By Dr. Stella Omonigho, wrote from University of Benin.
In recent times, stories have been flying around concerning the situation of things in Nigerian universities especially cases of sexual harassment of female students by male lecturers. The society has been condemning very seriously male lecturers who harass female students or even demand sex to enable these to pass their courses. In as much as this act is condemnable and of course is considered unethical in any institution of learning, there are however matters arising.
The society should not look at these incidents from only one angle. In the past, cases of sexual harassment, sexual pressure or sex for grades were very rare. As a matter of fact, it was very undignifying to hear of such a thing either by a female student or by a male lecturer. The questions people are bound to ask is: Why is it now so frequent and why are male lectures attracted to their female students?
We carried out a study recently in some institutions of territory learning to ascertain the cause of this moral decadence in the university system and three major facts played out.First, we discovered that students are no longer as studious as they used to be in the past. It was absurd for someone to miss lectures or not to read for at least two hours in a day. It was absurd not to go to the institution’s library to study in a day. As a matter of fact, people used to have permanent seats at the library in those days, campus parties were very rare. Students attended classes regularly, bought textbooks or went in search of those they could not afford to buy from the library. Students organised daily research and study groups. The weak students did not hesitate to meet the stronger ones for tutoring.
But the millennium institution students are distracted by a lot of things: their android telephones which they check every now and then when lectures are going on, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and many other social media platforms. Students are carried away with the ownership of good phones (IPhone 10 etc). The rate at which most of them miss classes is alarming, they prefer to be somewhere else instead of being in class. Some universities went ahead to put a law that “to be eligible to write any semester examination a student must be able to attain at last 75% attendance”. This in the view of giving students a sense of responsibility that would enable them to attend classes regularly, yet, you will still find the majority of them defaulting. A student who does not attend classes regularly is susceptible to failure and in order to avoid failure the student makes himself or herself vulnerable to seeking undue help.
Our findings showed that some students were in the habit of sitting back at their student centres fraternising while lectures are ongoing. Students who pay little or no attention to lectures and other class activities are ten times more likely to seek extra help or present themselves for sex than students who participated actively in their classes.
A third factor we discovered in the course of our research on the cause of this sexual harassment is the way and manner female students dress on campus. A man who is already struggling to control himself might not be able to resist some of these modern clothes being worn by our girls.
A male lecturer once narrated his ordeal to me. He was in his office one fateful evening doing a research on a paper he was to present at a conference. He left his door ajar due to power failure to enable cross ventilation. All of a sudden, someone walked in and closed the door which had a jam lock. At the locking of the door, he looked up and saw a female student with long artificial nails and eyelashes. When he looked down to appraise what her mission could be, he saw that she had on a strapless little dress without wearing bra, her nipples pointing out and threatening to fall out of the little dress. The man confessed that he was suddenly covered with sweat and he started panting. He tried shouting at the girl but he could not find his voice as the girl approached him. He said he was terribly aroused when the girl bent over his table to inform him that she needed his help to pass his course. He said it took him all his will power to run towards his door, opened it and beckoned on a colleague he saw on the corridor to help him chase away the girl and lock his door.
This is a story out of so many others. Study has shown that it is easier for a female to resist sexual passes than for a male to resist. Therefore the question is who actually is harassing who? From the study we made, it is obvious that students are making themselves vulnerable to sexual approaches. A student who attends lectures regularly, does his/her assignment in record time, studies hard to pass exams, dresses decently at all times will hardly be a victim of sexual harassment.
We therefore call on parents, journalists, human rights activists to look holistically, not at one side of the story but at both sides by encouraging our children to uphold the old practices of academics and not to be distracted by parties, social media, clubs etc. and indecent fashion.
We also call on male lecturers to zip up and uphold the ethics of their profession. They should not hesitate to cry out in good time when experiencing any pressure from any female student whether directly or indirectly. The issue of setting up university lecturers should not be encouraged as it is obvious that in setting up someone, you are on a mission to make the person fall into that trap without his or her knowledge and usually one’s area of weakness will be the bait.