Unless you have the means to send your children to study outside this country (which by the way I must have before I marry, no rush please), you should feel very concerned about the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) lecturer, Professor Richard Akindele demanding sex five times (not that the number of times really matter) to pass a student.
Sadly, it is not new. It has always been around. Whether it’s sex for marks, money for marks or even the irresponsible power plays in the ivory tower, Nigerian institutions of higher learning have always been like this.
I can talk about this because of how actively I participated in student activism and I will. I will also make recommendations.
Stay with me.
- Sex for Marks: The brazenness of this is scary. A lecturer will declare confidently that unless he has sex with a student, she would not pass. I even know of one who asked an entire class to volunteer one or two ladies to be his sex objects, in exchange for which he would ensure the entire class passed his course.
- Money for Marks: In my year 1, a lecturer stood boldly in front of the class during an exam and told us that you could write everything possible but unless you pay “his money”, you would fail.
In a certain department, you could go to work and hustle for the whole academic year and just be sending money to the lecturers and you would pass. In your final year, all you had to do was pay a fee and your GPA would be upgraded from 0. to 2.2 or 2.1 depending on how much you paid.
It’s that bad.
- Abuse of Power: How does it feel when a lecturer declares that his ‘A’ is for God. ‘B’ is for him. ‘C’ is for the university and ‘D’ is for you? Does it not provoke an outrage? In a sane environment, as a lecturer, one of the parameters for determining your competence and by implication, your continued stay as a lecturer should be the percentage of your students that pass yearly. If none of your students can get an A or a B every year, there should be a review where your competence will be thrown into question.
Most lecturers do this. They feel all powerful and it is one of the failings of our education system. If none of your students can get an A or B, what is your usefulness? If your students get As and Bs in other courses and fail in yours because you want to be all-powerful, shouldn’t there be a review where you are flung out to go flex your powerful muscles at home?
- There is the need to criminalise any form of intimate/sexual relationship between students and lecturers. Yes, it may be an adult environment but Nigeria is not ripe for this and criminalising it will make it easier to handle cases of abuse of power. No lecturer will be able to say: “I’m an adult, she’s an adult. I asked her out, I didn’t say it was for marks.”
- There’s a need to suspend university autonomy until ASUU (and ASUP too, by the way) as a body – and indeed the entire university system – is able to sanitize its academic space. The federal government has to be involved by setting up individual government panels led by the Ministry of Education outside the university that will listen to cases of abuse of power within the university.
- A revamp of the educational sector where lecturers are reviewed annually or biannually to see the percentage of students who pass and the percentage that fail and determine why that is so.
- A Federal Ministry of Education digital platform that has a database of all lecturers and students in all universities/higher institutions nationwide and allows students to review their lecturers privately with comments on their reviews and why. This will then be acted on by a Federal Government Ministry of Education committee or a senate education committee on ethics.
- An FG whistleblower platform where students and staff can report happenings in the university. This platform will be maintained by independent panellists who are not in the field of education and who have recommendations from trusted persons/organizations about delivering and getting results in the past. The panellists will, of course, be anonymous.
- An elevation of the powers of the Parents’ Organizations in universities/higher institutions. Parents’ organizations must have powers to hear issues of any form from students in the university. There should be a common platform where ALL parents can belong and when issues like these are reported by a child of any of the parent, it will be the responsibility of the parent to bring it to the attention of other parents who will then convene a sitting where the erring lecturer(s) are invited to appear and explain, failure to do this will mean the parents (major stakeholders and formidable force, by the way) will take it beyond the university and use all means to ensure justice is served.
- The reintroduction and strengthening of the powers of external examiners. A student must be able to appeal to the Ministry of Education when he/she feels cheated or slighted or when they feel their scores don’t reflect what they wrote or when they feel they are being victimized. The lecturer must then be mandated to produce the script to the Ministry of Education’s committee set up for that purpose within 7 days to ensure that issues don’t drag on unnecessarily till justice is denied. Failure to do this should cost the lecturer his/her job.
- The criminalizing of “missing scripts”. It is a wrong and unprofessional to misplace the script of a student whose name is in the attendance register for writing an exam and submitting. In the event that it happens, it is wrong to expect that student to fail because YOU, the lecturer misplaced the script. The university should be the one to make arrangement for rewriting that examination and issue a query to the lecturer concerned. But a student should not have to fail because of your mistake. The government needs to place emphasis on how important it is to keep students’ scripts and should make it part of the lecturers’ review. If for instance, you are misplacing scripts yearly or every semester, you may have to be eased out for these repeated mistakes.
- There is the need to outsource the setting of examination questions to outside bodies/educational contractors. It’s sad but if we’re going to stem the tide of the leak of examination questions, this is the way to go. Lecturers from each school should be told to send in their curriculum and questions will be set by external and anonymous professionals without knowledge of the school that owns each questions and delivered to the Ministry of Education who will then place a tag based on the name of the school and deliver said questions to the examination hall one hour before commencement of examination.
- To address the issue of lecturers that refuse to go to classrooms for an entire semester or go just twice and yet want to examine students, on the digital review portal mentioned in item 4 above, students should be able to rate with percentages the number of times that the lecturer attended class and how long they spent.
In conclusion, the biggest way to lose is to write ourselves off before we even begin. Sometimes, these things are not that deep. Sometimes, something as simple as insisting that all parents/guardian/spouse should be actively involved in the education of their children/ward/spouse can solve half the problems.
No matter how unconnected our parents are, they know someone who knows someone who knows someone. They can kick up a fuss from there and get the university to look into issues.
I strongly believe that if we take a closer look at those recommendations, not entirely comprehensive I must admit, we will have started on the journey to revamping the educational sector in the country; a journey that has to start with declaring a state of emergency in the Nigerian education sector.