The level of corruption in many institutions in Nigeria’s tertiary education sub-sector is massive, writes JESUSEGUN ALAGBE
Chioma would not easily forget her awful experience – particularly in her final year – at the Anambra State University, Uli, where she graduated from in 2011.
It is just four years after her graduation from the 15-year-old university, but she confessed that she would not be able to remember much of what she learned in school. “And it is not my making,” she defended.
When our correspondent came across the 26-year-old unemployed Accounting graduate recently, she could not stop lamenting the fate she suffered in the hands of some of the lecturers in her department while she was in school.
Recently, there were reports about a University of Lagos lecturer, Akin Baruwa, who allegedly raped an 18-year-old daughter of his friend seeking admission to the school, though some people believe Baruwa would not be the first lecturer in the institution and others across the country to indulge in the disgusting act.
Some said there are male lecturers who often request for romantic relationships from their female students in many tertiary institutions – especially the government-owned – for them (the lecturers) to give the students good marks.
As for Chioma, it wasn’t that she was raped by any of her lecturers – at least she didn’t tell our correspondent that; but for her to graduate from the school, she said she and her classmates were made to pay for grades with cash.
“It was a money affair. Because I wanted to graduate from the school, I was made to part with a lot of money,” she said.
Chioma told our correspondent that the nub of the matter was when she was in her final year in the institution and she and her classmates were mandated to pay N3,000 per course in order to have good grades and be able to graduate from the school at the appropriate time.
She said, “I know this is shameful, but I need to tell the truth. I cannot boldly say I attended a university. ANSU is a school of bribery and corruption; it is not even a school. It was an open thing. Some lecturers demanded for it. Out of the eight courses I offered in my final year, my classmates and I had to pay N3,000 each for six of them so that the lecturers teaching those courses could pass us. That was N18,000 in just one semester.
“As a matter of fact, they made it our class representative’s job to remind us at the end of each class of the need to contribute the money. Hence, the class rep practically became our enemy, especially those of us who never wanted to bribe our way through school.
“I doubt if anything has changed up till now at my department. Up till now, I feel ashamed and I cannot boldly say I earned the grade [second class upper] I graduated with. It was more painful because there was nothing I could do. I had to follow the trend in order to avoid repeating any class or carrying any course over.”
What was most striking during the entire conversation was the sincerity with which Chioma narrated her experience in the institution. She said she wanted to be sincere so that there could be a change in the institution and perhaps in all tertiary institutions in the country.
As of the time she spoke with our correspondent, she had applied for several jobs in Lagos and was expecting a breakthrough at one of them, but while the breakthrough tarries, our correspondent asked what else she was planning to do.
She said she had been advised by her friends (who had become teachers for the time being, though they didn’t attend same institution) to also take up a private teaching job before landing a bigger one; surprisingly, Chioma confessed she would fare better as a salesperson than as a teacher in Lagos.
“What am I going to teach them? I cannot teach, not because I don’t like the profession, but I wouldn’t want to embarrass myself. I’ll prefer a marketing job in a place like Lagos to teaching,” she said.
Chioma agreed that Saturday PUNCH blur her picture after much plea. “It is an embarrassing thing, you know, but a change can only occur if we start to tell the world the truth about our lives,” she intelligently noted, while she encouraged herself that she might not necessarily use her certificate to earn a living. “Lagos has many millionaires without degrees, so I’m lucky.”
Saturday PUNCH sent an email to the institution for clarification on the issue, but it had yet to respond as of the time of publishing this story.
Chioma’s story brings to mind the narration of a Lagos mum, Mrs. Abimbola Oyeniyi, who hired a female graduate sometime ago as a private tutor for her seven-year-old son. Oyeniyi explained why she had to eventually relieve the female private tutor of her job.
She narrated, “The lady tutor wrote ‘forty’ as ‘fourty’ and ‘cultism’ as ‘culticism’ for my child. I was like, ‘Is this for real?’ I thought she made a mistake because I believe anyone could, so I got home one day and asked her to write the words again – in the absence of my son. She wrote exactly what she wrote in my son’s notebook. I couldn’t believe it. I sacked her. It took a while to convince my child of the correct spellings of those words. When a graduate doesn’t know how to spell words, then it is a big problem. I was desperate to get a private tutor for my son, so I didn’t have the time to really test the lady. I assumed since she is a graduate, she would do the job. I was mistaken.”
There are about 400 accredited tertiary institutions – universities, polytechnics and colleges of education – in Nigeria, but the practice of lecturers making students to pay for good marks by cash and its attendant consequences are a big issue in the Nigeria’s tertiary institutions, particularly in the government-owned ones.
As it is in ANSU, so it is at the Lagos State Polytechnic, where 27-year-old Bose graduated from in 2013. Just like Chioma, Bose, a National Diploma holder in Business Administration, said she could not help but join the bandwagon in paying the mandatory levies as failure to do so could result in getting an extra year or graduating with a poor grade.
“These payments had no receipts. Then, there was a register the lecturer kept where the names of those who paid were written. They said it would boost our marks. Some of us didn’t want to pay, but the lecturer of a particular course I offered made it compulsory,” she said.
Bose explained that no matter how brilliant a student was, some lecturers could frustrate their efforts if they did not succumb to their demands.
“When a lecturer kept a list of payers’ names and said he was going to give them additional marks, we knew what it meant. I pray to God every day to forgive me of the sin because it is against my faith. But then, I was afraid of frustration,” she added.
Bose’s classmate, simply identified as Michael, corroborated her claim when he added that each student was asked to pay N3,000 per course and per semester – much like the same situation at ANSU.
“There was no bargaining, no plea. It’s either we pay and graduate conveniently or refuse to pay and have some complications,” he said.
Ayo, a graduate of Computer Science from the Lagos State University, described the institution as “a school of ‘runs.’”
Runs’ is a term used to describe a scenario whereby a party offers another party some cash or other gifts to receive favour.
“LASU is a business centre, I can boldly say that anywhere. If you don’t pay some lecturers, you can’t have good marks,” he stressed.
A Lagos-based lawyer and social commentator, Abisoye Odubona, described the practice as corruption.
He said, “Corruption is a monster that has eaten deep into almost every aspect of our society in this part of the world. Everywhere you turn to, it shows its ugly face. It could be hard for a moralist to achieve his goals without having to compromise somehow in this country, except if you don’t want to get anything from the system. Notwithstanding, students who are asked by lecturers to pay money for marks need to report such cases to the institutions’ authorities and not keep quiet.
“Of course, I know it’s a real problem because I’m also a product of a tertiary institution in Nigeria and there are often bottlenecks when you report such cases to the school management because many times, the guys at the top are aware and have dividends in the proceeds from students. But we need to speak against it. Almost every sector of this economy needs transformation, including education.”
Handouts sale, an extra income source for lecturers
The Consolidated University Academic Structure shows that the least academic worker in the university – a lecturer II – on CONUASS level 3 earns up to N1,979,640.00 per annum, while a professor, on CONUASS level 7, earns up to N6,020, 163.00 per annum. But for ages, some lecturers in Nigeria’s public tertiary institutions have been known to add to their income source the sales of handouts to their students.
A United States of America-based human capital firm, Pay Scale, stated that a lecturer’s responsibility is not only to review and determine what textbooks are necessary for their classes, but also to evaluate and assign reading materials to their students, among other responsibilities. Hence, educationists believe there is nothing bad in a lecturer writing a handout and selling to students, except in a situation where the lecturer forces the students to buy such handouts with the promise of boosting their marks.
“When a lecturer forces students to buy handouts and threatens to fail those who don’t buy, this is where the problem lies,” an economist and educationist in Lagos, Mr. Tunde Abrahams, noted. “It portrays more of the greedy nature of such lecturers. These are the ones destroying the system. Some don’t even bother about students not attending their classes, while some don’t even bother to teach the students. ‘Buy my handout and you will pass’ is their slogan.”
Different means of ‘runs’ in tertiary schools
Bribery among lecturers and students in tertiary institutions has different ways of appearance from university to university, faculty to faculty and department to department, but finding revealed it happens.
Ayo, the Computer Science graduate from LASU, lamented to Saturday PUNCH that the practice made him to lose passion for teaching.
“I knew a student in my class then who didn’t attend any single lesson throughout our third year in the university, yet he graduated with us, with second class lower. I was amazed. That was when I concluded that many of our schools today are business centres. No real learning is taking place. Those of us who passed exams did so because of self-development. When you see all these things, it makes you lose interest in teaching,” he said.
The spokesperson for LASU, Mr. Kayode Sutton, promised to respond to the issues when our correspondent contacted him, but he had yet to do so.
A 2011 graduate of Educational Management from the Adekunle
Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, simply identified as Femi, told our correspondent that one of the tactics some of their lecturers employed was to set “really hard questions that were out of syllabus for us.”
He narrated, “There was one lecturer in particular that we nicknamed ‘settlement lecturer.’ He wouldn’t hide it. What he usually did was to set questions that we never came across during his classes. I knew a student must read wide, which I did because I didn’t want to fail, but he had a motive for doing that.
“When he did that, he would expect some students to come to him and plead for leniency. In exchange for that, he would ask them to pay. He did make a lot of money at that time before he was sacked. There was one semester I failed his course and carried it over. I re-wrote it and he failed me again. I knew I wasn’t a dullard, so I went to see him in his office.
“I showed him my test script where I already had a good score and I knew I couldn’t have written ‘rubbish’ in the exam. He reluctantly checked my exam script and realised he made a ‘mistake.’ That was how I passed. Maybe I didn’t even fail in the first instance. No matter how well you read, this man would seek for a way to frustrate you. You had to ‘settle’ him.”
Femi recalled that a former vice chancellor of the institution, Professor Olufemi Mimiko, set up a lecturer-student forum when he took over the leadership of the school whereby students were asked to lodge complaints against any of their lecturers.
After investigations were made and erring lecturers fished out, “they were sacked and every student was happy,” Femi said.
From demanding recharge card gifts, to changing their car tyres, to monetary contribution for their personal events, and sex, finding revealed that this scale of corruption among lecturers is massive and it’s still currently unchecked in many institutions.
A Physical and Health Education graduate of Tai Solarin University of Education, who pleaded anonymity, said she was frustrated in her final year. Though she didn’t mention the name of the lecturer she was having problem with, she said the concerned lecturer asked her to ‘settle’ by sleeping with him.
“It was a female friend of mine who told me what the lecturer wanted. I went to meet him and he confirmed it. He told me clearly he didn’t need my money; he said it’s only male students or unattractive female students that could pay, but as for me, it would be to sleep with him. I refused to sleep with him and he gave me an ‘E’ in the course. At least I’m happy for that,” she said.
A question was posted sometime in 2007 on an online forum, Nairaland, where the users of the platform were asked to narrate their experiences in the hands of their lecturers in tertiary schools in Nigeria.
One of the users of the platform, with the name, Hannydarl, wrote this, “I heard from a friend of mine about a randy lecturer in Imo State University; he is a head of department in the school. He would ask female students to submit their projects for approval in his house.
“If you don’t give him sex, my friend said to get him to look at your project, you must buy him goodies. She told me some people contributed money to buy him TV, DVD player and air-conditioner. I wonder why there is no authority in the school to look into the conduct of such lecturers. My friend is in final year now and I wouldn’t want her to have any problem by exposing the said lecturer.”
Lazy students enticing lecturers
The lecturers are not always the culprits when it comes to corruption in tertiary institutions in the country. There are lots of intellectually lazy students today, an educationist, Mrs. Amaebi Owei-Tongu, noted.
She said there are students whose mentality about learning is distorted and there are many ways they entice ‘‘already corrupt lecturers in order to get free marks.”
This is not far from the truth.
For instance, at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye in Ogun State and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, it is said that internet fraudsters do not mind fuelling corrupt lecturers’ cars and paying for their lunches in order to obtain good scores.
“All it takes to get free marks is to fuel a lecturer’s car,” a former internet fraudster who graduated from the Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension few years ago at LAUTECH told our correspondent.
However, the Public Relations Officer of LAUTECH, Mr. Lekan Fadeyi, said the school was not aware of such practices, though he said stories of such had been heard in other institutions.
He maintained that the school has a zero tolerance for corruption and that if such practices were learned of and the perpetrators found to be guilty after a thorough investigation, it would be the end of their career.
He said, “The truth is that we don’t have such practices here in LAUTECH. We hear of stories like that from other universities. This is a school of technology, so there’s no way a student can pass exams without studying hard.
“We have a vice chancellor who has a zero tolerance for corruption. There is no way students can influence their lecturers here. But if we hear of such and a lecturer is indicted, he or she will be shown a way out of the system. I doubt if any lecturer would want to lose their job.”
A pastor lecturer at OOU, who didn’t want his identity disclosed, said that in the institution, there are female students who propose to have sex with lecturers.
He said, “They would say all they need is the certificate. They have approached me many times and they would tell me, ‘We cannot go to a school where they don’t do runs. Will we use our heads to think only about school work all the time?’ Very naughty girls who don’t care at all!
“They don’t attend classes. They attend parties throughout the semester and then resume when it is examination period. They would confront me, ‘Pastor, we are giving you [sex] free of charge, you don’t want to accept. All your colleagues are accepting. You are just wasting away.’ When you accept such offer free of charge, you don’t have an alternative but to give them free marks. There are lots of them here. I call them morally- and mentally-derailed students.”
Finding also showed that some lecturers make it easy for students to become mentally lazy in many instances.
Students from various tertiary schools in the country narrated to Saturday PUNCH unusual situations whereby lecturers would tell them to their faces that no student could obtain an ‘A’ or ‘B’ grade in their course no matter how well they tried.
“They told us categorically that no one could graduate with a first class no matter how hard we studied,” an English graduate from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, who works with a bank in Lagos, told our correspondent.
“Imagine a lecturer telling us that an ‘A’ grade was for God, ‘B’ was for him, while the remaining – from ‘C’ to ‘F’ – was for us. How does hearing such motivate one to study hard?” a Higher National Diploma graduate of Electrical Engineering from the Federal Polytechnic, Ede, Osun State, asked.
Consequences of lecturers’, students’ actions
How could graduates develop the country with this level of corruption, an Abuja-based policy analyst, Mr. Jide Oluyemi, asked.
“Lots of graduates don’t know how to read, speak, write and think correctly, yet they have good grades. Thank God for the quality and almost zero corruption level we have in privately-owned tertiary institutions, but how many Nigerians can afford to go to such schools? We need transformation,” he said.
Lagos-based educationist, Abrahams, said despite the negative image painted of the country’s tertiary sub-sector, it was important for students to learn how to self-develop themselves and not blame their woes on corruption.
“Learning, in the real sense, is not about having good grades only. But many students think it is. Hence, they bribe to have good scores. Many times, real learning doesn’t mean having good grades, but it is about what a student is made up of intellectually,” he noted.
In the developed economies like the US and the United Kingdom, where the standard of education is high, it is said that lecturers do not necessarily teach students ‘everything,’ but expose them to ‘everything,’ thanks a lot to their adequate and quality educational facilities.
“Our students should also learn to develop themselves for the real world while the government and the management of tertiary institutions establish anti-corruption arms that would transform the entire education sector in Nigeria. There is really no excuse for failure. Some of the best brains Nigeria has, some of whom are making waves across the world, were all products of our tertiary schools. Corruption is there, no doubt, but a student going to school must self-develop himself or herself for the real world,” Abrahams added.
The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics and the National Universities Commission are both worried about corrupt practices in the country’s tertiary education sub-sector.
The President of ASUP, Chibuzor Asumogba, said if anyone denied that these practices exist both in the polytechnics and universities , they were not telling the truth, even as he blamed them on many factors, including systemic failure, poor recruitment practices for lecturers and laziness on the part of students.
He said, “If anyone is denying that these practices exist, they are not telling the truth. These things are happening, though they are not predominant. We still have lecturers both in the polytechnics and universities that have conscience and integrity.
“This is about a systemic failure in our education system as a whole, though this is not an excuse. Corruption should not be blamed on any excuses. These practices are unbefitting of a lecturer and we need an overhaul of the education system.
Asumogba, however, suggested some solutions.
“The managements of tertiary institutions should look into these issues and try as much as possible to rid the system of corruption. This is something our union has been kicking against for many years. There should be transparent recruitment processes for lecturers and politicians should desist from imposing candidates for employment as lecturers. If these measures are properly established, the whole system will be sanitised,” he said.