Prof. Peter Okebukola

By Ike Onyechere

The News Agency of Nigeria reported on 16th October that Professor Peter Okebukola, former Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission, blames academically weak students for the sex-for-mark extortion rackets currently ravaging Nigeria’s tertiary institutions. I completely disagree with Prof. Before outlining my reasons, it is important to first put the matter of sex-for-mark malpractice in proper perspective.

Sex-for-marks is a rampant type of examination malpractice in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions whereby morally debased male lecturers and professors blatantly extort sex from intimidated female students in order to award them favourable marks, grades and degrees. It is a sub-set of what students refer to as “sorting” which means sorting out lecturers by simply paying them to award favourable marks, grades and degrees even without sitting for exams. Male students pay with cash and other material benefits. Some male lecturers and professors ask female students to pay with sex. Exam Ethics has been involved in cases where the female students are also made to pay for hotel rooms and buy Viagra and big bottles of stout to get the lecturers and professors to perform.

The grave psychological, sociological, economical and educational consequences of monetary or sexual sorting must not be underrated. A nationwide survey by Exam Ethics Marshals International in 2014 indicated that not less than N50 billion is extorted from students in tertiary institutions each session. Students cough out between N25,000 and N50,000 for sorting every session. Not less than 200,000 female students are subjected to sexual extortion each year as at 2014. The number has since skyrocketed.

In his interview with News Agency of Nigeria widely reported in print and social media platforms, Prof Okebukola said “If in the first instance a student is academically good, what will a lecturer tell her, sex-for-which mark? All those girls who run after those lecturers or can be harassed by lecturers are those who are academically weak. Even if the lecturers do not want to get engaged with them sexually the girls will offer their bodies. …” There are at least strong reasons why I think Professor Okebukola got it very wrong to hold female students responsible.

Sex-for-marks extortion are not directed at only academically weak students. Exam Ethics Campaign worked with the National Association of Nigerian Students to form the Exam Ethics Students Against Sorting (EE SAS) which was launched August 1, 2014 at the National Universities Commission Auditorium. The undercover work of EE SAS which has resulted in catching some lecturers and professors pants-down confirm that any good looking girl that catches the fancy of the lecturer is a potential victim, academically weak or not. Students who resist and refuse to comply are usually failed irrespective of performance.

Lecturers involved in sex-for- mark malpractice are morally debased. Proper investigation will reveal that such lecturers are themselves products of examination malpractice. They do not have the qualification to be lecturers both in character and learning.

Lecturers are supposed to be reservoirs of knowledge and wisdom, intellectuals, men or women of highly specialized skills, thinkers. Society looks up to them to chart new courses, to create new paradigms, to come up with big revolutionary ideas that can transform education and change institutions, systems, and lives. Working as lecturer should be seen beyond meal ticket. It is an honour to belong to this elite group of the nation’s best and brightest. The work of a lecturer is a stool with many legs: teacher, researcher, community service, mentor, model, pathfinder and visionary for better society. Their students should serve as opportunity to work with minds and brains of young people as raw material to transform lives and society. I know that Prof Okebukola belongs this group of quintessential professional lecturers and professors and will never fall to temptation of a thousand academically weak naked students.

The scale, scope and pervasiveness of sex-for-marks and other forms of examination malpractice raises one fundamental question: Why are learned professors and lecturers involved in perpetrating malpractice despite their understanding of the dangerous consequences?

The answer lies in what psychologists call “Neutralization”. For intelligent people like professors and lecturers to get involved in acts of examination malpractice and academic dishonesty, directly or indirectly, by omission or commission, by aiding or abetting, they first overcome their consciences. They come up with excuses to rationalize their fraudulent activities. In order words, they first neutralize their sense of guilt.

Neutralization takes the forms many erroneous reasons to justify involvement in examination malpractice: there is systemic corruption and everybody is involved; there are no sanctions for offenders; the rot in the education system is the consequence of failure of governance and leadership especially failure of leaders and administrators in education; peer group fraternity; and belief that actions are not injurious to other people. We will dwell more on each type of neutralization in future articles.

By blaming academically weak female students “who run after lecturers”, Prof Okebukola is providing another form of justification which randy and debased lecturers will use to neutralize their consciences and justify the sexual harassment of female students, some of whom are young enough to be their grand children. Professor Okebukola is one of the best research professors in the world. I appeal to him to rethink his position because his ideas on matters of education carry weight around the world.

I salute all members of EE SAS for working quietly in all tertiary institutions to catch and expose sex-for-marks lecturers and professors, for the courage to confront and be confronted. Your work has not been in vain and Exam Ethics Marshals International stands committed to continue to provide leadership, logistic material and other forms of support. It is an undercover mission that deserves the support of Exam Ethics Marshals and all ethics-friendly lecturers and parents, especially parents of present and future female undergraduates in Nigeria.

Sex-for-mark lecturers must realize that every action begets a reaction, including spiritual consequences (Matthew 18:6). Education will never surrender to exam malpractice, however long it takes to cage the monster.

Ike Onyechere is the founding Chairman, Exam Ethics Marshals International.