Earlier in the week, the Ebonyi state University (EBSU) sacked a lecturer in the faculty of Education and suspended another in the Department of History and International Relations for alleged sexual harassment of students and extortion. Reports emanating from the university said sexual harassment and extortion by lecturers is so high and students are compelled to pay between N10,000 and N30,000 to pass a particular course, or have sex with lecturers if they could not pay. Even the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Francis Idike, confirmed that sexual harassment and extortion were rampant in the institution. “I don’t have the total figure of such cases, but I know there are many of them. In fact, there was one we decided last week, based on sex for grade. A female lecturer was sacked…”
While ASUU embark on strikes always to draw attention to the government underfunding of our universities, they have turned a blind eye to the vice of sexual harassment that is destroying our universities and turning them into a caricature of what a university should be.
In 2012, a pilot ICPC/NUC University System Study and Review (USSR) of corruption in the university system was undertaken and the review identified a series of infractions including admissions racketeering, misapplication and embezzlement of funds, sale of examination questions, inducement to manipulate awards of degrees, direct cheating during examinations, deliberate delays in the release of results, victimization of students by officials, lack of commitment to work by lecturers, and above all, sexual harassment and exploitation of students by lecturers. At the presentation of the report in 2012, the ICPC Chairman, MrEkpoNta, was quoted as saying: “we have uncovered many corrupt practices in our universities. Sexual harassment seems to rank extremely very high among corrupt practices in our universities. Our report is based on the quantum of petitions we have received on this corrupt practice. We’re emphasizing this because sexual harassment has to do with the immediate challenge we need to address.”
In fact, the rampant cases of reported cases of sexual harassment in our tertiary institution forced the Senate, last year, to propose a bill, known as the Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Education Institution Bill, which prescribes a 5 year jail term for lecturers and educators convicted of sexual harassment of either their male or female students and also ban lecturer-student relationships altogether.
According to the sponsor of the Bill, SenatorOvieOmo-Agege, there was virtually no family in Nigeria that does not have someone who had been harassed or approached by a lecturer in an institution of higher learning in Nigeria. As he puts it: “Indeed there is no family in Nigeria where you don’t find a victim of sexual harassment…It is either your wife when she was younger or your daughter, your sister or even a niece who has gone through the tertiary education system at one point or the other…You will find out that they have had this brush with these lecturers who continue to see these young women as perquisite of their office as lecturers. We feel that is unacceptable. We have to put a stop to it.”
At a time when progressive universities are outlawing any form of sexual or romantic relationships between students and teachers, our universities are centres of sexual harassment, rape and transactional sex. Pray, how can any meaningful knowledge be learnt and transmitted in such an environment? It is not surprising therefore that our universities are bereft of any serious academic endeavours and our so-called academics are lost in the conversations within their disciplines and have resorted to conversing among themselves in beer parlors and eateries at university staff clubs.
This is a major problem in our universities and not just the underfunding because even when the universities are properly funded, we will be faced with a bigger problem – total lack of academics worth their salt but only sexual predators and lay-abouts pretending to be academics. ASUU needs to do a thorough introspection!