual harassment by lecturers. I’m sure this is not the first time our universities are getting such reports. Why then does it seem that nothing is being done about it? This is because corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of every sector in this nation. The people who are supposed to punish the offenders probably do the same thing. Again, the legal system requires adequate evidence before anybody can be punished for an offense. Thus making it difficult for students who do not have evidence to speak up.
Moreover, stigmatization is another issue. Most students shy away from speaking out because the rest of the students and the school, in general, stigmatize them. Most girls are seen as devil incarnate who want to tarnish the image of ‘innocent lecturers’.
Wait for a second, did you watch the documentary? Did you see the part that the UNILAG lecturer told the 17-year-old girl that he will tell the mother that she is stubborn? I bet you did. Our parents come in here. Sorry to say this, but most of our parents have failed us. They refuse to give listening ears to their wards especially when it is an issue of sexual harassment regarding the religious leaders, lecturers or other people in authority. We shut our children up and urge them not to say ‘those words’ outside. How many parents make out time to listen to their children? How many of them will stand up for their children if they report any case of sexual harassment to them? Let’s do a practical example. Would you have the trust and courage to open up to your parents and peers if any lecturer was sexually harassing you?
Furthermore, most people have raised the issue of students not dressing modestly to school. Morals have been thrown to the winds. Most females in this century see the African culture as archaic, they want to be ‘modern’ and wear skimpy clothes. But, hold on, have you seen students in the overseas, particularly in America, how short their dresses are? But, we have African lectures over there, why don’t they harass students sexually like they do here. Even those who wear hijab are sometimes raped and harassed. Did they expose their bodies too? In as much as I don’t support students dressing half-naked to school, I can rightly say that it’s not necessarily about the female dressing. There are also stories of some female students throwing themselves at the lecturers. I don’t doubt that. Some ‘non-academic students’ who want to graduate with a certificate might be guilty of this.
But, what is the role of the lecturer in the two instances raised above? A lecturer is meant to be a teacher, a semi-guardian, to reprimand, to correct and to teach. They are to curtail the excesses of such students. If they cannot control their libido, how then can they train our students? While we caution our students to dress properly to school, we should tell our lecturers to focus more on training the students and not concerning themselves with what lies between the legs of their female students.
University laws tilt against lecturers having any sexual relationship with students. However, where the lecturer was to date a student, the school authority must be aware and there must not be a conflict of interest with that school. There are also rules on decent dressing by most universities. Some of our laws are great but implementing them is the problem.
Moreover, the methods of learning in our institutions are disheartening. Most lecturers do not update their lecture notes. Yet, they have the nerve to fail students who do not pour their notes verbatim on the exam paper in the same manner and way written in the note. They fail students and ask for sex when such students approach them. How about reporting to someone in a higher authority like the Head of Department or Dean of Faculty? Are you sure he is not on the same boat with the lecturer?
This is callous and goes a long way to show how urgently we need to overhaul our education system. But, will this be done any time soon? I seriously doubt it.
Inasmuch as the certificate is important, ‘it’s not a do or die affair.’ One must not have it…
Remember, none of us is leaving here alive!