Over the years in Nigeria, there has been a sharp increase in the rate of sexual harassment in the higher institutions of learning. In a recent survey paid for by Women Against Rape, Sexual Harassment and Exploitation (WARSHE), 80 percent of 300 women questioned at four universities said sexual harassment was their top concern. Result and findings of a research conducted on tertiary institutions in the country showed that all categories of staff irrespective social and academic learning is involved in illegal sexual relationships, noting there was so much intimidation even among committee members.
As there are however two sides to a coin, there is also the other side to sexual harassment, this time around coming from the students. The university is bereft of serious minded students that have earned their stay to study there. Some of them got into that setting through special favours paid for by their parents in examination centres. It is then only normal for them to continue to want to manipulate their way through life by using what they have to get what they want. The male folks may want to use money to buy their way through getting what they want but the females resort to the use of their bodies to that end.
However, the onus still lies on the one with the leadership role. It stands as a correct dictum that regardless of how tempting a student may be, how seductive she may be, a lecturer should NEVER take advantage of her. In terms of power dynamics in such a situation, the ball is still in the court of the lecturer to stand against the act of sexual harassment. The story is told of how the INEC boss Professor Attahiru Jega repelled the sexual overtures of a female student when he was a lecturer at Bayero University, Kano state. Even though this girl had gotten other courses passed through sexual manipulation, she couldn’t get to do the same with Prof Jega. He sternly told her there was nothing he could do to help her, without looking at her twice in her most provocative dress.
It is agreed that students are usually the victims of sexual harassment in universities but then they could also be the source of stimulus for the same. No matter how strong the urge is, lecturers can and should be able to look a student in the eye and say “away with you, Lucifer!” On account of the dressing of female students, it is an irrelevant premise in the excuse for lecturers to succumb in sexually harassing the female students. Female nudity is not like a syringe that injects men with a dramatic and irresistible urge to have sexual liaisons.
Nigerian universities must have strict procedures that are enforced to frown upon any acts of sexual harassment. There is also a need for a clearly defined structural mechanism to regulate the intimate relational dynamics between students and their teachers and an effective mechanism for redress for students who are violated by their lecturers. The rot in the education sector needs to be fixed in the quality of students produced from the pre-university levels by an upgrade of facilities and human resources. Personal moral codes are simply not sufficient to stand nationally against sexual harassment in our tertiary institutions today.
© Oluwatobi Gbemisola 2015
@TobiGbemisola on Twitter
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