As a voraciously curious reader, I salivated when I read that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) will on 7th October air a documentary dubbed “sex for grade”. My whole being was consumed by an irresistible curiosity, I became as expectant as a pregnant woman. The caption was captivating. On the eve of the airing, I became journalistic, I was nosing into all online portals to anticipate what the documentary would be about.
On Monday, October 7, 2019, I fed my phone with the needed data to enable me download the video just as it drop from the womb of YouTube. At 18:00 GMT, I downloaded the full video. With rabbit attentiveness, I watched the entire 53 minutes video not even responding to the invited whirling of stubborn insects. I watched alone, because, as the title suggested, I thought it was in the porn nomenclature. My eyes were so glued to the screen of my phone as if my salvation depended on the video. Through the tireless work of the impartial time, I finished watching the video.
My first reaction after watching the video was the instinct of a doubting Thomas. Rhetorical questions began throbbing my infantile mind. Was this the video? I asked this after my expectations have been thwarted. Where are the sex? Where are the grade negotiations? Is the title hyperbolic or ironical? I sat helplessly looking for answers to my countless unanswered questions. I quickly went to social media and as usual there were heavy rains of comments.
As a moral critic, I strongly believe that those who are mandated to train our young ones must pass the moral aptitude test. Teachers in all levels of our educational fraternity must be exemplars of the morality which they are mandated to inculcate in our young ones. In the light of this, teachers must walk their talk. Under no circumstance must we shield any teacher who harass a student. We must not compromise our moral laws, this I believe. Punishing culprits is a panacea to reducing crime, this I believe. Our universities must intensity efforts aim at eradicating perceive sexual harassment, this I believe. This I believe that our young girls and ladies in our educational enterprises must not become romantic biscuits for those we have entrusted our young ones into. It is in this spirit that I support the claim lecturers and teachers found culpable in any form of character and moral deviations must face the full rigors of the law. However, I think we must not create enough problems in our efforts to solve a problem.
But from a Pan-Africanist perspective and pure quantitative research eye, the BBC’s documentary is pregnant with inaccuracies. A critical anatomy of the video leave one to wander in thoughts. First, let’s take a critical look at the title BBC gave the documentary “SEX FOR GRADES, UNDERCOVER IN WEST AFRICAN UNIVERSITIES” per their own title, one expected the documentary to be a near porn video. Contrary to public expectation, there is no single hug, kiss, caress, romance play or sex in the documentary. There is absolutely nowhere in the entire documentary that any of the three lecturers understudied attempted to harass any of the undercover ladies sexually, unless I was sleeping when watching or the documentary is not the one I downloaded. To say the documentary’s caption is misleading is an understatement. What is the correlation between the caption and the video? I am moved to raise several questions, what is the MOTIVE of BBC in this documentary? Why did BBC focus on West African universities? Why did the BBC leave out universities in northern, eastern, central and southern Africa? UniRank, an academic research institute published the top two hundred universities in Africa in 2019. Among the criteria used were:
- being chartered, licensed and/or accredited by the appropriate higher education-rated organization in each country
- offering at least four-year undergraduate degrees or postgraduate degrees
- delivering courses predominantly in traditional, face-to-face, non-distance
Using the above benchmarks, UniRank put the first ten top universities in Africa as follows:
- University of Kwazulu-Natal
- University of Cape Town
- University of Pretoria
- University of the Witwatersand
- University of Johannesburg
- North-West University
- Universiteit Stellenbosch
- University of Nairobi
- Cairo University
- University of the Western Coast
It is crystal clear that the two universities used by the BBC in their undercover are not the top two universities in Africa. As a matter of fact, University of Lagos (UNILEG) is ranked 15th in Africa by UniRank while the University of Ghana (UG) is ranked 19th in Africa by UniRank. Is the BBC telling us that these are the two institutions with this scandal? Why did the BBC focus on only these two institutions? In many high schools in England, teenagers are stabbing, has the BBC done undercover on them? Are there no issues of sexual harassment in other top universities? What sampling technique did the BBC used to undercover UNILEG and UG? Is the BBC being afro-Semitic? Is the BBC on agenda to discredit West African universities in order to popularize their own? Have we as a country and a continent realize the BBC’s bait.
The BBC has succeeded in criminalizing of one our own. Why did the BBC publish the letter they wrote to Prof. Gyampo without publishing Prof. Gyampo’s response letters? What does the BBC seeks to do with this publication? The BBC woefully failed in their modus oparandi. Beyond shame, how do we prosecute the three lecturers in the documentary? Why will the BBC captioned the documentary in such suspense filled title only for one to be disappointed with this nothingness content? It is a sad pity that Africa will always be the victim of circumstance in BBC’s reportage? When is the BBC going to carry a story to bring to light the beauty and achievements of Africa?
My utter sadism is also in the way and manner the Ghanaian media crucified Prof. Gyampo long before the documentary was aired. The Ghanaian media space has been usurped cheaply by this cheap afro-Semitic reportage by BBC. Will the British media fraternity give credence to such a shoddy undercover by a black media outlet on a British University? It saddens me because this documentary is outmoded at birth, it will add up to the already filled historical dustbins of shoddy, unmethodical journalistic investigations. This should be an eye opener for us all that none of us is safe. Who knows the undercover BBC is taking around us? We can vivisepulture Dr. Butakor and Prof. Gyampo today but the thousand dollar question we must not forget is, who is next on the BBC African witch-hunting radar? By this documentary, what signal is the BBC sending to the international community about UNILEG and UG? What image of these two great institutions will be imprinted in the minds of the international community? The earlier we realize the BBC’s motive, the better.
Shadrack Oteng (Poet)