I sent in an article some days on how our tertiary institutions could be sanitized. This post was shared on LinkedIn by Prof. Ndubuisi Ekekwe and as expected, it sparked off so much heat.
As I went through the comments, and responded to some, I couldn’t help admiring the rich data a researcher would have collected for studies on reactions to sexual abuse in Nigerian higher institutions. But then, the reactions weren’t complete; I was expecting more.
So if anyone makes out time to read this post, he will notice some of these observations I’m about to table here.
- Missing the Intended Message: The first thing I noticed is that a lot of people that commented either didn’t read the article or misunderstood the message. While the message was on how both students and lecturers could avoid sexual harassment, readers, or should I say commentators, reacted to different things altogether. Some commented on moral values of lecturers, others on root causes of sexual abuse, then some said university authorities are lukewarm and so on. As a result of these reactions, it was hard to find out if the proffered solutions can work in different higher institutions across the country.
- Conspicuous Absence of Academics: I don’t know if it’s just me, but did anyone else notice that lecturers and other people in the academic world avoided that post like a plague? Oh, maybe they read it, but they didn’t drop a comment. I was expecting to see some of them come up to say that what some of the commentators were insinuating are true or not, or that the solutions I proffered may or may not work in their own schools. You know, things to show that they understood what was going on. But no, they all disappeared and left me to beat the drum and dance the dance.
- Absence of Students: Except one student that voiced up to state what she knows that is going on in her school, every other student kept mute. I only noticed that they were dropping ‘likes’ in the post and comments, and nothing more. So they obviously read the article and the comments but weren’t courageous enough to drop their own comments. I was hoping that they will give us insights on what is happening in their own institutions, but I was so disappointed. Truth is, the voice of the only student that commented isn’t enough to really determine the true and current state of things in our higher institutions. Our students need to learn to speak out even in the midst of elites; this is one way of learning to avoid sexual harassment.
- Absence of Victims: Nobody that reacted to that post was a victim; not even those victimised for standing their grounds or those who had been ‘approached’ by lecturers. The only people that tried to give firsthand information of this menace are those that were either friends to a victim or related to one. Information from this category of people cannot be used in empirical studies. So, I ask, if victims are not comfortable speaking up, how do we handle this issue? Trust me, a lot of work needs to be done.
- People Hardly Proffer Solutions: The reactions to that post reminded me of what one of my lecturers used to say about the way masses are represented in literary works – they are seen as people who come together, get angry, carry out mob actions and then disperse to become different individuals again. If you go through that post, you will notice that no one actually proffered a solution, at least a feasible one, to the problem. I see more of people gathering to ask for the heads of male lecturers (and maybe the head of the person that wrote the article too, lol) because they are annoyed. The comments there just exhibited great negative emotions, after which no way forward was given. People really need to keep their emotions out of the way when they want to reason.
- People Wanted Radical Change for the Country: Well, we can’t just change our culture and values. We have to understand that culture isn’t just about “way of life of a people” as we were taught in primary school. Culture is about what people know and have; it is about their way of thought, what they believe in, what they eat, how they dress, how they talk and so many others. Culture means the total being of a person. When you take someone’s culture away from him, you have automatically taken his reality away from him.
Why I’m saying all this is because a lot of commentators seriously kicked against the issue of dressing as proffered in the article. What they forgot is that what you know affects your way of reasoning. If someone is used to seeing women half-clad since he was a child, I believe as an adult he won’t easily be moved when he sees a naked woman. But here in Nigeria, we have the ‘dress to cover yourself’ culture, which most of our girls drop when they get into higher institution. And they expect our men that have been seeing ‘cover-cover’ girls not to be moved. Well, I don’t know o; I believe it’s a matter of choice.
Anyway, like I said earlier, a lot of Nigerians want to radically change our culture and adopt that of the Westerners.
Well, those were my observations. I’m not here to answer some raised questions that I didn’t have time to reply to. Besides, I don’t really like people asking questions not because they want to understand but because they want to criticise. But that notwithstanding, I think that post has made a lot of things clear to me. One major thing I discovered is that of people aren’t informed on how to avoid sexual harassment. Why I say this is that I was expecting more tips on how such a situation could be avoided, but I rather got some messages on how the tips I suggested won’t work (they forgot I’ve been in the system and have seen it work for a lot of people, including me).
Based on this very serious issue, I’ll like to suggest the following:
1. Parents and guardians should educate their young ones. They shouldn’t pretend all is well and look for whom to blame later. Talk to your children – both male and female – about sexual harassment. Tell them on time the things that cause them (don’t look for who to blame here please). Teach your children how to avoid being harassed and who to talk to if they suspect they were about to be victimised. Don’t leave them to learn everything by themselves. And, let your children know that you got their back.
Parents should also be mindful of how they encourage their children to cheat. No one will come out to admit this, but we in the academic world know how parents encourage this. Don’t push your children to ‘see’ lecturers to find out what ‘they will take’ to pass them. Don’t call lecturers to compromise the grades of your children. Let your children learn to survive by themselves. If they didn’t do well in an exam, allow them to retake it and pass it by themselves. Stop bothering lecturers; allow them to do their work.
And, by the way, if your child isn’t academically sound, and he or she is bringing back A’s, well, you know what to do. And, if your child cannot pass WAEC or JAMB by himself, please, let him find other ways of pursuing his future. Don’t push him into the higher institution so he will wangle his way through.
2. Students, I encourage you to imbibe the tips given in this post. You should remember your reasons for going into the higher institution in the first place. Like I always tell my students, you should relax and finish schooling, get something doing and then start enjoying life. Sneaking out of school during school days and missing classes won’t take you anywhere. You should not expose yourself and look for who to blame later.
If you are being victimised by a lecturer, you need to speak out. Talk to your friends and allow the news spread. You shouldn’t be afraid to talk to people about what you’re passing through. People may doubt you and call you names but that shouldn’t discourage you. I know people are opting for social media to call out randy lecturers, but I’m not for that because legal actions might be taken against you, especially when you don’t have any concrete evidence. Remember, legal system isn’t about what is right and what is wrong, it’s about what is legal and what is not (lawyers please don’t come for me). So, be careful with the medium you use.
3. Lecturers should talk to their students about avoiding sexual harassment during lectures. I know that the students that survive through ‘sex-for-grade’ mode will sneer and snicker (that is if they are even in class), but you still need to talk. It will also be good if you still call out the names of those students that wanted to bribe you in cash or kind (but I don’t know if it is allowed anyway, before you land yourself into trouble). Anyway, follow the tips I gave in the previous article so you can retain your job and your integrity.
4.The school management has a lot of work to do. They need to include sex education and sexual harassment as part of their topics of discussion during the orientation week. They shouldn’t assume that those students are ‘adults’; they may not really know anything.
The school also needs to create a window through which students, and workers too, can lay complaints on irregularities that take place in the school. They should however investigate any complaint that comes in to be sure of its authenticity. Any person indicted of any offence – be it a student or a staff – should be made to face the music.
Bringing down the rate of immorality taking place in our higher institutions is the responsibility of everyone. No one should point an accusing finger around because more fingers are pointing back at him. If the society is bad, we all made it bad. If we want it good, we all must do the job.