Students in west African colleges sexually harassed by lecturers

BBC documentary sent undercover journalists into the universities of Lagos and Ghana

File picture shows  entrance of the University of Lagos. Photograph: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty

File picture shows entrance of the University of Lagos. Photograph: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty

 

A new report has shone a light on the problem of sexual harassment of students by lecturers in west African universities.

The BBC investigation, which took place over more than a year, focused on the University of Lagos and the University of Ghana, where undercover journalists went for meetings with two lecturers, who had been identified by students as key perpetrators.

One of the lecturers was a former University of Lagos sub-dean and the head pastor of the local Foursquare Gospel Church, Boniface Igbeneghu, who a number of students alleged had abused them, according to the BBC. Mr Igbeneghu did not respond to the allegations.

The undercover journalist who met him posed as a secondary-school graduate, hoping for admission into the university. She also said she was 17, making her under the legal age of consent in Lagos state.

After Mr Igbeneghu invited her to his office for tutorials, he called her beautiful and told her, “what will shock you is that even at my age now, if I want a girl of your age, a 17 year old, all I need is to sweet tongue [talk] her and put some money in her hand, and I’ll get her.”

Mr Igbeneghu promised to help the undercover journalist with admission to the college and asked her about her sex life. He also told her other lecturers would give female students good grades in exchange for sex. In a later meeting he put his arms around her and tried to get her to kiss him.

At the University of Ghana, Paul Kwame Butakor, from the college of education, was identified by students as another lecturer known for harassing students.

“How many guys have told you you’re beautiful today,” he says on camera, before asking the journalist posing as a student whether he can become her “side guy”. Mr Butakor – who later denied having behaved inappropriately – also offers her a work placement.

Power

Despite university policy saying lecturers can’t have relationships with students when they are in a position to influence their career or grades, students say this is not effective in stopping these kinds of abuses of power.

Norris Campbell, a 31-year-old Nigerian from Rivers State, told The Irish Times this problem isn’t new. “I studied in the UK for precisely reasons like this.”

“When it was time to go to university, my parents knew that if I was going to get through university without harassment and on time, I had to leave the country. You hear about these stories from friends and relatives who stayed behind and it’s horrific.”

Ms Campbell – who studied economics in Surrey University, and is due to begin a master’s in Dublin’s Smurfit Business School next year – said there needs to be better legislation. “This has to become a governance issue. [There should be] jail time for randy lecturers and funding cuts for universities that enable them.

“The documentary has done the first step of bringing what has been a secret in the open. Parents will be more vigilant and hopefully believe their children when they complain to them. It doesn’t stop here.”