When the phrase ‘studying abroad' is mentioned in Nigeria, what readily comes to mind is an educational system that is superior to what can be obtained within the country better opportunities, better recognition and fufilling life for the lucky recipient.Nigeria's educational sector is currently fraught with underfunding, decadence, strikes, etc, resulting in overall fall in standards. Little wonder the prospect of studying in foreign countries in Europe, America, Asia or even neighbouring Ghana is so appealing to Nigerian students at all levels.
The appeal is so widespread that the business of helping Nigerians gain admission in foreign educational institutions is gaining more ground and has become one of the most lucrative businesses in recent years. Using catchy phrases and promises of a better education abroad, they lure their already willing customers into their net.In Nigeria, they operate in two major forms: as educational consultants or as A level/Sixth form colleges. The educational consultants mainly provide advice and support to people wishing to study abroad and help with their travel and visa applications. Some of them are affiliated to universities and colleges abroad and as such help students out with the specific requirements needed to study at these schools.
The A-level/Sixth form colleges, though expensive, are more credible and have recorded more success in placing Nigerians in universities in Europe. They provide one or two years A-level training based on the British curriculum, after which a successful candidate is granted direct admission into a United Kingdom (UK) university or the particular one to which the school is affiliated. Some also offer Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and other examinations for entrance into universities in the USA. The course is for students who have completed their O' levels with credits in the necessary subjects.
Allure of foreign schools
Michael Dosunmu, the country representative of the University of Hertfordshire in Nigeria has been in the business of helping Nigerians gain admission into universities in the UK for the past seven years. In partnership with the University of Hertfordshire, he recently set up Westerfield College to teach a one-year International Foundation course after which successful students would be admitted into the university.According to Mr Dosunmu, the students are exposed to the same kind of teaching methods their peers in the UK receive.Our curriculum is the same as what is developed in the UK, he said.We want to develop students that are comparable with their peers in the UK so that when they get there, there would be no disparity between themselves and their peers.
Fees only for the rich
The school fees for a year at this college is N990,000, one of the cheapest among some of the international foundation colleges surveyed in Lagos. Greensprings Schools offers Sixth Form courses at N775,000 per annum, Sunshine Academy, Ikeja, offers the same course at N1,200,000 per annum and Sinclair College, Ogudu, offers the International Foundation course at N1,350,000 per annum.Aaron Gbolahan, the proprietor of Sinclair College agrees that the cost of quality education is high and inaccessible to a larger percentage of Nigerians but blames it on the government.Quality education is expensive whether in Nigeria or abroad, he said.If you want the best of university education these days in Nigeria, you have to be thinking about private universities and they are also expensive. The major thing is that the government who is responsible for funding education is doing so inadequately and the little money that is allocated is shared between a few greedy people.
Model Tutorial College, Victoria Island offers an A'level course for admission into universities in the United Kingdom for N1,100,000.According to the Principal Tutor, Jason Mayo, the college is affiliated to some of the major universities in the UK, such as the University of Nottingham and York St. John University.Also Principal of Westmore College, Victoria Island, noted that the increasing number of students wanting to study abroad has created room for more dubious institutions that take advantage of the ignorance of Nigerians. His college, he says, offers A level courses and conducts SAT and TOEFL examinations for entrance into Universities in USA at a fee of between N800,000 to N1,000,000.While he admitted that Westmore College is not affiliated to any foreign university, he maintained that it is not difficult to gain admission into any of them if one meets the basic academic and financial requirements needed to study at any of these foreign institutions.
Avoiding being deceived
But apart from cost, another problem Nigerians are faced with is the legitimacy of these institutions that promise foreign education. Several questions have to be on the lips of anyone who walks in through their doors with the aim of studying abroad. Are they certified and licensed within the country to do what they are doing? Do they have proof of affiliation to the foreign universities they claim to be affiliated to available on request? Have they successfully placed Nigerians in foreign universities and can their contacts be made available?The hopes of many have been dashed and money lost in the pursuit of their educational dreams. Victor Odeyemi, a graduate of Business Administration at the University of Benin said he lost over N300,000 to people who portrayed themselves as educational consultants last year in his pursuit for a Masters Degree in the UK. His experience has led him to apply for admission and visa himself and he is already making considerable progress.
For Ben Umukuro, Managing Director of Live and Work in Canada (LWC), Lagos Island, it is better for accredited agencies to help in securing admission and work permit in foreign countries. According to him, the high percentage of Nigerians wanting to leave the country makes it necessary for the receiving countries to properly screen their immigrants, which is better achieved with the help of such agencies.The population of Nigerians wishing to live, study or work abroad is so high that it is better for accredited agencies to help people out because the entry requirements into such countries like Canada, UK, USA and even Japan or Singapore is getting stricter and stricter everyday, especially for Nigerians,Mr Umukoro said.
Why international education?
But it all comes down to its importance. Is an international education really that important that so many people scramble for it? Mr Dosunmu who has had a taste of both Nigerian and British education explained.You need to be a Nigerian citizen with pride and a world citizen in terms of the knowledge you can impact on the world. It increases your ability to succeed if you are able to get a higher education and get an international education,he said.