How to deal with ‘Sex for Grades’ in Higher Education Institutions

By Ekene Ifechukwu

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March 1, 2020

How to deal with ‘Sex for Grades’ in Higher Education Institutions | Ways to reduce ‘Sex for Marks’ in the universities | Can we prevent or reduce transactional sex in the universities?

Watch a Video that uncovers Sex for Grade Scandals in Universities

Is transaction sex a global problem or peculiar in Africa only?

Transactional sex is having sexual exchange for a material benefit (in kind or favour). The favour, gifts or money to get is a drive or motivation to engage in the sex. Transactional sexual relationships are common in sub-Sahara Africa. They are also increasingly common in other parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia.

In Europe and North American, transactional sex is also becoming an avenue for migration in places where teenagers and younger women have close sexual relationships with men, in most cases those much older than they are.

In Higher Education institutions in Africa, it is usually referred to as ‘sex for grades or sex for marks’ which has widely earned itself a signature among social media users known as #sexforgrades and #sexformarks. Some students in Nigerian and Ghanaian higher institutions of learning engage in transactional sex – ‘sex for grades’ or ‘sex for marks’ whichever name you choose.

Hidden ‘Sex for Grades’ Scandal in West African Higher Education Institutions. Is transactional sex a manifestation of an extensive societal problem in West Africa?

In a recent BBC Africa documentary programme broadcast in October 2019, an undercover journalist caught a professor at the University of Lagos and two at the University of Ghana demanding sex from female students in exchange for grades.

The programme tried to prove beyond doubt that lecturers sexually harass female students in the Ghanaian universities, by demanding sex in return for good grades.

It shouldn’t take the BBC to tell us that there is sexual harassment in African universities neither any other media corporation.

It appears that most female university students silently accept or give in to such advances those who go publicly against sexual advances by a male lecturer were made to fail the course in question out rightly.

Female students seeking for good grades or marks are not just the only ones affected by sex-for-grades phenomenon in higher education institutions but the victimization extends to women seeking for seeking university admission, employment, promotions, government services, bank loans or credit facilities and even those trying to engage in a particular venture to have a better life.

Factors that contribute to ‘Sex for Grades’ and Reasons why university lecturers and students engage in transactional sex in Higher Education institutions

  1. There are an implied assumption and negative stereotypes including gender, traditions and beliefs, among others, about sexual exchange whereby a female accepts willingly to offer sex in exchange for what she needs which she presumably cannot provide for herself. Specifically, in the context of this write-up, exchanging sex for academic grades ‘sex for grades or sex for marks’
  2. Differences in economic and/or political power between male university lecturers and female students.
  3. Female students often engage in ‘Sex for Grade’ (transactional sex) when they lack family support mainly financial, guidance and are motherless and/or fatherless. A family structure like polygamous family can also increase vulnerability to sexual harassment.
  4. Age, sex, consumption of alcohol and drug use in risky sexual behaviour can contribute to ‘sex for marks’
  5. Failure in parenting roles especially in large families like a polygamous family.
  6. Little or no support individual, corporate bodies, governments for poor students in the universities

Effects of ‘Sex for Grade’ (transactional sex) in the universities in the society

The effects of ‘sex for grades’ scandals in society are numerous. One of which is that it triggers future social-health issues like trauma and have a damaging effect on one’s personality and every other thing earned for.

It breeds immorality in the schools, community and tends to destroy socio-cultural and traditional makeup of a community.

The trend is also of concern because it is linked to an increased risk of HIV & AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Transactional sex also increases the risk of unwanted and unprepared pregnancies, unsafe abortions and exposure to sexual and gender-based violence.

How to deal with ‘Sex for Grades’ scandal in Higher Education Institutions

This probably is a question whose answer probably eludes affected societies at the moment. Is there anything we can do to prevent or reduce ‘Sex for Grade’ – an evil menace that hurts the university education system?

Government intervention

Nigerian government through its legislative arm recommended prosecuting and sentencing any higher education institution staff found guilty of sexual offence up to 14 years imprisonment. The bill has scaled its second reading on the floor of the Senate and a public hearing session has been held with respect to that.

Considering the broad societal implications of transactional sex on adolescents and young adults, providing governmental funding opportunities for poor and less-privileged students could be a timely intervention.

The use of security cameras – the role of technology

These academic intellectuals are smart. So, expect some manoeuvring tendencies and responses from these academicians in order to maintain the status quo (as in ‘business-as-usual’) despite any punitive measure put in place by governing authorities. Many would dot all is and cross all tees while perpetuating the offence to avoid being caught and punished.

This is where technology plays a vital role to outsmart any who would tactically involve in the act with the thought to get away scot-free. Technology can expose erring lecturers in universities.

By wearing security cameras on their bodies, female students can expose sexual harassment by higher-education institution lecturers. The long-focus lens security camera which can be attached to eyeglasses, ball cap, etc., worn on the body, or handheld mobile phones, can secretly record the interactions or relationship between the lecturer and the student without the knowledge of the subject being filmed.

Taking appropriate punitive measures

When investigations into the female student’s allegation of demand for sex in exchange for marks by a lecturer, who is a professor, in the University of Lagos, Nigeria and the two others from universities in Ghana were launched and evidence proving their involvement in the offence given, they were all appropriately suspended from their jobs. Isn’t it a good step in curbing the evil menace in the universities?

I believe that any academic staff trying to indulge in such henceforth, considering the penalties and career-damaging effects would look back intermittently, in an attempt to commit the act, in fear of being caught, exposed and punished.

Critical and Comprehensive review of sex harassment policies in universities

Nigerian and Ghanaian universities already have sexual harassment policies in place to protect students. I think that that was the reason why Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, ASUU President, regarded Anti-Sexual harassment Bill currently sponsored by the legislative arm of government as unnecessary.

For the scandal to have continued in the universities means that those policies need critical and comprehensive especially across the two nations as a whole, to determine how much protection such policies really afford.

How fair would the investigation process be? Is the legal option open to the victims and would they get justice for the offence meted against them by those who are politically more powerful in a system characterised by corruption? How strongly would their identity be protected? And how stiff would the punishments for those found guilty be, for example? These, I suspect, would be frequently-asked questions in the pervasiveness of the menace that threatens to deliver quality education in higher institutions in Africa.

Exposing sex offenders

The pervasiveness of transactional sex in sub-Saharan Africa is of immense concern and have generated public discourse, perhaps, not as much as needed.  Any public outcry through mass or social media or any other against the evil nuisance that encourages the students to expose sex offenders in learning environments would be a much-welcome step to its stoppage.

Ekene Ifechukwu

Ekene Ifechukwu is education writer. He has over 7 years experience in teaching and tutoring. He has taught in primary and secondary schools. He has affection for training children and young people. He aims at improving other people's lives through education.

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