When BBC’s African Eye team aired the much talked about “Sex for Grades” programme, many Nigerians were shocked but only few could have genuinely been surprised. The fact that grades cannot not only be earned but also bought is not news to many who have passed through Nigeria’s government-run universities. And for those not opportune to have passed through the government-run universities, the prevalence of reports alleging grades are being bought in kind and cash, should give a clear indication of the scope of the problem.
While this is not the first time an investigate report into sex-for-grade is exposing the rot in Nigeria’s university system, it appears this one has caught the most attention. Perhaps, it is not just the message that matters, but also the messenger. From politicians to celebrities to technocrats, people from all walks of life have come out to strongly condemn this trend. However, for how long do we continue to diagnose the disease without administering comprehensive treatment?
As with most modern societies, the university system remains the lead resident physician, prescribing top-level solutions to many of society’s social and scientific issues. However, when the physician appears unable to tend to his own wounds, it calls into question his ability to administer treatment to society. The Nigerian university system cannot continue to certify that its graduates are worthy in character and learning, when the character of its lecturers are constantly called into question.
Unlike many other problems the Nigerian university system is facing, I am of the opinion that the issue of grades being bought is something that university administrators can comprehensively address without having to wait for increased government funding. University administrators should as a matter of urgency set up quality assurance units led by external consultants with far reaching powers to protect whistleblowers and prosecute cases around grades being sold by lecturers.
For university administrators, addressing sex-for-grade and the larger issue of grades being bought is not just about protecting the honour of these universities, it is also about ensuring that the certificates they issue to their graduates are more than worth the paper they are printed on.