Like an angry tornado, sex for grades is effacing life away from Nigerian universities. Every year, stories abound of how university professors and lecturers seduce and blackmail students. We all hear about it but it’s almost never proven. The malfeasance buried in silence is denying victims to speak up. A lot of female students are being abused but silence has buried their pain. Academic institutions are meant to nurture and groom students but they have become hunting grounds for the sexual gratification of men entrusted to teach. Sex for grades has become a culture, a sturdy plant growing on the grounds of silence, fertilised by silence, trimmed by silence and this silence is deadly. Not only has it buried dreams, it has rendered lives useless.
The BBC Africa Eye recently aired a year-long investigation it conducted, which was aimed at exposing the menace of sex for grades in two top West African universities. One was the University of Lagos — an impressive tertiary institution in Nigeria smothered with an avalanche of seasoned lecturers and professors. In a sting operation, undercover journalists disguised as students were able to expose randy lecturers keen on prepositioning sex to young female students in exchange for good grades.
No sooner than the documentary hit our screens, did Nigerians of diverse calibre react angrily over the immorality of our lecturers. But this could be described as sheer hypocrisy. Sex for grades has been existing for decades. Why has the matter not been treated with seriousness all the while? Politicians reared up their heads to condemn the crime. Are they saying that they aren’t aware of the problem? Why did Nigerians had to wait for BBC to speak up before they could chip in a word about the issue?
Randy Nigerian lecturers have metamorphosed from varsity teachers into predators seeking for whom to devour. Lounging furiously on the breasts of female students even without their consent just as a monkey would grab a banana by impulse, fiddling fingers into cleavages and soliciting for sex romps in exchange for good grades, they throw the ethics of their profession to the wind. One begins to wonder why knowledge givers should now begin to play the ‘beast of no nation’. This is not to argue that all lecturers are capable of such monstrosity.
Female students are between the devil and the deep blue sea and the academically weak ones are the most vulnerable. With no official medium through which they can express their grievances, they are forced to suffocate their sufferings on their pillow case. They are enveloped in a system that treat lecturers as demigods, a system that allegedly has accredited so much powers to lecturers. Sex for marks won’t have been bad as it is if the powers of lecturers and professors were truly defined.
Silence is the lethal weapon used by these sex-prone lecturers to torment their victims. They place them in a tight corner. “Shut up or keep failing my course”, “Talk and you would never graduate”, they would blurt into the ears of their prey. These are not empty threats. The young ladies enclosed in this dilemma would be left with two choices: to give into their overtures or to speak up and get tormented for the rest of their academic years.
The problem is ubiquitous but unlike developed countries that has an effective and efficient means of tackling the menace, Nigerian female students are left to suffer and bear some squeezing of the breast, a romantic slap on the bottom, an unsolicited kiss, blandishments, a see-me-in-my-office-alone proposal, inappropriate questions and sexual assaults. The victimised student has no one to run to. She is confused. The unwelcome affront leaves her traumatised and depressed. She is constantly attacked with suicidal thoughts. She feels dirty. The shame is too heavy to bear. She left home seeking for knowledge, to drink from the cisterns of wisdom —the university of course is a home of knowledge — but she encounters men wishing to dart into her skin more than they would want to instil knowledge into her brain. But despite the suffering, her degree being so important to her, she keeps quiet. Her predator uses silence to gag her, to censor her and to abuse her. She owns her body but an academic controls it. She has a will but that will has become a horse to be ridden upon by a learned sexual pervert. Even if she voices out her pain, who would believe her? Who would listen? “Where is your evidence?” the authorities would always quiz anytime she relates her experience.
The silence of the government is killing. A government that will wait until all female students in Nigeria are harassed and victimised before responding decisively is not ready to fight. The Nigerian Senate passed a bill criminalising sexual harassment in tertiary institutions in October of 2016; a bill that is yet to see the light of day. The flippant attitude of the government in making and enforcing laws to penalise victims is only adding muscles to the problem. How worrying it is that the government only have to cough out a word or two concerning the matter when the BBC sex for marks documentary was released. As long as the problem is not dealt with on time, it would continue to worsen and deteriorate.
Indisputably, one can rightly posit that in some cases, it is the students soliciting for sex in order to be awarded marks. There are lazy females, who would rather prefer to use “bottom power” to pass a course than to bend their heads over their books. They would seduce lecturers by exposing their curvaceous frames. These seductresses would make their lecturers drool and to become inexorably horny. But banking on their desperate desire to pass by foul means, most lecturers only end up exploiting the bodies of female students and enjoying the thrills. This too, is a crime thriving in silence. Only very few varsity teachers ever get to report improper advances by students towards them to the relevant authorities. Sex for grades is a heinous crime regardless of whoever initiated the deal.
Judging by the increased spate of the menace in Nigerian universities, most of which remain unreported due to fear of stigmatisation, one can decipher that the system, like Boko Haram, won’t be able to be defeated easily. Just as culture is defined as a way of life, sex for grades has become a culture to some university lecturers and students alike. But breaking the silence would give the malfeasance a heavy blow. Avenues should be created where sexually harassed students can run to when threatened by lecturers. Official phone numbers and emails should be made available to students to make reporting the crime easier and faster.
Technology is a very fine way of breaking this silence. Now evidence can be gotten and facts can be proven by making judicious use of technological gadgets like secret body cameras and hidden audio recorders. All thanks to the social media that is granting many aggrieved victims the opportunity of expressing their pains and feelings.
We don’t need to wait for the BBC Africa Eye to spur us to our feet. Sex for grades is here with us, though cloaked in silence and garbed in secrecy. Female students are suffering and dying in silence. If we don’t strive to give their pain and frustration a voice and demand for justice, our universities would become a 21st century definition of a brothel and our own daughters, sisters will be the next victims.
Promise Eze is a campus journalist and a 200 level student of Education Economics at Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.