Lecturers at both the University of Lagos and the University of Ghana have been suspended following the release of the BBC’s Sex for Grades documentary. The film was part of a year-long investigation by BBC Africa Eye into sexual harassment in West African universities. 

The documentary contains a combination of first hand accounts from students with personal stories relating to various lecturers and undercover journalists posing as students to see how the lecturers act around them. The aim was to uncover what many people believe to be a systematic problem of sexual harassment in some of West Africa’s most prestigious universities. 

One student talks about how a lecturer withheld her exam results for two semesters and pretended that she had never sat the papers. When confronted on it he allegedly repeatedly demanded she have sex with him. This experience caused her to drop out of university. 

At the University of Lagos, Boniface Igbeneghu, a local pastor and academic, was caught asking asking inappropriate questions of an undercover BBC journalist posing as a 17 year old prospective student. He physically harassed her and repeatedly asked her to kiss him in his locked office. He also threatened to tell her mother if she was “disobedient”. Several other students made similar allegations against the lecturer. One said that the event caused her to attempt suicide several times. 

The university suspended Dr Igbeneghu and another academic by the name of Dr Samuel Oladipo as a result of this evidence. They have also established an investigative committee to discover the extent of the problem in the university.  They have also said that they have closed the staff room known as the “cold room” which Igbeneghu claims was where lecturers brought students. Igbeneghu’s church have also asked him to step down. 

At the University of Ghana, two lecturers, Professor Ransford Gyampo and Dr Paul Butakor have also been suspended following the documentary. Both lecturers propositioned journalists who were posing as students for the documentary. 

Kwesi Yankah, Ghana’s minister of state in charge of tertiary education thought the story reflected a general trend of inaccurate media coverage of Africa. He described it as “stereotypical” and questioned how many stories have been covered which gave a positive image of higher education in Africa. He still stated that it was important not to “rest on our oars” and that the documentary’s findings were important. “We would rather want to see them more refreshing stories about strides that African universities are making, not painting them black”, he said. 

The chairperson of the University of Ghana’s Anti-Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Committee, Dr Margaret Amoakohene, condemned the actions of the Ghanaian lecturers in the film. She called it “Unacceptable, inappropriate behaviour that is really an affront to their positions as lecturers at the University of Ghana.” She has claimed that the problem of sexual harassment at the University of Ghana was “persasive” among both lecturers and students. 

Olabukunola Williams, executive director of the Nigerian charity Education as a Vaccine, says sexual harassment and assault in universities is “pervasive in Nigeria.” While she was not involved in the documentary, she says that it has forced people to confront the problem, and has provided concrete evidence of malpractice. She says that to continue the conversation that has been started there would be a need to extend it out to rural areas. She argues that the religious leaders in these rural areas “hold a lot of trust” and in order to highlight the problem, these leaders would have to talk about the issue. 

She has said that the committee follows up all reports of sexual harassment but that they “cannot chase after the wind”. In the past there had been cases where guilty individuals had been suspended. Nonetheless, the committee is going to make recommendations to the university once the investigation has concluded. 

A Nigerian non-profit, Stand to End Rape Initiative, has reported an increase in the reporting of sexual assault and violence since the premiere of the documentary. It’s chief executive, Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi, says that the issue of sexual harassment is not exclusive just to universities, but extends to workplaces too. She welcomed the documentary, saying; “Men feel invincible. This moment is women saying, ‘You’re not.’”