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Sex for Grades on African Campuses ~ By Olusegun Adeniyi

Last Sunday afternoon, I hosted two respected scholars in my home: Professor Jacob K. Olupona of Harvard (currently spending part of his sabbatical year at the centre he is building at Ife as an advanced summer institute for university lecturers) and the Vice Chancellor of my alma mater, Obafemi Awolowo University, Professor Eyitayo Ogunbodede.

Both were on their way from Sokoto to Ife through Ibadan airport when they decided to use their flight lay-over period to visit me. In the process, I engaged Ogunbodede on the latest sexual harassment scandal involving a female student and male lecturer in the Department of International Relations.

The case, he assured me, is already being investigated. More importantly, Ogunbodede also shared with me measures that are being put in place to rid the campus of the menace of sexual harassment of female students. I consider his ideas ground breaking.

The author, Olusegun Adeniyi

Meanwhile, for those who have been asking about my coming book, ‘NAKED ABUSE: Sex for Grades in African Universities’, I can now project that it will be out by the end of March or early April. But it is already written. Inspiration for the book came in December 2018 from the Director, West African Office, Ford Foundation, Mr Innocent Chukwuma, who believes that sexual harassment on campuses of institutions of higher learning is a serious social menace that must be tackled.

Fortunately, I received tremendous support from the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) chairman, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, both of who made themselves available and asked their people to work with me to provide whatever information I needed with respect to the project.

But I owe so much to many people, especially the respected women who helped me avoid what could have been tragic pitfalls on such a sensitive issue. After reading the first draft, the suggestions offered by Ms Jackie Farris, the Director General of the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation and Dr Abimbola Adelakun, an Assistant Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas, Austin, were quite invaluable. Same with Ms Ayisha Osori, Executive Director of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and Dr Chidi Amuta.

My appreciation also goes to Mr Ibraheem Sanusi, the Addis Ababa-based Advisor on the Joint African Union – German Cooperation on Citizens Participation and Innovative Data Use. He explored his contacts within the continent to connect me with Dr Melvis Ndiloseh, a senior lecturer and policy analyst in Cameroon, Ms Nancy Muigei, a governance expert in Kenya and Nebila Abdulmelik, a Pan-African and feminist writer from Ethiopia.

Through my friend, Asavia Philip Nampandu, I was also able to access Ms Dianah Ahumuza, a lecturer at the School of Law, Makerere University, Uganda. There are of course many others across the continent whose assistance will be acknowledged in the book. Even from the United Kingdom as a Chevening Scholar, my aburo, JJ Omojuwa offered tremendous assistance.

In writing the book, my main objectives include raising the profile of discourse on sexual harassment in tertiary institutions on the continent, deepening awareness of the drivers, risks and consequences and influencing the development and implementation of policies and systems to tackle the challenge. Exposing the culture of sex-for-grades, I believe, will not only help highlight the malaise, it could also kick-start efforts on how to curb predatory behaviour on our campuses. And to borrow from the words of the Ekiti State First Lady, Mrs Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, in the Foreword: “…as the young people say these days, Olusegun Adeniyi has ‘shaken a lot of tables’.”

Watch out for the book!

For Kwara, an Emblem of Shame

News that no fewer than 165 secondary schools in Kwara State have been indicted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) for widespread cheating during the last examinations is both shocking and embarrassing. “Examination malpractice constitutes some of the worst hindrance to a bright future because it negates the time tested principles of hard work, diligence, and thirst for knowledge and excellence,” said Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq who has promised to redress the situation.

However, whichever way one looks at the disgraceful development, this is a relapse to the pre-2007 era when the state was one of the hottest destinations for examination malpractices in the country; with the so-called “miracle centres”, mainly in the rural areas. The reform launched by the then commissioner for education in the state, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi (who would later be minister) tackled this menace aggressively. Improving the quality of teaching in schools was at the centre of his reform, appropriately named ‘Every Child Counts’. With support from the World Bank and the DFID/ESSPIN programmes, Kwara became a reference point for what was possible, including prosecuting people for examination offences. WAEC recognized these efforts and wrote a letter commending the state government at the time.

Unfortunately, the government that took over in 2011 lacked either the will or the capacity to sustain the efforts of the preceding years, even though they all belonged to the same party. This failure of policy continuity, among others, is a major governance challenge in Nigeria. The shameful WAEC report is also a direct indicator of everything that has gone wrong with our country—the failure of governance and the collapse of our value system.

Meanwhile, although the incident that led to the current decision by WAEC happened under the last administration, the ball is now squarely in the court of Governor AbdulRazaq. Yet available reports on the quality of appointment he has made to the education ministry are, to put it mildly, not encouraging. An inexperienced elementary school teacher who has her own struggles with English language can hardly inspire confidence to lead the necessary reform in a critical sector. The governor should either review this appointment or personally lead the charge.

Parents too have a great role to play. They must be made to understand the connection between examination malpractices and the endemic joblessness among their wards. The 21st century job market does not care so much for certificates as it does for the real skill that the prospective employee brings to the market. Those who obtain certificates through fraudulent means will eventually meet their nemesis when they cannot justify such credentials with actual competence.

For Governor AbdulRasak, the challenge in Kwara State cannot be made clearer.

• You can follow me on my Twitter handle, @Olusegunverdict and on www.olusegunadeniyi.com

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