Fighting sex-for-grades with technology – Thisday

The Campus Pal App is a promising instrument for tackling the problem

A technology-driven platform called the Campus Pal App designed to report cases of sexual harassment in Nigeria higher institutions of learning has been launched by a non-governmental organisation, Gender Mobile Initiative. It is a feature-rich platform with confidentiality-driven reporting and tracking device to curtail the prevalence of sexual violence on the campuses of institutions of higher learning in Nigeria. According to the promoter and Executive Director, Gender Mobile Initiative, Ms Omowunmi Ogunrotimi, the idea was borne out of the desire to bridge existing gaps in terms of reporting sexual and gender -based violence. “With data we can do a lot of things, with data we can be sure that our interventions are meeting the needs of the communities that we are doing programing for. It is now time to move into the institutions to drive the adoption of the mobile application.”

We endorse the idea and commend Ogunrotimi and her team. There is a growing body of evidence which indicates that when reporting becomes the new norm, it will deter perpetrators. Hence, the anonymously-driven reporting app will help address the high rate of under-reporting of sexual harassment in colleges and universities. Over the years, victims in learning environment in Nigeria most often fail to report due to possible backlash occasioned by lack of confidential reporting platforms and fear of being further victimised.

Speaking at the unveiling, wife of the Governor of Ekiti State, Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, said the historical launch of the Platform was the first of its kind and a truly imaginative application of technology to a social problem. She said, “The Campus Pal Mobile Platform will engender real time confidential reporting of sexual harassment, data collection, and effective case management. It is a step in the right direction that underscores the intent and commitment of its creators to curbing the recurrence of this campus vice.”

We agree with Fayemi that the adoption of this technological approach is indeed a great new measure in the prevention or effective prosecution of incidences of sexual harassment, while simultaneously providing succour and solution to victims. Sexual and gender-based violence is all too common in Nigeria with the result that some of the graduates churned out are un-educated in their courses of study. In exchange for sex, unscrupulous lecturers have been found to leak questions or write examinations for some students. The initiative presents opportunity for a paradigm shift in the consciousness of Nigerians and to precipitate the return to the days when academic excellence and hard work were rewarded just as sloth and mediocrity were punished. But in the main, we must recognise that sex-for grades is a national shame that requires the involvement of all stakeholders to eradicate.

For years, this social malaise had straddled our tertiary institutions, threatening the future of the nation’s youths, particularly the female students who are usually held to ransom by randy lecturers, intent on having illicit sex with them. In several cases, many female students have had their academic careers extended, and sometimes truncated, because of their refusal to succumb to such demand for sex.

Ordinarily, the internal rules and regulations of the tertiary institutions would have been sufficient to rein in these sexual abusers. Unfortunately, the malaise is so endemic that even those at the highest levels of most institutions are believed to be neck deep in the unwholesome practice of demanding sexual gratifications for marks. In several instances, heads of departments to whom students report the harassment; and members of panels to which the reports were referred for investigation, were themselves involved in the abuse. That then explains why we commend the promoters of the Campus Pal App as we urge the authorities of our institutions of higher learning to subscribe to it.

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