How I ended sexual harassment in OAU with technology —Outgoing VC •Slams FG on Post-UTME cancellation •Denies imposing successor

Outgoing Vice Chancellor (VC) of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Professor Bamitale Omole, on Tuesday, gave an interesting insight into how he ended illicit romance between lecturers and students in the institution, using Information Communication Technology (ICT).

He was sharing his stewardship account with select journalists in Lagos.

His tenure of five years ends tomorrow.

There is a bill before the National Assembly to criminalize such dalliance.

He was also unsparing of the Federal Government’s decision to cancel the controversial post-UTM examination, tagging it a political disservice to education in the country.

Spacing his achievements into five broad outlines, he noted that his unforgettable acts would be the unprecedented mileage in ICT, academic and infrastructural developments.

He was particularly enamoured of both technological and relational breakthroughs in ICT, which saw the institution’s bandwidth being moved from 39Mbps as of October 2011 to 940Mbps as he was bowing out, making it the reference point for the National Universities Commission (NUC).

He explained that as of today, the upgraded bandwidth had made real-time academic interactions possible, with students being able to conduct almost all academic administrative exercises like course registration, payment of fees and checking of results, online, straight from the confines of their rooms.

He pointed out that his original motivation was to use the massive availability of information technology to curb the illicit activities of randy lecturers preying on hapless young girls.

“When I came in, June 23, 2011, I sought the reason for the prevalence of sexual harassment and we discovered that when a young girl of about 17, 18 years wanted to check her result, a lecturer with bad intention would keep her waiting for hours, and at the end of the day, ask her to check the next day. After days of deliberately disappointing her, he would start giving night appointments, just to check ordinary result. From there, it would move to go and buy me something, then sexual harassment would follow.

“So I said, why can’t we have a system that would limit interactions between lecturers and students. Many thought it was impossible, that it was Western world idea. But today, it is on ground. You can use own internet anywhere on campus. With serious physical interaction greatly reduced, sexual harassment was ended.”

He was also unable to contain his indignation at the cancellation of post-UTME.

“The cancellation is a monumental error. It is an inimical step to the progress of education by this government. During our own time, before the advent JAMB, concessional examination was always being conducted by the universities to admit applicants to the schools. JAMB now conducts a blanket examination with universities using the post-UTME to pick the best from those pushed forward by JAMB. The cancellation was the most serious mistake by this government. It is totally political like many issues in Nigeria. They said certain universities were exploiting students through it. How many are doing that?

“This cancellation does even mean that universities would admit more than usual. Take for instance, about one million students applied to OAU. How do you now pick the best from the one million that applied to Ife? In OAU, we don’t take less than 200 score, now they said it is 180. Students that come in with this reduced marks are always the ones causing problems in the institutions.

“No matter what anyone does, OAU can’t take more than 5,000 new students. So the cancellation won’t even help admission. It is a disservice to the quality of education in the tertiary institution. But I don’t think JAMB should be abolished, because they will end up with the same mistake they made with UTME. UTME is about quality control, abolishing it is a monumental error,” he submitted.

Speaking on the controversy trailing the appointment of his successor, Professor Dipo Salami, Faborode denied imposing him as being speculated.

According to him, “Vice Chancellor’s appointment is guided by the university’s statutes and laws. The issue is always with the short listing. Appointment of VC is high politics, though academic. Those who should not even apply as principal of secondary schools would apply to cause trouble. I am not part of the screening panel. I’m not foisting anyone on them. He is my Deputy Vice Chancellor(DVC) for five years. If other professors who are Heads of Departments (HODs) showed interest, why not a man that served for five years.

There are 356 professors in the senate, how could a single man  rail road them into picking a certain candidate? The council also has 16 people. I’m not neither part of the council nor senate selection board. I didn’t impose him. But I feel the appointment process should be sustained, so the entire thing won’t become completely political. The non-academic staff have their ways of contributing to the appointment process but they now want to take everything over and dictate an exercise that should be mainly, purely academic. Check the resume of the new VC, whether he is qualified or not. Well, the whole thing is almost settled now.”

The professor of International Relations also pointed out that during his tenure, the institution moved from being number six in Nigeria to number one and number 79 in Africa to number five.

Explaining how he managed the students to ensure that in 15 years, it was only during his tenure that no session was lost, Omole said when he came on board, he went to their hall of residence to interact with them.

He added that though he could not wait to eat of the beans they tried to prepare for him because of time, he sat on the lower bed of a bunker for close to an hour, with the students rushing around him to take photographs.

According to him, “Students live in a world not too real, but a lot of the students in Ife are law-abiding while a few are recalcitrant.

He said he would be waiting on God to order his next step.

He also disagreed that the standard of education had fallen, pointing out that ICT had provided huge educational opportunities to the new generation of students which weren’t there before now.

“I don’t think the standard of education has fallen. What has fallen is the attitude of our students today to education. The standard has increased, given the ICT aid. But standard of English has fallen abysmally low in universities and secondary schools. ICT is contributing to that because students now abbreviate everything. But in the area of science, the standard had improved tremendously,” he stated.

While explaining that the tenure had now been pegged at single term of five years, the Ekiti-born academic said even if there was a legal window for another term, he would never consider it.