The Bad Things going on In Universities with Males & Females

Our universities are now grappling with exam malpractices, bribery and fraud, reckless sex, etc. Adekunle Folashade works in a Lagos...

Our universities are now grappling with exam malpractices, bribery and fraud, reckless sex, etc.
Adekunle Folashade works in a Lagos public relations firm but any time she remembers her office, she feels very miserable. Her sadness is not because she does not enjoy her role in the firm or that she is not happy with the management of the organisation. Far from it, she is happy in those aspects.

At least, the organisation offers opportunities for growth and success. Her contemporaries can testify to this. They have witnessed the large-heartedness of the firm through promotions, among other things.

This good fortune, however, has not been the lot of Folashade. The frown on her face, as she shares her experience, poignantly betrays this disappointment. She has remained in one position without any kind of promotion for some years.

So, why is this beautiful lady not being favoured like others?
Is there any of her superiors who does not like her beautiful face? These and many more are posers any curious and discerning observer would want to know with regards to her troubles.

Exam malpractice, poor record-keeping disturbing
Interestingly for Folashade, answers to these questions are not difficult to put together. She wears the shoes and so knows where it pinches.

She declares, “Four years after obtaining a degree from the Lagos State University, Ojo, I have yet to submit any certificate to support my claim of a new academic status. In fact, if not for my commitment and understanding of my job, my employers would have thrown me out, especially as I do not have a corresponding certificate to support my position.

“Truly, I do not blame my employers for my ordeal. As far as I am concerned, the blame is on the doorsteps of my alma mater, LASU, which has refused to issue my certificate.”

Folahade’s narrative is just a tip of the iceberg of the decadence that exists in many of the nation’s universities. Several years after graduation, many students do not get their certificates. Again, many do not get to see the results of examinations that they took in their first year until they are about to graduate from such institutions. These and many more, observers say, point to the poor record-keeping approach in the system.

Even the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission, one of the bodies charged with the mandate of fighting corruption in the country, through its training arm, the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria, affirms that the nation’s tertiary institutions are increasingly decadent. The University System Study and Review conducted by the commission, alongside the National Universities Commission in 2012, identified numerous infractions afflicting the Nigerian university system.

The review, in fact, acknowledges that the system witnesses sale of examination questions and other examination-related information, gratification and inducement to manipulate award of marks/grades, swapping of grades, writing of examination by proxy, direct cheating in examination, delay in the release of results, deliberate victimisation by officials, and the manipulation of internal examination processes.

It also shows that many schools are not respecting the National Universities Commission’s directive on carrying capacity, just as inadequate funding encourages them to engage in excessive enrolment of students in order to boost their Internally Generated Revenue to run the institutions.

Other associated corrupt practices identified are delay in take-off of lectures and non-completion of syllabuses by lecturers; non-adherence to students/lecturer ratio results in over-crowded classes and the lack of commitment to work by the lecturers.
Continued defiance by institutions on the ban on satellite programmes/campuses, frequent strikes by staff and students interrupting the academic calendar, sale of lecture notes, handouts and textbooks, stealing and mutilation of library books, as well as corruption in the allocation of official bed spaces to students by the managers are other common transgressions in schools.

Bribery disguised as sorting
The story of how Emeka (not real name) manipulated his way to avoid the supervision of one of the “most difficult” lecturers in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, easily conveys the deterioration in the sector. Emeka engaged in “sorting”, a popular parlance for inducing lecturers or workers with cash and other gifts, including sex, to get more marks or favours.

He says, “I bought a bottle of an expensive champagne, which I offered the administrative officer in my department to ensure that he did not put me among those that the strict lecturer would supervise.”

The sorting strategy, many observers of happenings in the universities say, is not limited to champagne gifts. Students, they claim, buy and offer costly wristwatches, suits, laptops and even offer large sums of money to their lecturers in order to earn high scores in their examinations. Of course, many girls – some willingly and others forcibly – offer their bodies to the lecturers in return for favours and high grades in examinations and tests.

Besides, some lecturers too go out of their way to frustrate students to attract one gift or another. Such teachers mount impossible hurdles in order to beat their students in line to “contrived” demands.

The Chairman, University of Ibadan chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof. Segun Ajiboye, while conceding that there is rot in the system, finds it strange that some lecturers nowadays are involved in shady deals.

He adds, “When we were in the university, we never knew anything called sorting. We came from poor backgrounds. In fact, some of our lecturers were supporting us financially from their meagre salaries. They were our locus parentis. So it is strange to us to hear about sorting today.”

A former Executive Secretary, Nigerian Education, Research and Development Council, Prof. Uduogie Ivowi, agrees with Ajiboye. Ivowi, who says that he is worried about the trend, describes it as a sad development.

He notes, “It is a spill over of the corruption in the larger society and the university is no exception. So many things are wrong in the university system. That is why some of us agree with the Council for Legal Education, which has refused to admit part time students to the Law school. There is a lot of corruption in the university system.

“Nowadays, when we interview people who come for a job with a second-class upper division and you ask them basic questions, they cannot answer them. This shows that there is corruption in the university system. We know that some people lecturing in the ivory towers ought not to be there. The idea of being a lecturer in a university is not just having the academic qualification. A university is a place for learning and moulding of character. So if you have no character, how can you lead your students? It is a worrisome development.”

The Chairman, Centre of Excellence in Multimedia/Radio, University of Lagos, Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, also admits that there is corruption in the system. He, nonetheless, heaps the blame on the larger society.

The Mass Communication lecturer adds, “You cannot dismiss the complaints from people that there is corruption in the university system. However, you cannot also dismiss the fact that universities are major components of the society. If the society is corrupt, then a component of the society will be contaminated.”

As Ivowi, Abioye and Akinfeleye concur that there is decadence in the system, the VC of the newly established Catholic school, Augustine University, Ilara-Epe, Lagos State, Prof. Steve Afolami, says it is unacceptable to consign all tertiary institutions and their students into this blanket categorisation.

He says, “In my former school, the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, there are minor cases of examination malpractice and the institution has a way it deals with such infraction with dispatch. At AUI also, we have put in place some measures to check such an irregularity.”

Afolami, who describes sorting as unhealthy, adds, “I am coming from a background where we never had such a report in the sense that there is the student/staff relationship in terms of what is expected from the student who is a mentee and his mentor.

“However, there are times that a mentee feels particularly grateful to a lecturer and wants to say thank you in the form of a gift. But what we encourage them to do is to wait until they have graduated and let that lecturer mature into a grandfather figure.

“If you send gifts to a retired professor or a professor who was your lecturer some 10 or 15 years ago, that is commendable. There is nothing wrong with that. However, we try not to encourage immediate reward from students because the lecturer is doing his job when he is taking good care of his students. He should not expect any kind of reward.”

The AUI helmsman has the support of the Dean of Students Affairs, University of Lagos, Prof. Tunde Babawale, in his viewpoint.

Babawale says, “I am not aware of cases of corruption or impunity you are talking about in UNILAG or in other university. UNILAG, for instance, has a system that runs on a procedural basis. The award of contract and other issues are based on the laid-down procedure. I am not aware of any violation in this procedure in the past 24 years I have been in the university.”

Schools of scandals
Even as Babawale put up this stout defence, cases of financial impropriety and immodesty are not out of place in many schools. Allegations of fraud and misappropriation of resources have brought many VCs and the staff unions at loggerheads. For instance, the suspended Bursar of the Yaba College of Technology, Mr. Olu Ibirogba, has been in a running battle with the Rector, Dr. Margaret Ladipo, over allegations bordering on misappropriation of funds. In fact, the nation’s anti-graft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, is reportedly investigating the case.

Only this month, the Nasarawa House of Assembly suspended the VC of the state university, Keffi, Prof. Mohammed Mainoma, over allegation of abuse of office and admission irregularities.

Students are also not shying away from this path of dishonour. The Student Union Government of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, last August suspended its President, Mr. Omotayo Akande, for one month for allegedly seeking funds from the university authorities to attend a conference in New York, United States.

Akande allegedly wanted to obtain N650, 000 from the authorities, an action the Student Representative Council said breached his oath of office.

Apart from misappropriation of funds, the former National Universities Commission Executive Secretary, Prof Peter Okebukola, has linked some vice-chancellors to certain ‘un-academic’ actions.

He notes, “Some vice-chancellors have been alleged to unduly favour some candidates in the assessment of professors, speedily processing publications of their favoured candidates by lobbying and sending the publications to ‘soft-handed’ assessors and delaying the transmission of the publications of those they are hesitant to promote or appoint and when cornered, send the publications to deceased or “hard-handed” assessors. There are also cases of VCs inaccurately reporting financial and academic data on the universities.

Seeking a regime of sanity
Beyond identifying corrupt practices, many stakeholders canvass the need to restore sanity in the system. According to Okebukola, a regime of good sense is inevitable in order to improve academic integrity in the system.

Developing a university policy on academic integrity, setting up a unit on academic reliability, rewarding and celebrating exemplary members of staff and students, procuring and using plagiarism software, are some of the steps he suggests schools can latch on to restore honour and uprightness in the system.

The professor of science education also believes that inaugurating concepts on academic integrity in the general studies programme, and sanctioning errant students and members of staff will go a long way in salvaging the system.

He adds, “Through a bottom-up process from the departments through faculties to Senate, there is the need to develop a contextually-relevant policy on academic integrity. The policy should include the university’s definition of academic integrity as well as clear descriptions of issues, which fall under such labels as examination malpractice, plagiarism, research malpractice, misconduct in online courses and all misdeeds associated with sorting.

“All assignments, undergraduate project reports, higher degree dissertations and theses should be routinely checked for plagiarism. To achieve this, universities should purchase robust plagiarism software that is updated with its licence renewed frequently. The Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities has a bulk purchase agreement of such software that all universities are encouraged to subscribe to at the cheaper cost. The use of the software to check plagiarism routinely will lower the appetite of members of staff and students to infringe on copyright and plagiarise other persons’ intellectual property.”

To reduce exam malpractice, the ACAN, for instance, proposes the installation of Closed-Circuit televisions at strategic places within examination halls, printing of question papers on the day of examination, and a more careful selection of people of integrity to oversee the process.

Other preventive measures espoused by the academy to ensure a regime of sanity in the system include the computerisation/automation of the administrative and academic records management system from department to all relevant organs, provision of a platform for students to report any form of victimisation and the introduction of standard record keeping system. It also recommends that departmental examination boards must sit over results to verify the correctness of results as computed by departments’ exams officers. This, it says, will help to check the manipulation of results at the department’s level.

For Ivowi, there is no theorising the issues. Insofar as he is concerned, the authorities should wield the big stick.

He concludes, “We need to sanction people who commit infractions. Until we begin to put those sanctions in place, people will continue to misbehave and this is a very serious challenge.”

Written by PUNCH's CHARLES ABAH

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