Stakeholders renew call for regulation against sexual harassment in varsities
The suspension, last week, of a University of Nigeria (UNN) lecturer for allegedly impregnating four students, has again brought to the fore, issue of sexual harassment in the nation’s ivory tower and the need for government to speed up measures of addressing the menace.
While stakeholders called for stiffer sanctions against culprits, an Islamic scholar, Prof Ishaq Akintola, said female lecturers should be blamed for increasing cases of sex scandal in schools.
Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), immediate past Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan (UI), Prof Abel Olayinka, and seasoned scholar, Prof Tajudeen Akanji observed that the nation’s tertiary institutions have been fraught with reported cases of sexual harassment and academic corruption. They argued that the prevalence of these unwholesome practices is threatening the fabrics of Nigeria’s citadel of higher learning.
ASUU National President, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi said the union would never protect any of its members against a glaring case of sexual misconduct. Ogunyemi said the union has never been quiet on issues of amorous relationships between lecturers and students, as long as the culprit is taking through the process. Nevertheless, Ogunyemi noted that one out of 2000 teachers does not make all lecturers sexual predators.
For Prof Olayinka, there should be zero tolerance for sexual harassment in all institutions. The former vice-chancellor disclosed that in the last five years, a doctoral student, who was also a research assistant, was dismissed from the institution for harassing a female student. “Similarly, one or two members of academic staff were sanctioned but quite often, the issue may not be reported. However, once it is brought to the attention of management, there is an office saddled with the responsibility of investigating such cases and once investigation is done, and it is proven beyond every reasonable doubt, such a person will be sanctioned.
On his part, Prof Akanji blamed increasing cases of sexual harassment on societal decadence. He lamented that tertiary institutions have been immersed in the contradictions of society, which is responsible for the vices in schools.
“This would mean that certain things are not working properly, maybe institutions, legislation, leadership and administration in the universities have really gone down the drain and it is not good enough for our future development, knowing fully well that universities are supposed to be fulcrum of development in the society.”
To address the trend, Akanji said there is need to critically examine the kind of persons being employed by the institutions, while stressing that appointment into higher institutions has been politicised.
He said: “We really need to look at the calibre of people being employed as lecturers and how leaders of universities emerged. We need to do a lot more about the politicisation of cases in institutions, we need to put in place, laws that will punish specific offenders, rather than blame every lecturer, we should put in place, laws that would punish specific offenders. We also have to look at how students are admitted because some of them came to school believing that once they engage in immoral activities with lecturers, they would pass. We really need to look at this and ensure that the university, which is supposed to be the fulcrum of development, is not desecrated.”
But Prof Akintola insisted that students who allowed themselves to be so harassed should be blamed and sanctioned instead of lecturers. The professor of Islamic Studies at Lagos State University (LASU) wondered why a parent would allow his or her daughter to dress half-naked. “I have seen parents dressing their 11, 13-year old daughters like adults. They are proud that they are making their daughters look mature but it is forced maturity. They dress to kill and when you dress to kill, you must get reactions.”
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