Menace of Sorting in Higher institutions

By Gloria Ibesi and Ogoo Nwaokafor

Recently Nigeria’s educational system received a jolt when a young woman who graduated from Nekede Polytechnic, Owerri, Imo State, took to the social media to celebrate her graduation. But what caused a stir was when she insinuated that she graduated because she was sleeping with lecturers, a development that pitched her on a collision course with the institution which threatened to sanction her.

The young woman’s case apart, it is no longer news in our society that many students bearing certificates with impressive grades do not meet the real standards of obtaining those certificates. Most often, the students are the ones censored for not being able to represent their certificates due to lack of diligence in their studies during their undergraduate days.

This is also the reason why some employers no longer focus on just educational qualifications but rather, on what one can put forth. However, the conclusion on this subject cannot be reached without having a conscientious look at the educational system they were exposed to.

In seeking answers to the reason for some graduate’s inability to meet the expectations of the outside world, one cannot but reawaken the issue of sorting. Sorting in this context denotes the phenomenon of students offering their lecturers material gifts or sleeping with them in exchange for good grades. It is a corrupt practice that is gravely threatening the country’s educational system.

Prior to admission into the university, prospective students who desire to study professional courses are requested to pay certain amounts of money to secure admission to their desired departments, with or without merit. While those who can afford it buy their way to their desired courses, others settle for any course which they are offered by the university.

In several cases, lecturers task deficient students with paying some amounts of money in order to pass their ‘carry over’ courses instead of compelling them to work harder and re-sit the examination.  As a result, the students care less about studying but, instead, go in search of money to ‘sort’ the lecturers.

Some other lecturers mandate all the students; whether they did well in examinations or not, to pay some amounts of money if they wish to pass their courses; meaning that passing is no longer dependent on one’s performance alone. Any student who fails to pay, either fails the examination or gets a low mark.

A student of a certain state university in the Eastern part of Nigeria, testified that some lecturers in his department usually ask students to pay some amounts of money after examinations without any recourse to their examination performance. Hence, anyone who fails to comply fails the examination. He also mentioned that different amounts of money are designated to different grades.

Another 100 level student of a federal institution located in the southern part of Nigeria, bitterly recounted her experience during the very first quiz she wrote as an undergraduate. According to her, they were asked to submit their papers with the sum of N1, 500 after the quiz through their course rep and those who did not come for the quiz were asked to pay N2,000. This sum of money became a prerequisite for passing the quiz.

There are also numerous cases of lecturers flunking their female students who refuse their sexual advances while awarding good marks to those who gave in, not minding whether they did well in the examination or not. This encourages some slothful students who do not care about studying and gaining knowledge, to comfortably resort to bribing their lecturers with sexual or financial gratification from time to time in order to earn good grades.

It is so outrageous that lecturers now see students as a means of acquiring wealth and making up for the hardship in the country. Some make it compulsory for students to buy their books and pay some amounts of money to obtain handouts which are usually printed copies which are supposed to be given to students free of charge to duplicate.

Others ask students to contribute money for fueling their cars or buy them drinks. Even during the supervision of students’ projects, some supervisors make it compulsory that their supervisees present gifts to them. The funny thing is that students who obediently adhere to these injunctions always get good grades and graduate in flying colors, hence, the reason for the numerous half-baked graduates produced every year in Nigeria.

In some cases, these lecturers deliberately remove a student’s script, declaring it “missing script”, because of an ulterior motive, probably because he has been trying to date the said girl right from her first year.

Painfully, those lecturers who indulge in the practice of removing students’ scripts by declaring them missing end up frustrating the female students to the extent of seeking another means just to pass them.

In some scenarios, they ask the female student to go and pay for a room in any hotel of her choice where the lecturer will go to meet her.

In some cases, some students, particularly the males, may be required to buy certain material items such as shoes, perfumes, bed sheets, among others, depending on the course and the grade which the student may require.

In some worst case scenarios, student victims may even miss their target date of graduating or even the date for embarking on their National Youth Service, NYSC. It has been reported that some lecturers, particularly the heartless ones, target students at this time of preparation for youth service. This makes the students desperate to graduate and do their bidding.

Regrettably still, some female students who are already married are often made to succumb to the whims and caprices of some lecturers, thereby breaking their matrimonial vows. In some extreme cases, those who are virgins may be forced to break their virginity on the altar of satisfying the lustful demands of some lecturers.

Sometimes it is the students who bring about the fate that befalls them. According to a source who declined giving out her name, ‘female students sometimes either throw themselves at male lecturers, or dress inappropriately. They also give eye contacts while in lecture halls, while the male students show off to female lecturers by exposing their chests, speaking in baritones, driving expensive cars and using expensive phones. All these are enough for a lecturer to succumb.’

In 2018, at Imo State University (IMSU), a second year student of Electronic Engineering, Emeka (not real name), said that during his days in school, sorting was common and usual.

He experienced a lecturer who preferred sorting, not minding whether the students bought textbooks, did his assignments or wrote attendance during classes.

He disclosed that on several occasions after writing the said lecturer’s exanimations, the class rep would compile lists of interested students whose last resort was sorting.

‘This was secretly done and, perhaps, in a coded way that only those who get mind can partake. Most times these students went to the extent of selling their property, borrowing or lying to their parents, just to raise money and engage in sorting.

‘In another scenario that played out back then in school at the Federal polytechnic, Nekede, in 2018, we were freshers and novices as at that time. There was this very friend of mine who was a course rep in the Mass Communication Department. He opened up to me about how one of his female lecturers spoke to him about being her right hand guy which as a novice I didn’t understand.

‘So I decided to ask the lecturer but the lecturer invited me to her place for a better explanation. When I got there the lecturer tried seducing me, saying that it was what she meant by right hand guy. She also offered me free text books and promised to be passing, not just me but those I wanted her to pass too; as well as a better life in school,’ he recalled.

He played along with her and got all he wanted.

However, this ugly situation can be blamed on the poor management of the country’s educational institutions. Apart from the inadequate infrastructure, the staff members are not well compensated. The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, for instance, returned from strike without pay for eight months. They resumed duties and vented their frustrations on the students.

For Mr Jude Atupulazi, a media guru, government needs to resolve their tussle with university staff and compensate them accordingly.

‘They should also raise independent bodies that will be charged with monitoring the activities of lecturers and school managements so as to bring these culprits to book,’ he said, while noting that enough sanctions may not have been emplaced to check the phenomenon of sorting.

‘There is also need to investigate the processes through which lecturers are recruited. Some of them are unfit but found their way into lecturing through sorting, and thus regard sorting as the norm.

‘You cannot give what you don’t have. Our students today are as good as those who teach them. If unfit people become lecturers, what do you expect them to impart to students? Indeed, the future of our education is bleak, given what is panning out today in our ivory towers,’ Atupulazi noted.

Finally, Atupulazi, opined, higher institutions are not meant for everyone. ‘Not everyone is created to succeed through school.  One can acquire skills and build a career after acquiring basic education. Government should put to an end the system whereby higher educational qualifications are demanded in every sphere. When skills and expertise are sufficient, educational qualifications should be neglected so as to curb the rate at which people struggle to acquire educational qualifications,’ he averred.