How ASUU Members Sell Exam Grades to Students
By Nothing makes the heart of a parent merry like the academic success of a child, especially one that made First Class in the university. In a heart-warming story published by Daily Sun on Tuesday, December 31, 2013, it was revealed that Sotubo Oluwatimilehin Dipo made First Class Honours in Economics with a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 4.91 at Crawford University, a private tertiary institution in Ogun State.
More than that, he became the Best Graduating Student of the year. Sotubo was just eight years old when his father died. Supported by his mother, who scrimped and saved to put him through school as well as his two elder siblings, Sotubo diligently worked hard at his studies to earn all the prizes he won as the best graduating student.
As the correspondent, Sam Otti put it, “Sotubo went home with hands full of academic prizes, including Chief Earnest Shonekan Prize for the graduating student with the Most Outstanding Behaviour in and outside the university; Prof Peter Okebukola Science Foundation Prize for Best Overall Graduating Student; Mrs Ngozi Osueke Prize for the Best Behaved Graduating Male Student; Parents’ Forum Prize for Overall Best Graduating Student; Remi Olowude Prize for the Graduating Student with the Best Overall Result in Economics; Parents’ Forum Prize for Best Graduating Student in the College of Business and Social Sciences; Departmental Prize for the Best Graduating Student in Economics, among others.” Sotubo said his academic success was driven by the desire to make his long-suffering mother proud.
Change the angle of the camera a little and zoom in on Miss Jesutofunmi Olabanjo and Mr. Ayodeji Atere, both of whom made First Class at the Nigerian Law School, Abuja, in 2011. By their performance, they showed mettle distilled into them at Lagos State University, LASU. Authorities of the universities are so happy with their achievement that their pictures are still on display at the Main Administration Building on a notice board just off the foot of the stairs that lead to the office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration) and offices of other senior officials.
Unfortunately, the story is a little bit different when you consider the case of another ‘graduate’ who claimed to have obtained a Second Class Upper degree in Geography from a well-known government university in the Southern part of Nigeria. When he attended an interview and was asked the capital of Australia, he said Austria. At the very moment he gave that answer, a member of the interview panel who was taking a sip of his coffee was too shocked he almost choked. Or do you talk about business and marketing graduates from several government universities that cannot explain Maslow’s Law and relate it to practical situations? When you check properly you will discover that the graduate who claimed to have obtained a degree in Geography but didn’t not know that Austria is a country in Europe or a graduate of Marketing who can’t explain Maslow’s Law, obviously got their ‘degrees’ through sorting with the earnest connivance of lecturers whose avarice blinds them to the unquantifiable damage they are doing to tertiary education in Nigeria. It is this damage that fuels the exodus of adolescent students from middle class families to Ghana, Britain and the United States. It is also the primary reason many corporate executives and senior public officers strive to ‘earn’ extra income so that they can send their children to Nigeria’s private universities, where fees start at about N600,000 and go as high as N1.5 million. The simple reason is that such students would not face the menace called sorting or undue victimization by lecturers.
For years, lecturers in the country’s public universities have sustained the evil practice called sorting. Already, hard working students frustrated by the practice from earning their degrees through serious academic effort have started to connect and mobilize throughFacebook to initiate a national campaign against it.
Sorting is the practice whereby lecturers compel students to pay large sums of money so that their exam scores can be boosted to ensure a pass or even get ‘A’ or ‘B’ grade.
University students who spoke with Sunday Sun on the condition of anonymity revealed that some lecturers purposely fail students to compel them to ‘sort’ with money. It does not matter if the student is brilliant or not, our reporter learnt.
“Some lecturers will tell you that ‘A’ is for God, ‘B’ is for the lecturer, ‘C’ is for brilliant students while ‘D’ is for average students and ‘E’ is for the students who know their way. Of course students in that group are the ones who know that the way to paradise is to go and ‘sort’ the lecturer with money for good grades (B and above). In a case where the student wants to score an ‘A’, he/she may be asked to pay as much as N30,000 depending on the credit load and how important the course is, especially if it is a compulsory course,” said Tonero (real name withheld), 21, a 200-level student in a university in the Southeast.
Chumsy James (real identity concealed), a course mate of Tonero and ‘runs’ girl, who regularly shuttles to Abuja and Lagos for various business transactions, nodded in agreement. Chumsy said: “For just handouts or their own books, some lecturers ask students to pay between N3000 and N4000 as the case may be, depending on the credit load of the course. Sometimes if lecturers want to buy new cars, they just come up with frivolous handouts that may not even be related to the course and force students to buy them. Big Bros, (referring to the reporter), that is what is happening here.”
A fresh Accounting graduate from another university, also in the Southeast, recounted how some lecturers adopt various tactics to squeeze students into situations that leave them with only one option, which is to ‘sort’ the lecturers.
He said: “Lecturers use various tactics to arm-twist us. One, they could decide not to come for lectures regularly. So you have to try and read on your own. In that kind of situation there is no way most students can satisfy the lecturer in the exam. What can you write that will earn you pass mark? So you just have to sort. Another way is to teach very large classes without public address system. Everybody knows that too many students are often admitted into certain courses. In a rowdy class, what you hear from the lecturer cannot be very helpful, and he does not care much. Some lecturers even announce through the course representatives that students who pay a certain amount of money can get extra marks in the courses handled by them. Of course, a student wants to pass the course and graduate, so he strives to pay the money, anyway he can raise it – from parents, relations, runs, internet scams or even robbery. Sorting is a general thing and it applies to all students irrespective of whether you are a cultist or not. Lecturers, both male and female are involved in sorting activities.”
Adenike Balogun (not her real name), a Mass Communication student in a polytechnic in the Southsouth, painted the same sordid picture of how lecturers are actively destroying tertiary education system: “Many lecturers send messages to students through the course representatives; some lecturers even tell the students directly during lecture hours that if they do not pay for his course, they will automatically fail. The worst offenders are lecturers who handle three-unit courses that are compulsory, because they know it will affect the Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of the student. So they use this to threaten students.”
Faced with such unbridled extortion by lecturers, Balogun said many students no longer feel the urge to study or even work hard because “even if they read every book on the course and write better than the authors, they will still sort or else they will not pass that course since the lecturer has made it a compulsory thing.”
Balogun further revealed that in some institutions, the amounts paid by students for sorting varies depending on the course, while in other institutions the prices are fixed. According to her, sorting has been going on for years and nothing has been done about it because many students who ventured to report to school authorities were victimized by some other lecturers who are like a mafia group.
A 200-Level student studying Public Administration in one of the first generation universities told Sunday Sun the pathetic tale of how sorting affects poor students in his school: “Most lecturers are deeply involved in this evil of sorting. Students in departments like Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, Public Administration, Economics, History and Business Administration, etc, go through the same thing. In short all students are affected by sorting. But I don’t think it affects medical students, because it is a professional course that deals with life.
“We talk about it in the hostels. Everybody complains about it. Some students read from morning till night, but at the end of the day, they won’t get good grades. You see people work very hard but at the end of the day they won’t have good grades. It is not by reading that people pass courses. Nowadays, a lot of lecturers no longer bother to come to class to teach. They just say that you know what to do to get good grades.
“There was the case of one very intelligent girl, but her parents are very poor. Her father is a motor mechanic and the mother sells vegetables to help feed and care for her siblings. This girl inspires me a lot. She told me that she has been on scholarship of benefactors right from secondary school. Even now in the university, people are sponsoring her education. So when lecturers ask us to buy handouts, she cannot afford them. I wonder how the lecturers expect such students to buy the handouts that they put at outrageous prices like N4000 or N5000. At the end of the day, these handouts will not help the student to pass the course, and the lecturers still want you to come to them and sort.
“There was another case that involved a final year student. The lecturer deliberately gave him a ‘carry-over’ score. Imagine a final year student in that situation. At the end of the day, the student went to meet the lecturer, bought wines for him and also paid money. The lecturer asked him what grade he wanted, whether ‘A’ or ‘B’. The student asked for ‘B’ but a moment later wished he had paid more money to score ‘A’ in the course. This is what is happening. We now buy grades. That is what is happening in the universities now. So what is the use of buying books, staying up all night to read? Tell me, what is the use? These lecturers don’t give the poor students hope. They don’t give us hope at all. There is no future for us, because they are already shattering it. They allow us to study in vain, and those that don’t study at all get the good grades. You see students that don’t come to lectures at all. They just stay at home throughout the semester and at the end of the day, they come out with very good grades. They score far higher than people that attended lectures and also studied hard. You see them jumping up and laughing at hard working students, saying that they know their way.”
Sorting is fuelling the problem of cultism in that it pushes some borderline students to join cults as a form of protection to ensure that lecturers don’t harass them, said John Chuks Odikpo, an Economics graduate currently serving in Rivers State.
His words: “Most of the lecturers frustrate students; so when such students don’t have any hope again they end up joining cults to fight the lecturers. Some join to get the money, some join to acquire powers so that lectures will not be able to victimize them. Lecturers are always afraid of cultists because they can physically beat them up, maim or even assassinate them,” Odikpo said.
The other side effect of sorting is the issue of quasi-prostitution, argued Wale Akintemi, a student at a university in Lagos: “You find that students do all sorts of things just to raise the money. There was a girl in my first year; she was a good girl when she came. But before we finished the first year, she was already doing ‘runs’ with aristo girls to be able to survive in the school and pay lecturers for grades.”
“Corruption in Nigeria’s educational system is like the octopus; sorting is just one of the arms,” said Mrs. Stella Ukegbu, a legal practitioner and human rights advocate, adding that it would require the concerted efforts of all well-meaning Nigerians concerned about the future of the country to really combat it.
On his part, the immediate past president of the National Youth Council of Nigeria, Deolu Sotade-George believes, the compulsion of students to purchase handouts or textbooks as a prerequisite for passing exams is a condemnable practice with “a deleterious effect on the academic performance of students.”
He added: “Male students who obviously cannot offer sexual favours to their lecturers are made to part with exorbitant sums of money to pass their exams. Sorting makes nonsense of the academic system, allows production of half-baked graduates and encourages below average students to rule over excellent students, who could not afford settling lecturers or buying of textbooks/handouts that have been made compulsory and destroys the society by turning out into the society fraudulent graduates who cannot defend their certificates.”
In the wake of the face-off between the Federal Government and ASUU, parents and religious leaders are now taking a keen interest and condemning the menace. When he spoke with Sunday Sun, General Superintendent of Holy Spirit Mission, Bishop Charles Ighele poured vituperations on lecturers over sorting. He described them as enemies of education and called for a mass campaign against it.
He said: “I believe that students can wage a war against sorting. Moreover, to combat sorting in the higher institutions needs political will on the part of the Federal Ministry of Education, the governing councils of universities, the vice chancellors and deans of faculties. In every university, these people should make it clear that students who come forward to report about sorting will be protected. They must establish a mechanism for investigation. I believe that the bad eggs will be exposed and weeded out of the tertiary education system, because such lecturers are enemies of education; they are enemies of the progress of our people. We cannot just sit and leave them to continue destroying the educational system. Students, parents, church leaders and the general society must rise up against this. We must all confront the challenge to end sorting in the higher institutions. This evil is giving Nigerian education a bad name, both locally and overseas. It is unfortunate when so-called Nigerian graduates cannot defend their degrees. This is an area of great damage to education. We must deal with it.”
A major effect of the destructive effect of sorting is the deep pain expressed by former president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Sir Tony Akhimien, who regularly sits on interview panels for hiring graduates into companies. He said: “Some of the products of our universities that you find in the labour market are terrible. I have participated in some interviews, where sometimes you ask the graduate candidate to write an application. You will be amazed that some of them cannot replicate the very letter they submitted along with their credentials. And they describe themselves as graduates. Some of them don’t even know the basic structure of an application letter. People actually now become ‘graduates’ through so many ways. It is very unfortunate. This should be condemned by all of us. It does not encourage fairness and scholarship. It is against all tenets of discipline and standards of all good things. If lecturers who encourage sorting are not punished and purged from the system, their conduct will discourage students who want to excel. Because if you continue to allow such lecturers remain, other students would be discouraged from aiming at excellence. The feeling would be, why read when you can pay money and get the grades you want?”
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