BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 May 2007, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Kenyan tutor on 'sex for grades'
The problem of sexual harassment in universities is widespread in Africa: young women are frequently asked to sleep with their tutors in order to gain good grades, and even threatened with failure if they refuse to do so.

Lecturer Dr Ken Ouko at the University of Nairobi in Kenya's capital agrees that it is a problem but from his experience, it does need perspective.

Dr Ken Ouko
Dr Ken Ouko admits that the female students can be tempting
The students can be tempting... all dressed up and looking saucy.

Once the students come here, they have a lot of freedom and it extends to their dress. They can wear anything they like - universities do not have uniforms.

The naughty ones dress up to kill. They are all looking at you, at your mercy, and as a man it is true it is tempting.

The female students have a lot to gain. Amongst themselves it is seen as prestigious to hang out with lecturers and they know that they won't have to work too hard.

As a lecturer you really have to concentrate on what you're doing.


The worst time is just before examinations.

My bosses have told me that the girls always get the benefit of the doubt and so as a lecturer you are expected to take of yourself. You have to be an adult and control yourself.

Hand resting on woman's shoulder
Sexual harassment is very serious in both schools and universities
Gady Mwamba Museka, Zambia

But then there are the vulnerable students who need your time and extra help with their subjects.

If you are seen to be helping them then people start asking why and your actions can be interpreted the wrong way. It is a Catch-22.

A few years ago I had this student who missed an exam. One of the rules of the university is that you cannot miss an exam claiming that you misread the timetable. She didn't read that rule and came to me explaining she had misread the schedule.

The exam was the afternoon before and then very early in the morning she came to my office, all dressed up, crossing and un-crossing her legs in her mini skirt in front of me. She suggested that maybe there was some way I could help her out.

I resisted, but said that she could join my evening class for the same subject and then write the exam when the part-time students were sitting it.


Because of that we maintained contact for those three weeks.

But it turned out that everything we said and each message we exchanged she kept as a record. Then she went to the administration and changing her story, told them she had missed the examination in the first place because I had told her we would do it later.

Later on, after investigations it was found that an arrangement had not been in place as our communication only began after the examination.

During this she started going crazy, saying she would do this and that. I felt for her and so told her to go easy and tried to be fatherly.

But all that was misinterpreted and I was suspended from duty.

The proposition

It was actually reversed after a short time but it was a big battle.

She then changed her story again and said she had missed the exam because she had been unwell. It was all complicated but in the end no doctor could back her up.

But in the meantime the lecturer suffers. My reputation suffered. Everyone's looking at you wondering if you did it or if you didn't.

I weathered it and got back to school.

But it sets a precedent and is discouraging. Others think they can do the same thing.

I believe that the proposition actually comes from the student. They are the ones that present the opportunity.

And then the lecturer takes advantage of the opportunity that is created and the motive for the student is that their studies become an easy sail.

Tune into the BBC World Service Radio at 1600 GMT to listen to The Proposition by Nigerian Jide Afolayan, one of the BBC's African Play Writing Competition winners.

Is sexual harassment a problem?
01 May 07 |  Have Your Say
What is sexual harassment?
16 Aug 06 |  Africa


Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific