“Are you a university student? Do you have difficulties achieving the grades required for examinations? I am at your service – part time tutor to help you gain the marks you need. Professional and experienced. Contact ….”
Such is the wording of a notice at a busy Windhoek shopping centre, allegedly placed by a lecturer at Namibia’s national university – the University of Namibia. It is not so much the wording of advertisement, but what transpires after responding to it, that has both parents and education authorities seething with anger concerning a worrying trend at the national university.
The advertisement, as it transpires, is a proto-type of a relatively new syndicate rearing its ugly head at the University of Namibia, where seasoned lecturers offer to complete assignments on behalf of students at an exorbitant fee.
Once a student responds to the advertisement, the lecturer, who this Correspondent understands would make use of a temporary phone SIM card which he destroys after the transaction to avoid being traced, arranges to meet with the student at a library or shopping centre.
“Once you show up, the lecturer reveals the real motive behind the advertisement, and if you are really desperate for marks, you fall for it,” said Letta, a 20-year old third year student at the university.
The con lecturers are said to demand anything between $295 (Shs831,451) for an ordinary three-page assignment, to as much as $882.50 (about Shs2.5m) for a more detailed assignment.
As if this trend is not worrying enough, an entirely new phenomenon, where students are being enticed into offering sexual favours in return for much needed Continuous Assessment (CA) marks, has come to the fore.
According to information obtained by this paper, lecturers would approach female students with dwindling marks and request sexual favours from them, upon which higher marks are accorded to students, when such favours are granted.
The practice, which students claim to be wide-ranging at the institution of higher learning is said to be largely perpetrated by male lecturers. So widespread is the practice that students at the university have coined a name for it – ‘Sexually Transmitted Marks’ or ‘STM’ in short.
“All you have to do it say yes, and you will have your marks,” a female student at the university who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
According to her, students who were involved in STM transactions had their marks shooting up from as little as 43 per cent to 98 per cent, while those that had refused such favours saw their continuous assessment marks dropping.
A student, whose real identity is known to this paper, said she had once offered her body for much needed marks. Nancy told this paper that she would have not qualified for the year-end examinations, and would as such have forfeited her chance of graduating had she not given into the offer.
“I knew my parents would never approve of what I did, but I also know they would have been even more disappointing had I failed to graduate the following year,” said the 25-year-old.
This paper sought comment from lecturers, but to no avail. Although many admitted being aware of the practice, none would confirm on record on who the perpetrators are. The alleged perpetrators, as pointed out by students, refused to comment out of fear of losing their jobs, although one admitted “...the practice has been coming on for a long time, how come you guys are only learning about it now?”
Namibia’s Deputy Minister of Education David Namwadi, who was on an information sharing visit to the university, got to hear first-hand of the practice from students. Mr Namwandi, himself a founder of his own University (University of Management) before his current posting, heard from student leaders at UNAM of how female students who scored lower marks in continuous assessments are accorded marks by lecturers to allow them to sit for year-end examinations.
“The responsibility does not only lie with lecturers, but also with you, yourselves, to stop such practices. It won’t help if we take the issue up with lecturers, yet some of you are cohorts in the practice,” he told the students. Lecturers are also accused of being absent from lectures without valid reasons, and for not being at their best when they do pitch for classes.
University launches investigations
The University of Namibia, through its Director of Communications and Marketing Edwin Tjiramba, said it has launched an investigation into the validity of allegations of sexual favours in exchange for pass rates between lecturers and students. Mr Tjiramba’s comments contained in a press release follows on the heels of continuous media reports on the happenings at the university by the local media.
Admitting that it is possible in a population as big as that of the university, there could be “a few bad apples” that could tarnish the name of the institution, Mr Tjiramba said: “A primary objective of the investigation process is to identify and root out individuals who might be conducting themselves so carelessly as to bring the name of our university into disrepute.”
The University of Namibia, was established in 1992, has several colleges including College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Economics & Management Science Education, Humanities and Social Science, Law, Medical & Health Science, and Science.
The allegations against the university come a few months after a national conference by the line ministry, which had cabinet blessings, to review the progress of the country’s education sector.
In the past, Namibia’s education sector has been blamed for not living up to the expectations of Namibians, despite receiving the largest portion of the national budget. Over the last 11 years, the budget of the Ministry of Education has increased from $2.6 million in 2000/1 to $268.6 million, which translates into a 360 per cent increase. As critics maintained, Namibia is yet to reap the full benefits from the huge investments it places in the sector.