It’s a sad moment for me to be reminded as a father of two daughters that female undergraduates are still not protected from sexual assault on our university campuses.
Conversely, we are so used to the story of sexual assaults on our campuses and communities that a lot of people who heard about the Unilag saga two weeks ago didn’t do anything to raise the debate. Nigerian twitter activists have tweeted more about the corruption probe and Bishop Mathew Kukah’s statement than given some thought to a cesspool of corruption that our ivory towers have become, when it comes to sexual assaults.
The two issues are of significance to the progress of our country. That’s my sentiment. The intransigence of university authorities to making our universities a safe place of learning for female students is something that must be addressed by the government as a matter of urgency to bring sanity to the ivory towers. It is particularly shameful that most Vice-Chancellors are not doing so much to reverse the trend on campuses, where male lecturers lusting after their female students continue to be persistent.
I can say with a benefit of hindsight that there is no reasonable evidence on the side of university authorities to addressing sexual assault on our campuses. Indeed, you will be shocked to know that most of our universities don’t have policies on sexual assault. That leaves us with one thing: in most tertiary institutions, the mentors have become tormentors. The most recent incident at the University of Lagos brought tears to my eyes. I thought universities suppose to be a kind of sacred place for such act, where moral should be at the top of every action. But I was dead wrong. How do you explain it when a lecturer’s office suddenly turns to a brothel and no one is raising the alarm?
Are there no other lecturers around who should know such act is at variance with what is expected of a university teacher? I know that Dr. Akin Baruwa who allegedly raped an 18-year-old admission seeker inside the Unilag campus has been disowned by the Unilag authorities, but the institution has not been able to tell anyone how he had access into one of the offices at Faculty of Business Administration.
That is where Unilag seems to be fallen short and playing game with a serious matter that has brought ridicule to everyone with connection to Unilag. And though, the university authorities there said, “the said Dr. Baruwa is a not a member of staff of the university, whether teaching or non-teaching. He also does not belong to the part-time or full-time teaching staff of the school. His name is not on the master list of workers of the university. I have checked the staff list using his full name and initials and could not come up with any such name as of Friday, August 6, 2015,” there are more evidences that showed that Baruwa had been working in Unilag for some time.
For instance, some students in the Faculty of Business Administration claimed that Baruwa was a part-time lecturer in the accounting department at the university. One other student had even come out to share her own horrible experience with Baruwa, who was then her course supervisor. Interestingly, sexual harassment in Nigerian universities is not being reported as expected and cases reported are frequently ignored. In most cases, the female students are blamed for it for dressing provocatively, whereas the predators continue to enjoy their field day.
I can remember that the former President Olusegun Obasanjo had at a time got so angry that he described the university lecturers in that habit as unproductive pleasure seekers who sees the female students as sex objects for self -gratification. Of course, teachers in higher institutions may try to brush that aside calling Obasanjo names, but every case undermines the integrity of the system and that is where National Universities Commission and Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities need to work hard and urgently too to safe the system. In the global corruption report released in October 2013 by Transparency International, Fiona Leach, emeritus professor of education at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom, wrote: “Students, especially girls, may be deterred from participating actively in class and seeking academic excellence for fear of attracting unwanted attention from teachers.
This creates a stressful and intimidating learning environment, lowers concentration and motivation and contributes to poor performance.” According to Leach, Sexual violence in education ranges from low-level gratuitous actions to convey messages of power – such as inappropriate sexualised comments or gestures, or unwanted physical contact such as touching, pinching or groping – through to threats of exam failure, punishment or public ridicule, and sexual assault and rape. I completely agree.
Most female students who have been victims of sexual assaults are not talking about it, because there has not been serious deterrence for the perpetrators and what with the stigma that comes with it. Oftentimes, the students chose to carry the pains around, because the lecturers create so much fear in them using the psychology of grade. Some female students are equally afraid of the outcome of the situation when a harasser is reported to the university authorities based on how institutions have handled such cases in the past. My question is this: Are we going to allow this to go on? That the next victim may be your daughter is not a probability and that is why everyone should rise up to make a demand on university authorities.
*This article first appeared in THISDAY
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