One year after she gained admission to study urban and regional planning at TOPS, Janet, 21, dropped out of school. Her dream of becoming a town planner was momentarily extinguished as soon as it was kindled. The reason: a male lecturer was hellbent on having a sexual relationship with her.
“He was taking us two to three courses then that you should not fail,” Janet said, recalling the events that led to her decision to quit in 2014.
“He is this kind of person that inflicts fear. He always wants to have his way. I was the assistant class representative. Whenever he comes to the class, I love asking questions. Whenever he throws questions, I answer. I guess that was how he picked interest. At first, I thought he was responsible.”
Janet is among hundreds of Nigerian students who, determined not to succumb to the pressure of randy lecturers, take the hard decision of staying away from school. In several instances, the lecturers mask their predatory motives with a benevolent attitude. In Janet’s case, her predator started by giving her – and a colleague – an assignment to do for him.
“That was how we got close. One day, he stopped me, he said he likes me and sees a good future ahead of me. He said for someone like me to survive in the polytechnic I need a godfather. I thought he meant a mentor,” she said.
When Janet continually refused his sexual advances, their seemingly good relationship became frosty. The godfather turned into a devil.
“At times, if I want to submit assignments, he won’t collect it from me. It was close to mid-semester. He denied me opportunities to write tests. He told me I was a special case,” he said.
Her lecturer’s continued hostility took a toll on Janet’s academic performance; she failed all the courses taught by him. Janet said he does not want to name the lecturer out for fear of victimisation.
Devil and deep blue sea
To overcome the obstacle mounted by her lecturer, Janet decided to turn to the then Head of Department for a way out. One day, she walked into the HOD’s office and met him and a female student in a compromising position.
Despite her confusion and frustration, Janet said she went ahead to report her lecturer’s conduct to the HOD. But nothing came out of her action.
“I left his office disappointed. These are people who are supposed to be like our parents on campus,” she said.
That was when she decided to leave school.
Temitope, one of Janet’s former classmates at the polytechnic, corroborated her story. According to him, he was shocked that Janet disappeared after their first year in school.
He said it was not the first time the lecturer would be faced with several allegations of sexual harassment but the want of evidence made it hard to seek justice.
‘No longer interested in school’
For Kafilat, her desire for a formal education has been quenched. Nowadays, she prefers apprenticeship with a sewing mistress to returning to school.
“After all the two years I wasted in Federal Polytechnic Offa, the money, the stress… There is nothing to show for it, ” she said when our reporter visited her residence in the outskirts of Ogun State.
Kafilat’s pursuit of education in the Department of Mass Communication, Federal Polytechnic, Offa, in Kwara State, came an end after she dropped out following an encounter with a lecturer in the department.
She narrated her ordeal with the lecturer who attempted to have sex with her in a hotel room in 2015.
“We met at the entrance of the exam hall because I was late for the exam. He requested my number which I gave to him. He started disturbing me after then. I told him I was not interested in the relationship,” she said.
“On this fateful day, we just finished our exam and we were asked to go back home on the same day. He met at the school gate and offered to give me a lift to Osogbo from Offa. I didn’t object because they were two in the car already. When we got Erin-Ile, the other man came down.
“When we got to Okuku, he said we have to talk. I questioned him about what we have to talk about again. I even thought it was a bar only for him to drive inside a hotel. He said I should follow him inside and put off his clothes. I started crying…In the room, he was half-naked with his socks on. I had to tell a lie that I am a virgin and that there is this traditional rite a suitor is to undergo in our family before deflowering us. If this is not done, anyone who sleeps with us will die.”
Although her lies saved her that evening, it did not save her from the looming persecution. Her grades were badly affected to the point that she had to leave the school, she told PREMIUM TIMES.
What statistics say
There are no figures on the number of Nigerian students who dropped out of school due to lecturers’ harassments. But a 2012 study by three researchers at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, noted that the impact of sexual harassment on a student’s educational progress and attainment of future goals can be significant and should not be underestimated.
“As a result of sexual harassment, a student may have trouble in learning or drop out of school, lose trust in school officials, become isolated, nurse constant fear for personal safety and have low self-esteem which may prevent the student from achieving her maximum potential,” noted the study by Taiwo M.O, Omole O.C, and Omole O.E.
Olabisi Ayodele, a senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology at OAU, said a lot of factors come into play before a student ultimately decides to quit school.
“It is doubtful if sexual harassment can be singled as a factor determining students dropping out of schools,” he said.
“The decision to drop out of school is a cumulative thing, to have that effect, that means it must have been repeated and sustained or the student pressured. The student can then decide to isolate herself from the predator by dropping out of school.”
In a 2010 survey on the harassment against female students in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions published on PubMed, 69 per cent of the respondents say they had been sexually harassed, with the main perpetrators being male classmates and lecturers.
Information published was obtained on the respondents’ socio-demographic characteristics and experiences of sexual harassment while in their various tertiary institutions. The effects of these experiences on victims were depression and perceived insecurity on campus.
Also, a related study conducted at Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Abeokuta, in November 2016, revealed that the majority of the respondents experienced episodes of violence.
The research, conducted by two lecturers, Omorinola Afolabi and Olubusola Ajibola of the Department of General studies, showed that while 71.56% experienced violence during their National Diploma programmes, 28.44% experienced violence while in the Higher National Diploma (HND) programme.
The different forms of violence experienced by the victims include rape and touching sensitive body parts without consent.
The majority of the respondents (34.48%) reported that the act of violence was perpetrated by other male students, 22.41% reported that violence was perpetrated by their boyfriend, 14.67% reported that a consensual sexual partner perpetrated violence, 22.41% reported that a stranger perpetrated violence while 6.03% reported violence perpetrated by a lecturer.
These figures explain the prevalence of sexual harassment and gender-based violence against the majority of female students in Nigerian tertiary institutions.
Fight against sexual harassment
Despite the prevalence of the menace in polytechnics, not much success has been recorded in the fight against the menace when it comes to punishing offenders, Kelechi Ofim, said in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr Ofim is a gender-rights activist and a communication officer at TechHer, a non-governmental organization that advocates for women’s rights.
“A lot of issues are responsible for this. First is the lack of effective laws and diligent prosecution by the Police. There is also the issue of stigmatisation of SGBV victims/survivors, which “forces” families of victims/survivors to simply abandon cases, among many others.”
He, however, acknowledged that a lot of progress has been made considering the growing voice and advocacy from civil society organisations and individuals.
For Mrs Afolabi, a lecturer in MAPOLY, there has been significant success in the recent past and the media has done really well to achieve the prosecution of a senior lecturer at Obafemi Awolowo University, Richard Akindele, who was imprisoned for demanding five rounds of sex from a postgraduate student in 2018.
“These have resulted in the consciousness and cautiousness of perpetrators. It has also given victims a voice and the satisfaction that justice would be served,” she told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview.
Checks by this paper revealed that only a few lecturers in Nigerian polytechnics have been sanctioned by their school authorities in the form of suspension, demotion, and termination of employment or appointment.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how authorities of the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, in Edo State sacked 13 lecturers and demoted 16 others over sexual harassment and extortion of students.
According to Mustapha Oshiobugie, the Public Relations Officer of the institution, a total of 41 persons were involved in sexual harassment and extortion of money out of which five lecturers were dismissed, eight got their appointments terminated and 16 were demoted.
Also, in September 2020, the authorities of The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Oyo State, sacked a senior lecturer and former chairperson of the institution’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Kelani Ajadi.
Mr Ajadi, a lecturer at the department of urban and regional planning, faculty of environmental studies, reportedly sexually harassed 31-year-old Modinat Balogun.
In some recorded telephone conversations, which went viral in 2019, and which were obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, the lecturer had engaged in altercations with a woman over the sexual harassment allegation.
Ibrahim Gambari, a Kwara-based lawyer, said it is difficult to secure the conviction of perpetrators of sexual harassment.
“When it gets to court, some of the witnesses are not ready to speak up. Most times, except you have a concrete evidence, it is difficult to convict the offender because the court does not dwell on hearsay.”
He added that in the case of schools, since it is a place for adults, morality plays a cogent role.
” I have witnessed a scenario in court where it was even the lady who initiated the conversation with the lecturer. Such a student will eventually come out to say she was sexually harassed.”
Speaking further, the lawyer urged schools to take stringent measures on punishing lecturers and students guilty of the act.
A review of three polytechnics’ handbooks, a guide for new students, revealed that the schools lack a clear-cut policy against sexual harassment. With this, experts say institutions are not intentional about protecting the female students.
In MAPOLY, for instance, the school only mentioned sexual harassment as one of the vices it frowns at, meanwhile, no punishment was attached to the offence.
The authorities of Federal Polytechnic Offa only identified rape as a form of sexual harassment but failed to include other forms of sexual harassment and where students should report to.
“No student should be involved in any established case of rape. Any established case of rape against a student shall lead to expulsion and the culprit handed over to the police for prosecution,” a copy of the handbook read.
In a similar vein, The Polytechnic Ibadan failed to define sexual assault or harassment and channels to report to in its handbook.
Reacting to this, the spokesperson of MAPOLY, Yemi Ajibola, defended that the school has never experienced any case of harassment in recent years.
“We don’t have such. We have never experienced any case of sexual harassment. For some years back, the management has envisaged what is happening now and in some way instituted measures to protect our students.”
According to the school’s mouthpiece, some of the measures put in place include prohibiting sales of textbooks by lecturers and conference marking, which is aimed at checking excesses of lecturers.
The Acting Director of the Division of Student Affairs, Luke Adelaja, added that the school’s guidance and counselling unit is always open to students going through any problem.
In the interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Adelaja also spoke about the school’s stance Indecent dressing.
“We frown at indecent dressing and we make efforts to curb it. Anyone who dresses anyhow. Once he or she is caught, the clothes will be seized from them,” he said, showing our reporter a couple of wears piled up in a corner.
The spokesperson of the Federal Polytechnic Offa, Olayinka Iroye, explained that both his office and that of the Service Compact with All Nigerians (SERVICOM) unit of the school is open to students facing any form of harassment.
A lecturer and his lover
During the course of this investigation, PREMIUM TIMES found a lecturer in the Department of Mass communication and an exam officer, Jimoh Olorede, who was in a relationship with one of his students, Mutiat Aleem.
Ms Aleem, who was the representative of her class then, eventually married the lecturer in 2019, after years of courting.
This paper also found out that Mr Olorede was the one who supervised and graded his lover’s final year project work, raising eyebrows on the potentialities of influencing the lady’s results.
In a couple of documents obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, Ms Aleem was amongst the 27 students assigned to the lecturer for grading and assessment in 2019.
Speaking with this paper, the lecturer did not deny having an affair with Ms Aleem.
“She was the representative of her class which made us close. After a while I discovered that she possesses qualities of a wife material and we started dating. We eventually got married last year.”
He also affirmed that he was the one who supervised her final year project and graded her, adding that they had started the relationship before then.
Mr Iroye, the spokesperson of the institution, has, however, promised that the school will not sweep the matter under the carpet and will carry out a thorough investigation on the allegations.
Commenting on Mr Olorede’s grading of his lover, the spokesperson said although it is not stipulated in the school rules, it is against moral standards.
“This is what everybody knows. It is against morals. But you see, nobody in the department could have known that such was going on because they were not married then.”
Although not yet assented by President Muhammadu Buhari, a bill passed by the Senate in July criminalises Mr Olorede’s actions.
The bill is titled: A Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress Sexual Harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions and for matters concerned therewith, 2019.
A lecturer shall not exploit a student or his/her relationship with a student for personal gains, sexual pleasure or immoral satisfaction, the bill states.
It further states that it shall not be a defence to any offence that a student consented to it.
A year after her withdrawal from TOPS, Janet sat for another Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) test with the help of her parents; she was admitted into Federal University of Owerri (FUTO) to continue the pursuit of her dreams.
“I am happy in my new school,” said Janet, who is currently in her third year at the university.
“Here, there is nothing like you have to date your lecturers.”
The real names of the victims were changed to protect them from stigmatisation and victimisation.