#SexForGrades Phenomenon in Nigeria

The #SexForGrades trend is one that has been going on in Nigerian Universities for decades. It is an open secret that so many female students are victims of sexual harassment in our tertiary institutions. There is a long list of students who cannot report the cases to authorities for fear of intimidation or victimization. And this is because there are no proper laws to guarantee their safety.

It was once reported that a female student died in one of the Kano universities. She died while trying to abort the pregnancy she conceived for a lecturer who promised her marks for sex.

Part of the duties of any university, apart from helping get employment, is to educate and equip its students with the required knowledge for personal growth. Grades measure how well students absorb this information.

Ironically, grades now become traps for sexually harassing students, especially by male lecturers.

Nowadays, numerous universities and other tertiary institutions have become notorious for the trending cases of #SexForGrades scandals.

Currently, the media is abuzz with posts and comments about this ugly trend due to the documentary released by BBC on #SexForGrades. Ahmed Musa Hussaini lent his voice to the discussion in the following words:

“The BBC documentary on #SexForGrades only scratches the surface of the menace of sexual exploitation and corruption in our higher institutions. The problem is bigger and even more pervasive and I’m glad we are having this debate today.

A couple of factors make it difficult for victims of this injustice to come forward. Some victims are scared of the social stigma it will expose them to. Some fear the repercussions they may face from lecturers sympathetic to their colleagues who may target them unfavorably.

Besides, the wheel of Nigerian justice, whether in our courts or before internal university disciplinary committees, turns slowly and grinds very badly.

All these point to one thing: the excessive amount of powers bestowed on lecturers in the Nigerian university environment without strong accountability checks and balance. It is only in a Nigerian school that a student who fails an exam will be denied the chance of remarking, or denied access to his exams scripts and the course marking scheme to validate his scores.

Some lecturers award arbitrary grades because it is either they simply don’t mark or they misplace students’ scripts. Some even boast of no one passing their course with an A grade. The abuse list is endless.

All these happen because lecturers are not being held to account for their actions. The lecturer-student relationship is a master-slave relationship and students are not owed any explanation or respect. When you bestow such too much power on an individual or group, they are bound to abuse it.

This does in no way imply that all lecturers are potential exploiters or perverts. Far from it. There are many honest and exemplary lecturers and this is being taken for granted for the simple reason that the society expects lecturers to be honest and exemplary. The society expects them to be men and women of individual integrity and personal character in the conduct of their jobs and nothing less.

That’s also the more reason why the good ones should stand and be counted, and help expose the bad ones that continue to give their noble profession a bad name.

That’s where ASUU and other staff unions fall short, by failing to champion the campaign for transparency and accountability among their members and the entire academic community. Granted that ASUU is there to advance the interests of its members, but those interests can be better served by upholding the integrity of the whole higher education system.

Of what use today is ASUU and other acronym soup of university staff associations that most Nigerians see as mere pressure groups seeking for more pocket money from the government?

I read some people here arguing that some female students deliberately seek to seduce university lecturers. Yes, that happens in some cases, but the system also protects lecturers from sexual advances or manipulation by female students.

If a female student is behaving towards a lecturer or staff in an inappropriate or flirtatious way, a lecturer can gather his evidence and report her to the university for proper action. It is that simple.

I also read some conspiracy theories accusing the BBC of using the documentary to undermine confidence in African universities as a way to prop up patronage for British universities. This is both laughable and absurd. Cases like this are being constantly exposed by local media and watchdog institutions. It only happens that the BBC has a wider reach and firmer institutional pedigree.

I believe Nigerian universities have a lot to learn from Ahmadu Bello University. ABU has a zero-tolerance for sexual abuse and corruption. That does not mean ABU is corruption and sexual abuse free. No, the university still faces such challenges but it is not living in denial.

ABU is the only Nigerian institution I know whose security division conducts sting operations on lecturers under secret investigation. They plant recording equipment in their cars and offices and put suspects on surveillance for months on end in order to gather credible evidence to take actions against them.

Just yesterday, 15 lecturers were expelled for corruption-related crimes.

In all that, the government remains the biggest culprit. Education reforms and even negotiations only focus on the welfare of lecturers and other staff, ignoring the concerns and problems faced by millions of Nigerian students who are equal stakeholders in the education sector.

In order to correct this, government policies should protect and address the rights and special concerns of Nigerian students. They have to make the university system more transparent by holding lecturers and university administrators proportionately accountable for students and learning outcomes.”