By Chinelo Chikelu, Abuja.
Deputy Director, FCT Secondary Education Board (SEB), Mr. Kolawole Oseh has made a case for the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), stand on the Sexual Harassment In Tertiary Education Institution Prohibition Bill passed by the Nigerian Senate in July.
Oseh, who is also the Vice Principal, Administration, Government Secondary School, Dei-Dei, spoke at a virtual meeting organized by Sofadondo (SDD), a non-profit advocacy group dedicated to the fight against sexual harassment in tertiary institutions across the country. The event focused on the role of advocacy in the campaign against sex for grades.
Oseh who commended the National Assembly’s (NASS) successful passing of the bill, however, argued that the lawmakers were a bit selfish in such a circumstance considering the history of contention between NASS and ASUU over the IPPIS. Therefore, he said it wasn’t out of place for the union to feel targeted by the bill.
Noting that ASUU’s position on the issue was taken out of context, the deputy director said the body of university academicians had argued for a more encompassing bill that penalizes solicitation for gratification of any sort in any sphere of life, rather than just for sex, or in schools alone.
“I think the bill should be finetuned to make it holistic so it doesn’t appear as if it’s directed at lecturers alone but address any such, similar or arising contexts around gratification for anything, be it work promotion, grades will be punishable not just ‘sex for grades’.
Oseh advised that SDD advocacy campaigns against sex for grades must be strategic, and should involve ASUU to help create holistic awareness in tertiary institutions. Working with the union, he said, can aid in the spread of awareness through the posting of No Sex For Grades all over school boards, classrooms, and ensure institutions encourage the hosting of seminars or campaigns to ensure the issue’s currency.
Oseh further recommended the upgrading of school examination systems to online and internet-based exams with the additional precaution of lecturers reassigned to mark papers from other levels or courses in a department.
“We need to upgrade to ICT friendly institutions. Having online exams will help reduce one-on-one relations between students and lecturers with regards to exams or tests. Also, exam papers must be made accessible to ensure no underhand is at play,” Oseh tasked institutions.
Stressing the urgency to address ‘sex for grade’, Nengak Daniel said hanging on the balance is the reputation of Nigerian students and their grades. Daniel said such activities have led to recent introduction of English Language tests to scrutinize Nigerian students seeking study opportunities abroad. The issue, he adds should be addressed to shield Nigerian students from such disgrace in the future.
Speaking at the event, SDD volunteer, Chinatu Orji, said the international non-profit with about 500 student volunteers across the country, empowers the volunteers to focus their energies on giving voice to the voiceless.
Orji said working with their students’ volunteers, SDD establishes sexual harassment policies in schools, establish mechanisms for reporting sex for grade in schools, and follow-up to ensure identified cases are addressed to their final conclusion.
“SDD,” she continued, “has successfully carried out a 30-day online campaign, awareness campaigns in Calabar, Lagos and River State universities and at the Calabar Christmas Carnival.
Listing characteristics of volunteers, Orji stressed, “volunteers must be confidential. They must follow cases to the latter. Volunteers don’t Air Their Own Views on events. They investigate to ensure the cases brought to them are genuine, and finally, Have a good working relationship with institutional authorities as Deans of faculties, Student Union Governments (SUGs) etc.
Addressing concerns that the duties of the unpaid volunteer opportunity in SDD would stretch the thin pocket allowances of students, and make them financially vulnerable, Sofadondo Nigeria, President, Dr. Albert Obiozo said students are furnished with travel funds on occasions when the need for travel activities occur.
“We have all the resources legally and financially to address the issue we advocate. We run the organization based on donations from members. When we have activities, we sponsor volunteers in chapters from our central fund. Our employees we encourage to donate to the cause but not the students,” he clarified.