The crave for foreign studies by many Nigerian youths came to fore again on Monday at the Canadian Education Fair held in Lagos. It is an annual event and this year’s edition was the ninth in the series. Hundreds of youths who are either in schools or have graduated and now seeking further studies stormed the venue, where scores of Canadian higher institutions and their Nigerian affiliates showcased their trades. MOJEED ALABI reports:
Kelechi Andrew is a 30-year-old Higher Diploma Certificate (HND) holder, who graduated five years ago from the Benue State Polytechnic, Igbokolo. Since he completed the one year mandatory youth service programme efforts to secure a good job has yielded no meaningful result. And like his three other friends, he saw alternative in pursuing further studies abroad, and has kept surfing the internet, attending education fairs and meeting different education consultants in the last three years without success.
I am attending this Canadian Fair for the first time but I have attended the ones organised by other institutions like the British Council. I desire to go abroad because Nigerian certificates no longer have value. Apart from the fact that it is hard to gain admission to higher institutions of learning in Nigeria, the facilities are also not available and one is not even sure of when to graduate due to either industrial actions or frustration by lecturers, Kelechi said.
When asked what chances he thinks he may have out there, he responded that no matter how things may be difficult in Europe or America, it cannot be as bad as Nigeria because I am sure basic facilities are available there. Last year alone, Kelechi applied to two universities in the United States, one in Sweden, and another in Norway, but none yielded the desired result. While two schools from the list turned down his application, others granted him admission but he was denied visa to travel. Despite this, he is insisting that he has no better alternative than to go abroad where he also feels he has hope of surviving.
Kelechi’s high hope in foreign certificates is influenced by the success of one of his friends, who gained admission to a university in Sweden and has since been sending good signals of a prosperous future for him. Unlike Kelechi, Friday Pius, a banker, ought to have resumed at Stouffville College in Toronto, Canada, and commenced his lecture on Monday, January 23, but he received a shocker just last week Tuesday from the Canadian Embassy in Nigeria as his application for study permit was rejected on the condition that he did not convince the examiner in the embassy beyond reasonable doubt.
Visibly angry, Friday stormed this year’s fair to formally lodge his complaints to the embassy official and possibly meet the representatives of the Canadian school to help him appeal to the Canadian Embassy to grant him visa to travel. I fulfilled all the conditions; paid about N45, 000 for my admission application process and another N19, 500 for visa application but while the school offered me admission, the embassy denied me visa. Both the financial and academic requirements were met and I cannot understand why I should be denied. I need an explanation for this, furious Friday queried.
According to Friday, the N7 million to complete his certificate programme of the Association of Chattered Certified Accountants is available because he said his sponsor is averagely comfortable. Though some foreign study experts he approached are saying the visa refusal by the embassy may have been due to his inability to pay his tuition fee before applying for visa, the young man insisted such condition is not stated in the application guidelines and he is ready to fight it out with the embassy.
These are some of the numerous cases brought to this year’s Canadian Education Fair, which opened in Lagos on Monday. In fact, the scene was very rowdy as hundreds of Nigerians, including parents, students of grammar schools and degree holders crowded the hall of the exhibition to inquire about either their choices of schools or courses of studies.
Some were also there to know the requirements for admission and visa applications. Right at the venue, many had their application forms filled with documents attached. Speaking during the opening session, the Canadian High Commissioner in Nigeria, Christopher Cooter, gave the figure of Nigerians who secured visa to study in Canada during this 2012/2013 academic session alone as 1,300, which he said accounted for 50 per cent of the total opportunity given to Africa. Yet, he said, many were denied because the applications were too many in view of the limited spaces in the various colleges and universities in Canada because we cannot overstretch our facilities.
The pressure is not on Canada alone as several other countries including African nations such as Ghana, South Africa, Egypt and Botswana continue to receive thousands of Nigerians yearly to pursue one programme or the other. Even common IT centres in India are flooded by Nigerians, who on getting to India sometimes discover the error in their choices. According to the findings of the Central Bank of Nigeria, about 71,000 Nigerians are currently in Ghana pursuing various degree courses while another large chunk are reported to be in the Republic of South Africa, which lay claim to having the best universities in the continent.
Also at the Canadian Fair were st udents of Dowen College, Lekki, in Lagos, who had come to meet the representatives of Canadian institutions participating in this year’s fair. One of them, Miss Shubomi Ajibola, a Senior Secondary School II student, says considering the state of uncertainty in Nigerian higher institutions, she does not want to attend any higher institution in the country.
Not even the private ones because the problems are too many in Nigeria, Shubomi retorted. The mad rush for foreign certificates which has led to huge capital flight from Nigerian economy has been tied to the terrible state of the country’s educational system. Today marks the 54th day of the industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and there seems to be no end in sight as the union insists that its requests have not been adequately attended to. Dr. Anthony Adeola, Director of Studies, Global International College in Lagos, believes that the upsurge in the demand for foreign certificates is related to the collapse in the country’s education system. His school since 1999 has been preparing Nigerian students for Advanced Level General Certificate of Education popularly referred to as A-level and the degree foundation courses of various universities and colleges in the United Kingdom and Canada.
According to Adeola, write the last one to two years, hundreds of Nigerians have flown to either UK or Canada through his school, and I attributed the influx to the poor state of education in the country. Government institutions and officials too are also keeping our borders widely open for our young men and women to embark on a journey where they may never return to contribute to the development of the nation while they are still young and energetic.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye, who declared open the fair, said her ministry would always be open to assist the Canadian Government and her institutions to ferry away Nigerian youths who may seek to study abroad. Apart from crisis rocking the university system, experts also say Nigeria needs to invest in vocational education and that industrialists and owners of businesses would have to be involved in curriculum formulations for schools because the belief is that they know more as the real practical men who put to use the school graduates.
On his part, the Canadian Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Jean Gauthier, says for Nigeria to make appreciable in her educational advancement which he said would lead to economic growth, the country needs to invest in vocational education. Canada has a lot of institutions focused on various skills and we feel the multiplier effects of specialised trainings in other fields as well as economic growth and development.
So we encourage a country like Nigeria with abundant resources to emulate this and get her graduates meaningfully engaged, Gauthier advised. As the state of the nation’s education sector remains cloudy, foreign nations continue to reap the fruits of her excess human resources, who keep flying abroad in search of certificates.