The BBC report titled: “Sex for grades: Undercover in West African Universities,” hit too close to home for many students in the university today. The sexual exploitation of students by lecturers, administrative staff and other members of staff in these institutions is rife and the publication of this documentary could not have come at a better opportune time – right at the end of the Big Brother Nigeria reality show.
Truth be told, the pillage for sex in exchange for marks and grades by lecturers is not a new phenomenon on Nigerian campuses. “Cold Rooms,” a relatively new term to Nigerians at large, have existed in different universities across the country. Whether in staff offices, hideous corners, staff hotels, pavilions, student hostels etc. Places where students could be secretly devoured sexually, away from the gaze of the public, have always existed and this documentary only served to bring a part of it to life.
Sexual exploitation also occurs in different forms. Sometimes it is the lecturer exploiting the students or students soliciting from the lecturer due to previously established norms, using the in-demand currency where they trade sex for marks, pleasure for good grades.
Countless men and women in all strata of society have encountered one form of sexual exploitation or the other while asking for help. It even goes beyond campuses – the hydra monster lurks in institutions, government parastatals, private enterprises, showing itself in various forms in a bid to get under the skirt.
We all bow and cower to intimidation, threats and fears of reprisal which the acknowledgement of these tales may bring. These story reels fade into a cloud of hearsay, masking the plight of victims. Students fear threats of failure, suspension, expulsion and death from these lecturers as well as the stigma of sexual harassment which they must bear if they dare tell their stories. This hinders the rendering of justice to the criminals responsible for this.
As students, we all have rights against sexual exploitation. No individual has the right to stifle our voices in the expression of the infringements to our fundamental rights. Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution enshrines the right of our free will to hold opinions and express them to the public. It provides that “every person shall be entitled to the freedom to hold opinions and impart ideas and information without interference.” Knowing this, we understand that these criminals ought to be brought to book and telling the world these stories is the only way to achieve this.
In the effective telling of these stories, victimised students should be protected from the evil machineries which these officials may unleash in revenge. We do not all have to be whistleblowers or witnesses in courts before we get protection from the government and the law as we expose these stories. Victimised students should be protected and anonymity should be ensured when these stories are told. Proper investigations should be carried out and lecturers responsible for the menace should be arrested and flushed out of the educational system for they are unworthy to impart knowledge and discipline on students.
The identities of these lecturers should be publicized to serve as a deterrent for others who are of the same ilk as these evil officials. Only then will students be confident to tell their stories of exploitation from these wolves and predators in deceptive garbs.
Students should tell their stories in order to bring all these perpetrators to the full arm of justice. Let us tell the whole world how our rights are being violated. Let us tell the public of how we are intimidated into cowering to their evil whims and caprices. We are all owed social justice. We all have the duty to bring these men to book and attempt to cleanse our society of this filth.
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