By Jude Atupulazi
In June, the new Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Prof Christopher Esimone, will be assuming duty at the helm of affairs of the institution. He will be replacing Prof Joseph Ahaneku who had called the shots for five years.
There is no doubt that Ahaneku will be leaving UNIZIK better than he found it, especially in the area of infrastructure. Any time I visit the institution, I'm always amazed at its growing beauty. Indeed, the last time I was there, less than a week ago, I predicted that in the next five years, given its level of development, UNIZIK would surpass the famous University of Nigeria, UNN, in beauty. The present status of UNIZIK did not just come. It was down to the efforts of all the Vice Chancellors that had put in their best shift on the job all these years.
But while the institution is blazing the trail in infrastructure and academic work, it seems it has not been able to extricate itself from one major vice which is currently the scourge of higher institutions in the country. I'm talking about the loathsome sex-for-marks/sorting syndrome. There is no iota of doubt that this phenomenon is killing education in Nigeria faster than any other thing.
I was thinking that maybe UNIZIK was not affected by the bug until I heard from one student who complained bitterly about her and others experiences under some conscienceless lecturers. I got embittered after listening to her. I was embittered because it seems that despite all the promises made by various institutions to students and parents that they will fight the scourge, little or nothing is being done about it and the perpetrators of that act are becoming more emboldened.
Although what I'm writing about applies to virtually every school, I'm only using Prof Esimone as a focal point since he is the newest VC around here. Being new, I believe, there's a chance that he will use the zeal of a new man to fight this scourge and perhaps accomplish what others before him had failed to achieve.
From my findings, some of these lecturers are having a field day with hapless student victims – both male and female. While they extort money from male students to pass them, they do worse to female students.
For the females, it is as though it has become a crime to look beautiful or pretty. Before now, it used to be a case of unserious female students seducing male lecturers in order to get marks. The serious ones were not disturbed and invariably got what they deserved as scores. Now, it doesn't matter if a female student is serious. Once she is good looking, the lecturers will come looking for her.
I was told of instances where lecturers have deliberately failed some female students, despite those girls knowing they did well enough to pass. According to my findings, when such students complain, they are told that their papers were blank. Shortly after, some of her classmates, either working for such lecturers or just giving honest advice, suggest to the poor girls to sleep with the lecturers. Refusing to do so could mean continuously failing the course till the student's final year. That's how heartless some of these lecturers can be.
Thus, it is no more a question of the girls not reading their books or not doing well in their studies. Once they are liked by the lecturers, they become marked girls and are expected to ''play ball'' whether they like it or not.
This practice has made many students to lose motivation to read, knowing that their efforts do not count. It gets worse when they see otherwise unserious students getting high grades just because they are sleeping with lecturers.
Indeed, many of the modern sex hawkers, popularly known as Runs Girls, fall in the category of such students that trade their bodies for marks. They care less about attending classes or reading, knowing full well that their randy lecturer friends will cover their backs.
It is known that the lecturers who perpetrate this action have formed a cartel through which they work for each other. Thus, even when a student is not offering a course offered by a particular lecturer, she may still be entangled in the web of that lecturer who only has to meet his friend whose course the said girl is doing to indicate interest in the girl.
Apart from the sex demands, there is also what is called sorting. Here, students are required to pay certain amounts to lecturers in order to either pass their courses or be supervised on their projects. Such fees can come as high as N10, 000.
The lecturers involved in this don't just care. Sometimes they pointedly announce to the students that they will be imperiled if they don't pay. Once the students pay, they are assured of not failing those courses, regardless of whether they did poorly in the examination.
I know a brilliant male student in a neighbouring institution who was failed by a lecturer just because he did not pay. The boy in question is from a poor home and is sponsoring himself in school and engages in menial jobs to be able to pay his fees. Yet this is the same boy that was failed for failing to ''sort'' a lecturer. One can imagine the trauma such a student will be undergoing, especially after seeing those he's better than passing with ease because they paid money to their lecturers or slept with them.
It is now clear that lecturers are more interested in the students' money than in their academic success and that's too bad.
Is it then any wonder that many of today's students are not worth their certificates? And because many of these lecturers are more interested in cutting corners to make money or too steeped in seeking sexual favours from their female students, they are no more focusing on their jobs. Hence, today we see a growing number of lecturers who find it difficult to express themselves well in the English Language. If such lecturers are found wanting academically, only God knows what their products, the students, will be like.
The other day I watched a video clip of the interview granted by Sir Ahmadu Bello in the First Republic. Bello wasn't a university graduate but he spoke faultless English because the little education he had was unblemished, owing to the kind of lecturers or teachers available then. How many of today's university graduates can complete two sentences without murdering the English Language?
In the past, educators were fully focused on making their students better and the results were clear. Today, it is back for ground, marks for paper, and it seems this is being handled with kid gloves.
While it is true that many schools have set up machinery for ''checking'' this anomaly and asking affected students to use that opportunity to file their complaints, many students are scared of doing so for fear of victimization. This is because of the fate that befell some of those who tried in the past to do so. There seems to be a well-organized racket behind this as these lecturers somehow get the identities of students who report them.
I think that two things need to be done by the authorities of higher institutions to check this. One is that schools will have to come up with more fool proof methods of having these lecturers exposed so that the students can adequately be protected.
Secondly, school authorities should stop treating this matter with kid gloves. If they are not treating it that way, why the continued existence of this ugly phenomenon?
School authorities should therefore not only come up with more fool proof measures but should summarily terminate the contracts of such lecturers. I'll also want our lawmakers to come up with a bill aimed at ensuring that lecturers caught doing this will go to jail.
Nothing should be spared in ensuring that this phenomenon is stopped in our schools. Beyond the emotional trauma the students go through, society loses from these acts as those who are supposed to take over the leadership tomorrow are not good enough. This is a very serious issue.
As Prof Esimone gets set to mount the saddle as UNIZIK VC, I plead with him to make history by being the first VC that will totally stamp out this menace from his school. If he succeeds, others will follow suit and despite the opposition he will face from those reaping from that warped system, he will emerge a hero in the eyes of students, parents and the general watching public. It takes courage to do this but it is someone that must press that button.
Prof Esimone thus has the option of allowing things to continue the way they are; or to put a halt to the rubbish. Heroism beckons on him. Will he take up the challenge? We are watching.