Jacob Mutethia was finalising wedding preparations with his long-time fiancée in April last when he received news that would change his life forever.
The woman he had partly sponsored through university confessed to him that she had been sexually involved with a lecturer for two years. The two were engaged when Jacob was still an undergraduate student at Kenyatta University.
Mary*, whose identity Jacob requests to have concealed admitted to accepting favours from a lecturer at Kabianga University where she was pursuing a Bachelor of Tourism Management degree in the School of Business and Economics.
She went on to reveal that the campus relationship resulted in a pregnancy and an abortion.
This confession inflicted stress-related medical conditions on Jacob. In fact, when Jason came to Hashtag to report what he perceives as unprofessional conduct by the lecturer, he also brought along an A4-size envelope full of pills.
He explained he has been on medication to ease life-long stress related medical conditions he was diagnosed with after the confession.
The 37-year-old also carried a ten-page report he had presented to the university that included confessions from Mary, who ostensibly wanted to make things right before the two committed themselves to a church wedding.
Stress inflicting confession
“This illicit sexual involvement between the lecturer and Mary* led to a serious mental torture, stress, agony and I finally developed GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflex Disease) which has caused me to lose four teeth, develop foul breath, lose appetite and have serious stomach pains since May 2017. I am a regular patient at Nairobi Women’s Hospital,” reads the report in part.
He said he presented the evidence to the university to guide independent investigations to punish the lecturer.
“I am not here to shame the lecturer. I am also well aware that (the) relationship might have been consensual. I am here because I want the university to act on cases of unprofessional sexual exploitation of students at the hands of the lecturer whom I have evidence misbehaves with other students as well,” said Jason, a high school teacher at a Nairobi-based school.
While Jacob’s approach for closure is uncomfortable, his story is not unique. A student at the University of Nairobi who has been a class representative says lecturers lure student into sexual activities using marks as bait.
“Everyone knows about sexually transmitted grades. I was once a class representative and can tell you that many lecturers in all our courses slept with female students in exchange for marks,” says the student, who declines to give his full name for fear of being reprimanded by the university and some of the lecturers he says are his friends.
And despite the general concern about abuse of power, harassment of female students and learning injustices in universities, the vice still lacks a face.
Few victims come forward to report exploitation and worse still, a majority of universities reportedly lack mechanisms to tame the relationships.
How lecturers lure students
According to sources that Hashtag spoke to, lecturers have a wide range of tactics they use to lure female students to their sexual advances.
In a premeditated and well-laid-out plan, a lecturer first hides the examination answer sheet of a target female student and gives the rest of the class their marks.
News about missing marks don’t go down well with any serious student. A single missing mark can shelve one’s graduation ambition for as long as it takes.
And so, a follow up on a missing mark lands desperate students with a lecturer’s demand for sex in exchange for a grade. Other students, Hashtag found out, are unfairly awarded re-sits by lecturersas bait. When they go begging to get a better grade, they are asked for sexual favours in exchange.
Not long ago, a video surfaced online of a student who allegedly slept with a lecturer after she was promised an A in an exam.
Judith Juahla, who was then a Mechanical Engineering student at UoN took to her social media account threatening to expose the lecturer for awarding her a lesser grade even after they agreed she would get an A as part of their deal.
And in April, sexually graphic photos that involved a Kenyan student and her lecturer at Makerere University in Uganda led to the suspension of the lecturer.
Prior to the suspension, Rachael Njeri had reportedly written to the university, complaining of sexual harassment by the lecturer who was identified as Kisuze Edward.
Unfortunately, according to Kenya Universities Deans of Students Association (Kudsa) chairman Mohamed Abdullahi Aden, most complaints of sexual harassment in universities never go beyond reporting to the dean of students’ office in most universities.
“Our work as deans of student is to listen to such complains and forward them to the administration for action. Most investigations reveal situations of force in the beginning but at some point there is usually some form of agreement between the lecturer and the student. That is why in most instances, the cases never go far,” says Mr Aden.
He says that since every university has its own way of handling sexual harassment cases, many cases go unresolved in those that have weak enforcement procedures.
A disgruntled Jason expressed dismay that the university had not taken prompt punitive measures, months after he lodged the complaint at the university’s registry.
When reached for comment, the university through Prof Issa Mwamzandi, the Dean of Kabianga University School of Business and Economics, confirmed that they had received the sexual harassment complaint filed by Jason. They also confirmed that Mary was indeed a student at the university when the alleged incident occurred.
“It is true that he registered the case with us and we are on it. At the moment, my office has completed preliminary investigations and have submitted a report to our vice chancellor to act,” said Prof Mwamzandi.
The dean also hinted on a possibility of consent between Mary and the accused lecturer but refused to divulge further details on the report of the findings saying he was not at liberty to discuss a matter that was already tabled to the university’s top management.
Methody Florian, the lecturer at the centre of the alleged harassment admitted to having carnal relations with Mary but with her consent. He also indicated that he was prepared for outcome of the investigation by his employer.
“Yes, I was in a relationship with Mary but only after she agreed to be with me. At that time I was not aware she was engaged to someone else,” said Methody in a phone interview with Hashtag.
Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (Fida-K) chairperson Josephine Wambua Mongare said Fida has encountered cases from female students seeking justice.
The Fida boss pointed out a particular incident in 2016 where female students, through their female leadership association lodged complaints of sexual harassment that the police took up.
“Fida has in the past worked with several female student associations including Women Students’ Welfare Association and addressed student issues including sexual harassment by their lecturers,” said Ms Mongare.
The women rights organisations, however, cannot at the moment single out cases independently reported by students.
“We never classify our clients to be able to ascertain whether they are students or not. We deal with women as individuals regardless of their status in society,” says Ms Mongare.
She points to the challenge of dealing with cases of sexual harassment in universities owing to the amount of stigma they hold.
The Fida boss, however, urges victims of sexual harassment to seek legal help in places where their cases will be handled with confidentiality.