For Nigerian schoolgirls, concerns about an upcoming science project or expository essay are nothing compared to denying sexual advances from their teachers, the Associated Press reports today. Nigeria's education minister, Obiageli Ezekwesili, recently spoke with a crowd of 1,000 students, and overwhelmingly, the girls -- one as young as 11 -- complained about teachers pressuring them for sex.
Ezekwesili described herself as "shocked," but for some time, teacher-student sexual harassment has been a well-known problem at Nigerian universities. The chief concern of 80 percent of local college women isn't mounting student debt, but, you guessed it, sexual harassment, according to a recent study. It's worth reading the entire AP article for the individual stories of women being forced to repeat a course -- sometimes several times -- when they refuse to sleep with their teacher for a passing grade. When girls complain to department heads, they're often told to just "give him what he wants."
Considering the visibility of sexual harassment at Nigerian universities, it's a little curious that Ezekwesili would be completely blindsided by the young students' complaints of sexual harassment. Given that many Nigerian college professors feel they have a free pass to harass their students, how could one not expect that attitude to trickle down? Now, the problem in grade schools is widespread enough that even local pop stars are ridiculing it -- in one song a girl sings, "Mr. Lecturer, come get it on with me. I'm gonna rub your back and your potbelly, make you pass my paper." (To which Mr. Lecturer laughs and responds: "Come into my office.")
But, unbelievable as the oversight may be, there seems to be enough growing pressure to ensure that the government will do something about it. And, indeed, Ezekwesili promised: "We are going to take punitive measures against these teachers and give a voice to students."