By Peter Machilika
Sexually Transmitted Grades(STGs) is a common term in the corridors of public universities in Malawi.
My four year journey through the university has made me to realize that most lecturers take advantage of the girls since they have the power to form and administer exams as well as marking the same.
Stories are awash in public universities that girls are asked, forced, coaxed, enticed and even manipulated into sexual relationships with their lecturers on a condition that they will pass exams.
In public universities some lecturers leak exams to some girls they have a conjugal relationship with as an easy way of satisfying their desires.
It is not a secret that many girls have either been withdrawn temporarily or completely simply because they denied a lecturer an opportunity to abuse them.
It is not a secret that because exams are personalized in public universities, lecturers have become gods and students are forced by the situation to worship them.
Many men, boys or gentlemen have been withdrawn completely from the public universities simply because they have been competing for the same girl with a lecturer.
Students unions have done very little to curb this malpractice because everyone is afraid of the consequences of crossing the path of the one who holds their future in his or her arms.
It is not a secret that many girls have gone home with a positive HIV serostatus and other sexually transmitted infections in their quest to obtain a degree at the end of the day.
The boyfriends of these girls are often victims of this academic struggle because at the end, these things are passed on to them.
The Constitution Framework of Bunda Students’ Union(BSU) in Article 7: Section 5 stipulates that one of the objectives of their students union is “To promote and defend the rights and interests of all students effectively and efficiently”.
The duties of BSU’s Female Directors of Social Welfare include that they “Shall receive and deal with all problems regarding female students with the help of the female warden” it reads.
But how many victims have been helped by this directorate in the past academic years?
All public universities in Malawi have similar portfolios that have been mandated by their piece of legislation to fight for the rights of students, especially when they are in a tight corner.
What is mostly disheartening is that Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Malawi pay little if no attention at all to these occurrences. Students in these universities are suffering in silence.
No wonder, passing an exam at a public university has nothing to do with hard work alone but your good camaraderie with your lecturers. If they say jump, you jump. If they say walk and you crawl, then you are registered in their black book. You end up going home earlier than you came.
I have gone through the Malawi University of Science and Technology Students Representative Council(MUST) Constitution, the Constitution Framework of Bunda Students’ Union(BSU), the Constitution of Mzuzu University Students’ Union(MUSU), Kamuzu College of Nursing Students Union(KCNU) Constitution, Constitution of Polytechnic Students Union(PSU) and Constitution for the Students’ Union of Chancellor College(SUCC).
However, despite the protection of the rights of students being enshrined in these constitutions, students are not protected.
This is the reason I personally feel that all public university unions must come together to fight for a change of the examination system especially for mid-semester, end of semester as well as end of program exams.
The power of the lecturer to form and mark exams for the course he or she personally taught must be removed and be replaced with exams prepared, administered and marked by an examination board.
This will definitely save girls and boys in the public universities from unlawful, personally orchestrated and manufactured withdraws because an examination board like the Association of Business Managers and Administrators at International level or the Public Accountants Examination Council(PAEC) can not fail a student based on personal hatred, attitude or mere laziness.
It is not a secret that some lecturers have a tendency of not marking exams but just to give grades according to their preferences.
No wonder, some lecturers say that they follow a Biblical principle of exalting the humble and humbling the proud. This means that in just giving me the grades, lecturers end up failing the one who actually passed and pass the one who failed.
I call upon different NGOs to intervene in these malpractices. Student unions in public universities must establish the Malawi Public University Students Union(MAPUSU) so that a strong voice can be created and effect change.
This is the best we can do not for ourselves alone, but the generation of future intellectuals in these public institutions of higher learning.
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom but the fear of fellow human beings is an enemy of progress.
- The author is a Bachelor of Science in Optometry (Honours) student @ Mzuzu University. Views expressed in this article remains the opinion of the writer.