Hon. Victor Akande is a member of Lagos State House of Assembly, representing Ojo constituency I, and also the Chairman House Committee on Judiciary, Public Petitions, Human Rights and LASIEC. In this interview with WESTERNPOST Correspondent, OKUNADE ADEKUNLE, he bears his mind on the imperative of investing in E-learning by the government to meet up with time lost to school closure and other salient issues. An educationist turned politician opined that all schools should be well equipped with all necessary tools to make e-learning possible. Excerpts
You were into education business before becoming a lawmaker, where do you stand on the possibility of Nigerian students not sitting for SSCE this year due to COVID-19 pandemic?
We are faced with a delicate situation here, as much as the education of our children is important, we should not risk the lives of the children for the sake of their education. I do not think it is safe to open schools for now, this is a lethal pandemic ravaging the globe, even countries that rushed to open schools are now closing back due to new wave of spread.
I think we will do better as a nation if we thread on the side of caution. It will safe us a lot, God forbid, if anything happens to those children at schools I do not think we have the capacity to contain it, so prevention they say is better than cure, on this, I think I am with the Minister of Education.
What do you think the continued school closure potend for the future of Nigeria children?
You see , I am an educationist apart from being a lawyer, just that we are not permitted to do any other job apart from agriculture as public servant according to the Code of Conduct Bureau, all I am trying to say is that, I know enough to differentiate between schooling and learning. Learning can take place without schooling, in other words, you don’t need to be within the four walls of the school for learning to take place.
That is why the government need to invest heavily in E-learning, our schools at all levels should be equipped with all necessary tools that will make learning possible. As we speak, in some countries, the students do not really miss much, all they did was just to move all learning activities online and learning continues.
Do you think all that can work here with poor electricity supply, how many children in villages have access to Android phone, don’t you think this will continue to widen the inequality gap in terms of access to education?
That is what I am saying, government can make all the necessary tools for E-learning available for students in all our schools, we have all it takes, it’s just a matter of priority.
Above it all, I have a feeling that somewhere along the line, before the end of this year there will be a solution to the pandemic, I am not saying we will return to our normal life soon, we may have to live with the “New Normal” for now, but solution is on the way.
What is your opinion on the bill criminalizing sexual harassment in tertiary institutions, don’t you think we have sufficient laws to take care of sexual harassment, why the need for a separate bill?
Our laws from time to time need reform, population is increasing, things are changing, we are advancing in technology.
I want to believe the National Assembly took a clue from Lagos State. In 2011, Lagos State decided to look at all their laws that are obsolete, those that were not in tandem with modern day reality, and it begins a process of review and reform. Untill then, there was no specific mention of sexual harassment in our law. Where there were no stiffer penalties attached, so this was given special attention in Lagos state. Our laws now carry stiffer penalties unlike the slap on the wrist penalties the offence carried before the reform. This is what the National Assembly has borrowed a leave from by coming up with that bill waiting for presidential assent.
The question is why are we targeting tertiary institutions, is that the only place where sexual harassment happens?
It happens everywhere, even in the church but you and I know what female students go through in the hand of randy lecturers in our tertiary institutions. If a lecturer is interested in a female students if she refuses to play ball, a four -year- programme may take her six years, these lecturers have the power to determine if you will graduate or not, they are that powerful, and they use this power on female students recklessly.
You need to know how many students whose career and future have been ruined on the account of refusing to sleep with lecturers and those who are still today living with the guilt and emotional trauma of sleeping with this and that lecturers against their conscience just to avoid being victimised.
Still fresh in our memory is Prof. Akinjide in OAU who just finished serving his jail term, we also have Dr. Boniface in Unilag that was giving them “cold room experience” till he was caught, and so many of them who will soon be caught.
You see, there nothing wrong with consensual sex between two adults, afterall, I know lecturers who married their students when we were in the University. But when it becomes by force it becomes rape. When you make refusal it carries sanctions or you attach inordinate reward to it like sex for mark, then it is punishable under this sexual harassment law.
Some of these lecturers have so much perfected their game that they won’t be the one to fail you, they will just report your case to one of their partners in crime taking you another course, it might even be from another department where you have gone to borrow course, so that you don’t trace it to them.
But as we are trying to protect female students don’t you think it is right to protect lecturers who might be framed up by lazy female students?
Of course, the law will protect everyone, as we have female students being harassed by male lecturers so we also have male students being harassed by female lecturers, though this may not be that common but it is not impossible. We also have student to student harassment, so the law will protect everyone.
If you frame up a lecturer because you think he is too difficult or uncompromising, when they carry out investigation and discover you framed him up, there are penalties for you as well, that even carries expulsion for such student. We know there are lazy students who are not ready to learn, they always look for easy way out, they go all the way even to seduce lecturers and offer themselves willingly to lecturers in exchange for marks, these are not the people the law seeks to protect but the hardworking innocent students who may be victimised by randy lecturers.
What is your message to the people of Ojo constituency I?
My message to them is that they should stay safe in this perilous time we are in. They should continue to adhere to all the safety precautions recommended by the medical experts, like regular hand washing, use of face masks, avoid large gatherings and keeping of social distancing. Above all, they should go for testing to know their status.
Then, they should keep supporting us so that we would be able to fulfil our campaign promises of good representation to them.