The year 2019 was an eventful one in the education space. From the rush to meet the new deadline for certification of teachers, the sex-for-grades scandals to ASUU’s face off with the Federal Government over payroll enrolment, there were many issues that kept debates ongoing in the sector.
The education sector had its fair share of events in the outgoing year, some of which would have implications for the future.
The problem of sex-for-grades, especially at the tertiary education level, is age-long in the Nigerian education system. Female students usually have the short end of the stick. Often afraid to report, they are victimsed by randy lecturers who blackmail them with poor marks so they are forced to give their bodies in exchange for upgrades.
However, this is gradually changing, especially with the help of the social media which empowers students to bring more cases to light. Last year, a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, Prof. Richard Akinjide, was dismissed and convicted by the court of law for sexually harassing Monica Osagie, a postgraduate student.
Nevertheless, the Sex-for-Grades documentary by BBC, aired in October, was a game changer. It exposed two lecturers of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr. Boniface Igbeneghu of the Department of European Languages and Integrated Studies and Dr. Samuel Oladipo. It was the biggest story on sexual harassment this year – generating response not only from university managements but from the corridors of power.
The documentary showed the lecturers molesting journalists who posed as students or admission seekers. Igbeneghu, who was also the pastor of a local Foursquare Church, was shown smooching the undercover reporter after praying for her salvation; while Oladipo took Kiki Mordi, the journalist behind the story to the notorious ‘cold room’, a part of the Senior Staff Club where lecturers took female students they befriended.
The story led to the suspension of the randy lecturers by the university, closure of the cold room, and the inauguration of a panel to investigate the lecturers.
At the screening of First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, represented by Mrs. Aisha Rimi, called for victims to speak up.
“This simply has to change. It is no longer enough to sweep allegations under the carpet or force victims to withdraw their allegations, victimise or stigmatise them,” she said.
On her part, wife of the Governor of Ekiti State, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi, said the culture of silence around sexual abuse issues should be changed.
“You know people don’t talk about things like this. I was watching the documentary and there were three words that came to me, one is voice, it is time to speak up and speak out and for those who do we need to stand with them and stand by them and not silence them because the culture of silence has endured enough,” she said.
Vice-Chancellor of the university Prof. Olutoyin Ogundipe said at a media parley last Friday that the investigation was still ongoing as the process had to be thorough to ensure it was properly done.
“The university would ensure every stage is thorough and fair to those concerned. This is to show that the university has zero-tolerance for immoral acts and at the same time, the whole world is watching us,” he said.
Ogundipe said after the panel completes its assignment, the case would move to the administattive investigative stage; and the Governing Council, where the final decision would be taken.
As a result of the video, the Senate reintroduced the ‘Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Education Institution Prohibition Bill’ – six months after the House of Representatives failed to harmonise the bill.
The bill was initially sponsored by Deputy Senate President Senator Ovie Omo-Agege when Dr. Bukola Saraki was senate president.
It stipulated a jail term of five years for those convicted of sexually harassing their students; and expulsion/suspension for students found to have lied about being sexually harassed.
Lecturers from about five universities, under the aegis of Congress of University Academics (CONUA), engineered a split from the 41-year-old Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). For now, CONUA is made up of Federal University, Lokoja, Kogi State; Kwara State University, Malete; Ambrose Ali University Ekpoma, Edo State; Federal University, Oye-Ekiti; and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Dr. Niyi Sunmonu of the OAU had disclosed that the new union would institute a new and different way of running academic staff union in universities. It is canvassing a departure from the seemingly confrontational and intransigent modus operandi of ASUU. According to him, the group is on a mission to redefine unionism and create a stable academic atmosphere in the country.
In five short days, the deadline given teachers to become qualified and registered would expire. The Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) is the agency of the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) in charge of making sure the teachers are licensed, registered and quacks flushed out.
Its Registrar, Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, has warned over and over again that unlicensed teachers would be sent away from January.
So far, TRCN has registered about two million teachers who passed its Professional Qualifying Examination (PQE), which can be taken only by teachers with relevant formal education certificates – like the National Certificate on Education (NCE); Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.); Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE).
At a forum last month, he told Montessori teachers the agency would consider Montessori qualification as one of those recognised for teachers to be licensed.
This year, the PQE has held several times – with the last examination holding December 5 nationwide. Prof Ajiboye said of the 72,947 teachers who sat for the examination, only 53,674 qualify for licenses while 19,273 failed.
Despite registering over two million qualified teachers, Ajiboye said the Nigerian education system did not have adequate teachers. He said Nigerian owned the lion share of the seven million teacher deficit in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Generally teacher deficit is a big challenge in Africa. We have about seven million teachers’ deficit in Africa and Nigeria will account for the large numbers of this,” he said.
He called for yearly recruitment of teachers to add to the pool, lamenting that some states had not recruited teachers in a decade.
“Some states have not recruited teachers in the last 10 years and that why it is a big problem. In fact that is why the NUT was trying to pursue the elongated of number of years in service for teachers so that we can retain the old teachers in the system.
But what we are saying is that no; this shortage of teachers is state specific. When you go state by state, you discover that some states have more challenges then the others,” he said.
Though Ajiboye has said the TRCN would not back down on its deadline, how it intends to drive out teachers afterwards is yet to be seen.
ASUU, FG IPPIS war
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government had locked horns over registration for the Integrated Personnel Payroll and Information System (IPPIS). ASUU had directed its members to shun enrolment into the payroll system because university autonomy will be eroded.
The Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris, had announced in an advertorial that university teachers will be captured on the payroll system between November 25 and December 7.
ASUU National President Prof Biodun Ogunyemi maintained that no lecturer would enrol, igniting fears of another industrial action.
The conflict first surfaced in October, with ASUU threatening a strike. But the Senate intervened and sued for the maintenance of the status quo.
ASUU President noted that the union was working out an alternative payroll system for lecturers, stressing that the alternative would be similar to the Federal Government’s proposed IPPIS.
He disclosed that university lecturers would have a follow-up meeting with the leadership of Senate to discuss the alternative they are proposing to the government which may lead to a call for truce.
- ASUU/CONUA battle
- TRCN registration
- ASUU, FG IPPIS war
- Out-of-School children
The Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, said in July that the number of out-of-school children had risen to over 16 million.
He said that of primary school children stood at 10 million, while children out of secondary school were six million.
He lamented that the poor funding of education by states and the Federal Government was responsible for such an alarming number.
In the same vein, the Executive Secretary,Tertiary Education Trust Fund(TETFUND), Prof. Sulaiman Bogoro, at a summit in October, called for the rebuilding of the education sector, noting that it is an embarrassment that millions of children were out of school.
According to him, it is a big shame that a nation with all the endowment and resources has millions of children out of school.
He said: “It is necessary to rebuild the education sector. It is an embarrassment for the nation that there are over ten million out of school children. In fact,the north has the highest number and this is a call to the government to address the issue.”
The Senate President also noted that those children posed serious security threats to the country, hence,it is imperative to address the issue.
It is not out of place to say that it portends doom for the future of the country just like various stakeholders have posited. It remains to be seen if the government will swing into action and not continue to pay lip service to the issue.