Reports of lecturers offering high grades in exchange for sex saturate the media space. Two lecturers from the University of Lagos were recently sacked two years after they were exposed in a sex-for-grades documentary by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
Both lecturers, Dr Boniface Igbeneghu of the Department of European Language and Integrated Studies, and Dr Samuel Oladipo of the Department of Economics, were found guilty of allegations of sexual harassment levelled against them.
On 1 June 2021 also, the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), suspended one of its lecturers, Dr. Jonathan Mbachaga, over alleged sexual harassment.
Mbachaga was, until his suspension, an Associate Professor in the institution’s Department of Theatre and Media Arts.
A statement signed by the Chief Information Officer to the Vice Chancellor, Mr Foluso Ogunmodede said Mbachaga’s suspension came after a committee inaugurated by the institution to investigate the alleged sexual harassment established a prima facie evidence against the lecturer.
According to the statement “The VC, Prof Abayomi Fashina, has also mandated the Dean, Faculty of Arts, Prof. Tajudeen Opoola, to conduct proper investigation into another allegation of sexual harassment against another lecturer in the same department, Dr. Agofure, and submit a report in due time for necessary actions.”
Recognising this threat, various laws have been enacted to protect children and girls from being sexually abused. In May 2021, the upper chamber of the National Assembly passed a bill prohibiting persons convicted of sexual offences from working with children, either as teachers in schools or under any other job description.
The passage of the Child Rights Act, 2003 (Amendment) Bill, 2020, followed a clause-by-clause consideration of a report by the Committee on Women Affairs chaired by Mrs Betty Apiafi.
The Senate in an amendment to Section 195 of the Principal Act, inserted a new clause 195A which provides that, “In criminal proceedings, a person will be found unsuitable to work with children – (a) on conviction of murder, attempted murder, rape, indecent assault or assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm with regards to a child….”
This means even in universities where students below 18 years of age can be admitted, this law can be invoked.
Similarly in 2020, the Nigerian Senate passed a bill that prohibits sexual harassment of students in tertiary institutions, making the offence punishable by 14 years jail term and N5 million fine.E
It is indeed very disturbing to well-meaning Nigerians that students aspiring to be great leaders of tomorrow have now become incredibly vulnerable to deadly sexual predators, who most times, do not care about the age of their victims.
Apart from the strong deterrence provided by the law, all available loopholes must be blocked as some die-hard predators would not mind trying taking a chance at the slimmest opportunity.
During the last COVID-19 lockdown period, several universities had virtual classes and computer based exams were introduced at the end of that semester. Many educators and students alike commended the approach as it remarkably reduced the influence of lecturers in determining their final scores and grade. Indeed, in most schools, the marking scheme was installed so within days or even hours, the results are released and all students knew what they scored.
The immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma Prof Omiwawo who left office on 11 May 2021 was so enthralled by the impact of the computer based examinations that he made it mandatory for all exams in the school. The main purpose was to curb the menace of sex for marks which ravaged the institution before he came on board. He revealed that when he noticed that the issue of examination malpractice in the institution and allegations of sex-for-mark in the school, he began thinking of a strategy that can eliminate these challenges in one stroke.
It was also alleged that many students in Ambrose Alli University were not studying because they felt they could simply buy or bribe their way to success or offer their bodies to lecturers. The former VC eventually latched on the idea of introducing the computer-based system in all exams. All students had to do their examinations digitally and once they finished, they click on the submit button, where their scores come up on the screen.
For the first time preparatory classes at Ambrose Alli University became full. Students began to read with seriousness. It is true that we are in the twenty first century where the world is now a global village with the advancement and expansion of technology. Most students at the tertiary level operate an android device or laptop. This indicates that almost 80 to 90 per cent of students in tertiary institution are computer literate. Bringing on board computer based examinations in all tertiary schools in Nigeria should thus not be something strange or difficult.
Computer-based examinations do not only help in curbing such academic vices like sex for grades, it also helps in developing students’ ICT skills which in turn helps them in future when it comes to the practical world as almost all job roles in workplaces today require various levels of ICT skills.
It is clearly advisable for all tertiary institutions, especially ones owned by government, to employ the use of computer-based examinations as a tool to curb examination malpractice practices and other vices like sex-for-grades.
Asides this, introducing digital examinations will give the school management more ample time for other profitable ventures.