• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Nigerian students study abroad to have best shot at global opportunities

Nigerian students study abroad to have best shot at global opportunities

It is probably no longer news that Nigerians who can afford it are leaving the country in flocks, protesting against what teachers, parents, and educationists have referred to as the deteriorating state of Nigeria’s education system.

The labour market has become both global and borderless; this means a student studying computer programming (coding) in Nigeria competes not only for jobs in Nigeria but also for those that may be found in India or Australia. To compete favourable, this student needs the requisite skills.

Nigeria’s education system has been failing to prepare these students for such a world and many Nigeria’s a seeking to study abroad to a have a better chance at competing favourably in this global, borderless labour market.

Nigerians studying in tertiary institutions in the USA rose by 5.8 percent to 13,423 in the 2018/19 academic year from 12,693 in the 2017/18 academic year, according to the latest Open Doors report by the Washington-based Institute of International Education (IIE).

Students from Nigeria study primarily at the undergraduate level: 50.80 percent undergraduate; 35.60 percent graduate; 11.50 percent, Optional Practical Training; and 2 percent non-degree programmes or short-term studies.

“The education sector is facing the problem of incompetent teachers and unserious students. It is also facing the problem of dilapidated infrastructure,” Peter Okebukola, former executive secretary, National Universities Commission, said.

However, some of the concerns that have been raised by experts in education and keen observers of this trend is that Nigeria loses its youth and workforce to host countries because many of these students do not return and the second generation borne of those who do not return have a tendency of not remitting part of their earnings home, since they have no strong family ties in Nigeria. It also leads to disconnect among family members.

A report released by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a professional consulting firm, titled ‘Strength from Abroad: The Economic Power of Nigeria’s diaspora’ revealed that migrants remittances were 77.2 percent  of the federal government budget in 2018 and more than 10 times the foreign direct investment (FDI) flows in the same period.

The report estimates that migrant remittances to Nigeria could grow to $25.5bn, $29.8bn and $34.8bn in 2019, 2021 and 2023 respectively.

Read also: Money, trolls, timewasting: the impact of social media on work

Some of the benefits from the rising number of Nigerians in the United Kingdom and the United States of America are a growing market for export of Nigerian culture and food and a support system for new arrivals.

Recent trends of immigration to the USA from Nigeria was driven by family reunification. Family reunification refers to the ability of US Citizens to sponsor family members for immigration. Sponsoring family members and other family preferences led to 45 percent and 10 percent of all African immigration in 2016 respectively.

Interestingly, the top five institutions that have received the most Nigerian students are all located in the state of Texas: Houston Community College, the University of Houston, the University of North Texas, Texas Southern University, and the University of Texas at Arlington.

Of the ten countries with the most students in the U.K. Nigeria ranked sixth. The other five countries are China, Malaysia, USA, India, and Hong Kong. In 2015/16 there were 16, 100 Nigerian students in UK universities. This fell by 27.12 percent in the academic session of 2016/17 to 12, 665.

Since the 1960s there has been a sizeable Nigerian expatriate community in the UK. Prior to independence (1960), many students would go to the UK for university then return to Nigeria after graduation. Civil and political unrest in the ’60s led to a large number of refugees and skilled workers immigrating.

Then there was another spike in 1980s after the collapse of the petroleum boom. This was followed by a peak in refugee applications in the mid-1990s due to the dictatorship of Sani Abacha. Even with all of the social unrest and economic draw, the Nigerian-born population of the UK in 2001 was a little over 88,000.

In 2011, the Nigerian-born population was 200,000 and 88,000 migrated in a 40 year period, over 125 percent of that number migrated in the following 10 years.

Nigerian pupils are some of the best-performing students, with those earning five General Certificate of Secondary Education at a rate of over 20 percentage points higher than the average for England. Nigerians, as a group, are net contributors to the nation. But, the actions of the government from 1997 to 2010, which quadrupled net immigration, explain why the number is high enough for some keen observers to ask how many of them to come back to Nigeria?

“I think the numbers of those who come back are more than those who stay in the Diaspora. We were about 95 Nigerians at the University College London at some point and about 80 percent of us are back to Nigeria,” Majiri Otobo, CEO KuiCare said on a phone interview.

“The truth is, when you are in the UK you are not British, except you have a passport, and there is a ceiling to how much you can achieve. You literally live from hand to mouth; taxes will almost take away everything. Yes, there are more opportunities to make it big in Nigeria, but the reality is that the environment is so tough that you sometimes regret coming back,” Otobo said.

In the USA 4 percent of Nigerians hold the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) compared to 1 percent of the general US population, according to the United States’ Census Bureau. Similarly, 17 percent of Nigerians hold the Master degree and 37 percent have the Bachelor’s degree. In the 1960s and 1970s after the Biafra War, Nigeria’s government-funded scholarships for Nigerian students, and many of them were admitted to American universities. During the mid to late 1980s, a larger wave of Nigerians immigrated to the US. This was driven by political and economic problems exacerbated by military regimes of self-styled generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha.

Since the advent of multi-party democracy in May 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former head of state made numerous appeals, especially to young Nigerian professionals in the United States, to return to Nigeria and help in its rebuilding effort.

The 2016 American Community Survey estimates that 380, 785 US residents report Nigerian ancestry. The 2012 – 2016 ACS estimates 277, 027 American residents were born in Nigeria. It also estimates that top five states with the highest Nigerian-born population are Texas, 60, 173; Maryland 31, 263; New York, 29, 619; California 23, 302 and Georgia, 19, 182.