By Niran Adedokun
As hard as this may be to accept, the sex for grades documentary released early this week by the British Broadcasting Corporation African Eye tells of nothing we did not already know.
Alright, that is not entirely correct; before the release of that 53-minute long quality work, non-initiates knew nothing about the spectacular things that went on at the Senior Staff Club facility, otherwise known as ‘The Cold Room’ at the University of Lagos, Akoka.
It is also the first time anyone would present visual evidence of the demeaning solicitations from perverted lecturers to their mostly helpless female students. There, indeed, have been a couple of amateur videos of lecturers subjecting their students to this inhuman treatment as in the case of a lecturer of the Osun State University, allegedly caught on video during the act but the BBC Africa Eye’s sting-like operation’s visual documentary brings the dare of these predators real close home.
However, apart from these two facts, the ordeal of students in the hands of randy, irresponsible lecturers are an almost daily story in this country.
In April 2016, for instance, Saturday PUNCH did an extraordinary expose on the sacrilege that went on at the Auchi Polytechnic in Edo State. This report literarily shook the country and led to the sacking of 13 lecturers and demotion of 16 others found culpable of harassing students in the institution.
One of the students who spoke to the newspaper told some of the most astounding stories of abuse of authority that one can ever imagine as follows: “…The better ones among the lecturers give us the option of paying by cash for the course or finding a lady who will sleep with them on our behalf before we can pass. Passing a course cost us between N10,000 and N20,000!”
But the story gets even more startling: “Paying by cash is for those who want just a pass. But if I find a girl who will sleep with the lecturer on my behalf, I’ll get an A, for sure. I’ll get at least 90 per cent in the course, even if I write nothing exceptional in the exam. This option of paying with money instead of sex only comes from about one or two of the lecturers out of ten. Some of the lecturers tell us pointblank that they don’t need our money. They will tell us to find them ladies who will sleep with them before we can pass their courses. They teach very important courses, so you cannot ignore them. They will keep failing us until we’re given notice of withdrawal from the institution. It’s something that has happened to a friend who claimed to be a born-again Christian. The guy wrote the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination afresh and is now at the University of Benin. So, this is what we guys do: If I have a loyal girlfriend and I beg her, she can sleep with the lecturer on my behalf. The lecturer picks the hotel of his choice on the day we’ve agreed. I will book for it. I’ll order for the meal he’ll eat before the action. He will sleep with my girl and give me my A. I’ll give the lady my name so that the lecturer will know she’s from me. But if my girlfriend says no, then I have to hire someone else. I will get a prostitute from outside, pay her, book for the hotel the lecturer has picked, order for their meal and then I get an A in his course. I have done this for three lecturers now.”
Shocking, right? Yeah, but that is how impudent higher institution teachers in Nigeria have got over the years. The point should be made though that sexual harassment in institutions of learning is not peculiar to Nigeria or even Africa.
There is a 2017 report by The Guardian (UK) on the “epidemic proportions” of sexual harassment in the United Kingdom universities currently circulating. The report said that there were 300 such cases where university staff, in six years, were reported with testimonies from victims and their lawyers and that those were a tip of the iceberg! Yet, there is an audacity about how this act is perpetrated in Nigeria that is discomforting.
Immediately after the release of the BBC report, blogsphere went haywire with girls in virtually all higher institutions in Nigeria sharing testimonies of what lecturers subjected them to and inviting, in the process, media enquiries into the situation. And those who share these stories insist that girls are pawns in the hands of these perverts whether they attend public or private institutions. These lecturers see girls as part of their fringe benefits, which they do not just have the right to personally exploit but pass around amongst their colleagues.
This presents a sociological affliction, which every Nigerian must commit to eradicating. What seems to drive this entitled mentality is the sense of superiority that the average Nigerian male acquires while growing up.
Parents, fathers and even mothers, bring up their sons to think they can get anything they want and that they are superior to their sisters and any other girl around them. These boys grow up into bullish men with a false sense of importance and a compelling inability to delay gratification let alone speak of denying himself anything his undisciplined mind leads his overindulged eyes to see.
But then, the problem with these lecturers is deeper than subjecting female students to sex. It explains the psychology behind the average Nigerian’s inability to do well with power! Lecturers do not just proposition and perturb girls with requests for sex, they insist on cash from boys who cannot relieve their sexual tensions. Apart from the Auchi Polytechnic stories, lecturers in many other institutions across the country demand cash and items like clothing, car tyres from their students. And in a lot of these cases, these requests are attached to marks! What is worse is that like virtually most other Nigerians who fondle all sorts of compromises in their daily lives, these lecturers do not see themselves as joint perpetrators of the Nigerian corruption image. They are deluded into imagining that they own the world and that the power of their office could be used to access those other things that the office does not directly provide. They are the champions of campaigns against official corruption in the country, yet they oppress the vulnerable and improve their own personal situations through the abuse of office- the very fulcrum of corruption!
Unfortunately, as is habitual, this country underestimates the import of this evil that is already pandemic. Universities and polytechnics should be the final places of nurture for those who want to lead a country into its future but that is not what it is currently.
Higher institutions here are now more like incubators of vengeance. Not only are the students subjected to all sorts of awkward treatments, bound to strip them of their self-esteem and humanity, excellence, which is a basic essence of such education, is now alien on these campuses.
This is evident even from the quality of thought and speech of some of the lecturers, including those seen in the BBC video. This situation is compounded by the fact that the country doesn’t pay attention to the personality and temperament of a lot of those who take up teaching responsibilities; so many of these characters become lecturers by accident, they are at a total loss as concerning the enormity of their responsibilities and the significance they bear on the country’s future.
So, it is now the responsibility of every Nigerian to fight this tyranny on campuses. Society itself needs to deliberately give proper orientation to its children, inculcate the equality of the sexes in every child irrespective of sex. Then, there is the need to break the culture of silence borne out of stigmatisation. The more people speak out about this evil and call out its perpetrators, the more we liberate Nigeria’s youth from bondage and assure the country’s future. This will also activate the legal and judicial system, which is not just largely untested, but also is long due for an overhaul.