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By NBF News
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The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) recently turned its searchlight on the nation's universities. It received the report on 'University Systems Study and Review' (USSR) it had initiated to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of public comments, complaints and several petitions against the university system. The USSR, which was a pilot study, took its samples from three universities: University of Nigeria, Nsukka (federal), Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye (state) and Salem University, Lokoja (private). Though a fact-finding and problem-solving strategy, it was geared towards addressing a whole range of corruption-related practices in the higher education system.

The report found the pilot institutions wanting in key areas of admission processes, examination administration, teaching and learning services, appointments, promotion and discipline of staff, contract awards and procurement process, management of funds and research administration.

The system, the report stressed, is characterised by all manner of irregularities with sexual harassment as the most rampant.

As in every survey of this nature, the findings are not peculiar to these sample institutions. The identified rot has been commonplace over the years and the public's outcry against them has remained largely unheeded. Part of the problem is that the system itself has been politicised, to the extent that, regardless of the performance of the officers in these institutions, they are not penalised so long as they are well connected. Some of the appointments in the system have become 'jobs for the boys', thereby turning the university Senate and Council into rubber stamps.

Student admissions that used to be based on merit have now become available mostly to the highest bidders. Lecturers no longer teach; they merely sell handouts and self-published books with very little research input and of doubtful intellectual quality. Worse, cult activities have virtually wiped out campus life as older graduates knew it. The authorities look on helplessly.

The most serious point noted by the report, in our view, is the preponderance of immoral behaviour or what is whimsically dismissed as sexual harassment. The complexity of this malaise should ordinarily make the nation weep: female students sleeping with lecturers for unearned marks and lecturers insisting on taking their female students to bed before they could pass their courses. In many cases, the school authorities pretend that these liaisons do not exist or, if they do exist, that they are part of university life.

The ICPC report should serve as a wake-up call to the universities' authorities. They must have to do more than they are doing now to heal this festering sore. Above all, parents should learn to take more than a passing glance at the type of life their wards live on university campuses. The beginning of the solution would be strong parental discipline and control. If, however, it requires the intervention of the ICPC to restore sanity in the system, let the anti-graft agency be given all the support it needs.