When Manuella Ineza (not real name) joined her first year of education at the University of Rwanda, she thought she had an opportunity to chase her degree ahead of the world of work that would come after.
She knew this would not come on a silver platter so the only way to get where she wanted to be was to work hard in class and do better in exams.
There was no other avenue for this, or so she thought.
However, this was not to be the case, as she later found out.
“I would study hard as a first-year student but every time we did exams and results came out, to my shock, I would get totally different results from what I expected to have worked for,” she narrates.
Ineza, now a third-year student, adds that she eventually found out when a lecturer approached her to ask why she wasn’t performing better, despite the efforts.
The 24-year-old claims the lecturer kept hitting on her, although she always made it clear that she was not interested in any relationship beyond one of a teacher and student.
“One day, this lecturer invited me to visit him at his house with promises that he would guide me on how to perform better in class. I became suspicious because of his previous advances, so I declined,” she recounted.
“When I turned down the invite, he never spoke to me again,” she says, adding that everything turned for the worst for the rest of the year.
She says she struggled throughout the whole year of school until she was fortunate enough to go to the second year and never came into contact with this lecturer.
The young lady, however, highlights that a number of girl students in college have undergone or still undergo similar experiences of their lecturers seeking sexual favours in exchange of marks.
Things are not helped, she adds, when there is no clear system on how such cases are reported and the societal dogmas associated with it.
“It is hard to report such cases because you risk stigma among fellow students and at the same time, it is difficult to conjure evidence that is prosecutable.”
Different students who spoke to The New Times said they have heard similar cases from fellow students but that it was hard to prove the evidence in that case.
An extraordinary senate meeting at the country’s biggest university – University of Rwanda (UR), on Wednesday, raised a red flag against corruption in education, saying some of its lecturers were seeking sexual favours from students in exchange of better grades.
A subsequent statement said some of the lecturers were collaborating with “students who are academically corrupt in terms of marks.”
“Some lecturers ask money for marks from some students, as well asking ‘sex for marks’ from girls,” reads the statement that was signed by the vice president of the students’ guild.
The meeting was held at the university’s headquarters at the Gikondo Campus, bringing together the students’ representatives and the leadership of the university.
This followed an arrest of the head of the Anaesthesia Department at the university’s College of Medicine and Health Sciences over soliciting money in exchange for marks from students.
The arrest was announced by Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) on its Twitter handle, saying the investigations were still ongoing.
Mike Karangwa, the Spokesperson of the university, told The New Times on Wednesday that the case prompted the extraordinary meeting of the senate to raise caution against further incidences in the future.
“The University convened the meeting to discuss and take fresh measures to combat further incidences of corruption in the future. The University of Rwanda leadership takes serious such allegations and we have taken a firm stance of zero tolerance to corruption and this is why the meeting was important,” he said.
Karangwa added that it was not the first time staff at the academic institution was caught in a similar incidence.
Last year, he said, the University reported a similar corruption case.
“The culprit was dismissed from the University of Rwanda and is serving a prison sentence,” he noted.
Students say that academic corruption has a corrosive effect on education, as it lowers the quality and academic institutes end up producing unproductive and less competitive students on the labour market.
Vincent Manirakiza, a student at UR thinks academic corruption at the school happens at a significant level and this poses risk on classroom performance and overall output if unchecked.
“Through interactions with fellow students, it is easier to tell that these are not new issues. The question is how to bring forward the evidence,” he said, expressing optimism, now that the school leadership had come out to publicly condemn the act.
Gérard Ndemezo, the Vice Guild President of UR believes that there was a strong need to respond to corruption in education, saying if nothing is done it would derail education and universities risk becoming places for idle masses.