‘Stringent sanctions will end sexual harassment in schools’

Despite the fact that the senate had passed the Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Education Institution Bill, which provides for a five-year jail term for any lecturer convicted for sexually harassing students, the country’s ivory towers are still inundated with stories of philandering teachers molesting students sexually.

The recent incident at Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State, where a lecturer, identified as IG Yusuf was allegedly caught trying to sleep with a female student, points to the fact that some lecturers did not take the lawmakers’ pronouncement seriously.

According to the bill, an educator “shall be guilty of committing an offence of sexual harassment against a student if he/she has sexual intercourse with a student who is less than 18 years of age; has sexual intercourse with a student or demands for sex from a student or a prospective student as a condition to study in an institution, or as a condition to the giving of a passing grade or the granting of honour and scholarships.”

“Any lecturer convicted for sexually harassing male or female students will serve a five-year jail term or pay a fine of N5m in the alternative. An educator shall also be guilty if he/she, “Grabs, hugs, rubs or strokes or touches or pinches the breasts or hair or lips or hips or buttocks or any other sensual part of the body of a student; displays, gives or sends by hand or courier or electronic or any other means unclad or sexually explicit pictures or videos or sex-related objects to a student or whistle or winks at a student or screams or exclaims or jokes or makes sexually complimentary or uncomplimentary remarks about a student’s physique.”

It also made provisions for lecturers and educators who may be falsely accused by their students to initiate processes by which students could be punished for false accusation.

Though the IBB varsity incident had since been confirmed by the university management, investigation is currently ongoing by a committee set up by the institution to ascertain the true position of things.

The lecturer, according to reports allegedly threatened to fail the victim in his course, if she failed to have sex with him. However, nemesis caught up with him on the fateful day when the girl invited him to come over, after asking some male students to be on stand by.

It was gathered that the lecturer, on reaching the venue was trying to force his way into the lady before the boys apprehended him. But the university management had shortly after confirming the incident, urged all the parties to exercise patient with the school saying investigation was ongoing.

According to the information on the university’s website, “The Committee setup by the Management of IBB University, to unearth the remote and immediate cause(s) of the recent unfortunate incident that occurred between a male lecturer and a female student has since commenced sitting. The Committee has so far interacted with principal characters in the incident as well as with other major stakeholders.

“It is on this premise that the management again request the university community and the general public to continue to exercise restraint. They are also assured of the management’s resolve to take appropriate disciplinary measure against anyone found guilty after the investigation.”

Some university teachers who spoke with The Guardian on the issue have maintained that only a severe sanction to offenders would stem the tide. They argued that until government or law enforcement agencies uses a lecturer as a scapegoat; other randy teachers would not desist from the act.

According to Professor of Physiology, Lagos State University (LASU), Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello, until the law enforcement agencies mete out penal measures to offenders, the ill act might persist. “We need a scapegoat for others to know that the law is effective.”

Olatunji-Bello who is the Director, Directorate of Advancement, Office of the Vice Chancellor, LASU, urged students across the country not to conceal sexual harassment acts, as doing so will aid perpetrators to continue in their act.

“A student has the right to speak out, if students are bold enough to report culpable lecturers, the institution will take it up from there, and the law will take its full course. But what we have found out is that our students are timid, and that is why some of these randy lecturers harasses them and get away with it. Every university student must be bold and shouldn’t get intimidated. On the other hand, those that arouse lecturers through their dress code should also be strictly sanctioned.”

For Dr Kehinde Coker, of the Department of Religious and Peace Studies, LASU, all lecturers should be compelled to work within a confinement of a code of conduct.

“In every school, there is what we call academic code of conduct, once you violate it, you face disciplinary action. As a role model, every lecturer ought to be a guardian of morality. We don’t only teach knowledge, we also teach morals. This should be our guide.”

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