How we deal with sexual assault in our school – Vice Chancellor, Obong University

The Vice Chancellor of Obong University, Udoudo Ekanemesang, has reacted to claims by Nigerians that sexual assault is commonplace in tertiary institutions in the country, saying the private university, located in Akwa Ibom State, has zero tolerance for such behaviour.

The Nigerian Senate recently passed a bill prescribing six years jail term for lecturers found guilty of sexually assaulting female students.

“If it happens here, the person (lecturer) won’t be here overnight, he will be gone,” said Mr. Ekanemesang, a professor of biochemistry, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.

“Fortunately, this is a small place, and everybody knows what is happening; words go out very quickly.”

Mr. Ekanemesang said the university gives out questionnaires to its students at the end of every semester for them to anonymously assess and report the attitude, conduct, and performance of their lecturers.

Besides the rules and ethical codes on campus, the school authorities also try to build academic integrity among its staff and students, the vice chancellor said.

“We run seminars on academic integrity for staff and students.

“This is a Church of Christ affiliated institution, we have chapel here. So, every day at noon, we have chapel that would last for about 30 minutes, and we try to develop the whole person. It is compulsory for both students and staff. We are not asking you to become converted, we are not preaching doctrines, we are teaching you what the Bible teaches.”

There is also a ban on the sale of handouts in the school.

“It doesn’t happen here. Nobody sells anything here,” Mr. Ekanemesang said. “You can give the students (the handout) to go and photocopy it themselves.

“In fact, if you publish a book, you can’t impose it on students. You can list your book with other books, and the students have the option to buy or not to buy, because there is what is called conflict of interest.”

Mr. Ekanemesang said the greatest challenge facing the nine-year-old university was funding. He said besides the fees paid by students, the school relied largely on the support of its proprietor, Moses Akpanudo, a professor of business education, and other public-spirited individuals to run its programmes.

For Mr. Ekanemesang, running the university without substantial support from government or any institution is akin to “building from the scratch”.

“We don’t work here for money.

“I call it ‘the Obong University project’. I call it commitment, and not a job, because as a private university depending on students’ school fees we cannot pay what federal government pays.

“So, most of the people who are working here are excited at the opportunity to contribute to the development of tertiary education in Akwa Ibom State, and contributing to educating those people who, if this school did not exist, probably would not have had the opportunity to earn a university education.

Mr. Ekanemesang advised Nigerians who invest in the education sector to see their investment as non-profit. People should invest in education because they want to either leave a legacy or because they want to change the society, he said.

“In Nigeria, education is still an elitist enterprise. There is still a lot of family in this country that has not yet produced a university graduate, especially in the rural communities.

“Most families can’t afford university education. People who are able to enter universities in this country are people who go to mostly private secondary schools, they have to pay a lot of money, and those are people who can afford to pass JAMB which is competitive,” he said.

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Cletus Ukpong is PREMIUM TIMES’ assistant editor in charge of Nigeria’s South-South region. He is a graduate of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Twitter: @CletusUkpong


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