When Brian Wilson, programmes director at British Council some years ago revealed that about 18,000 Nigerian students were pursuing various undergraduate and post-graduate courses in Britain, many expressed concerns. However, over the years, this figure has risen exponentially and what looked like a huge figure that year is now almost insignificant.
According to recent immigration data, the list of Nigerian students granted sponsored study visas by the United Kingdom increased by over eightfold in four years.
The data from the British government shows that the number rose from 6,798 in 2019 to 59,053 in 2022 which amounts to a 768.7 percent difference.
“Of the top five nationalities granted sponsored study visas, Bangladeshi nationals saw the largest percentage increase in grants, increasing from 1,745 to 15,277, closely followed by Nigerian nationals whose number increased from 6,798 to 59, 053,” the British government said on its website recently.
Similarly, Lamido Sanusi, the former emir of Kano in 2019 at a public lecture stated that although there are no comprehensive data on the number of Nigerian students abroad, reports show that there are about 71,000 Nigerian students in Ghana paying about US$ 1 billion annually as tuition fees and their upkeeps, as against the annual budget of US$751million for all Nigerian federal universities.
Like a leaking roof, the adverse effects of foreign education tourism are gradually eating deep into the Nigerian economy and the purses of its citizenry
The speed at which Nigerian students migrate abroad in pursuit of foreign education has continually been on an exponential rise.
Each year, there is a significant rise in the number of students moving abroad for education despite the huge costs of financing such moves.
The United Kingdom is the number one destination for Nigerian students to study abroad. In 2022, the number of Nigerian students who received a UK student visa was 65,929; 8 times more than the 17,973 in 2019, which is an increase of 686 percent.
Iain Steward, member of the British Parliament, had in 2016 postulated that about 30,000 Nigerian students would be studying in UK universities by 2020.
Ghana is another major country where Nigerian students go for foreign education. In 2022, over 78,000 Nigerian students were in universities across Ghana compared to 13,919 according to a UNESCO report in 2016, a whopping 560.38 percent.
The United States of America, with its very good schools offering quality education and tons of extra-curricular activities, is a toast among Nigerian students.
According to the data, 14,438 Nigerians enrolled for education in the US in 2022 as against 12,860 recorded in 2021. The number of Nigerian students enrolled in US tertiary institutions increased by 12.3 percent in the 2021/2022 academic year when compared to the previous 2020/2021 session.
In Malaysia, there are lots of Nigerians pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Reports have it that there are over 13000 Nigerian students in Malaysian universities.
Canadian universities and colleges are recognised for high standards for education, variety of programmes and friendliness to international students.
Nigerian students are heading to Canada in record numbers despite Nigeria’s economic downturn, according to new data from the Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
According to the IRCC data, the number of new study permits for Nigeria increased by 30.3 percent to 13,745 from 10,550 in 2020, making it the ninth most popular source country for international students. This is the highest in 22 years.
The United Arab Emirates has more than 1,755 Nigerian students studying over there while Hungary, which according to a UNESCO survey is gradually becoming a destination country for foreign education, has over 700 Nigerian students studying there.
Like a leaking roof, the adverse effects of foreign education tourism are gradually eating deep into the Nigerian economy and the purses of its citizenry in the last couple of years.
Education tourism is the pursuit of knowledge, in one form or another, by a national in another country. It involves the collection of knowledge, both varied and specialised.
A quick arithmetic of the school fees spent by Nigerians abroad reveals the diverse effects of the cash outflows out of the Nigerian economy. If a Nigerian student spends about £30,000 studying in Britain, that makes it about N24 million.
Then 18,000 students spend about N432 billion for their studies in that country. But sadly, this figure does not include money spent on training countless Nigerian children enrolled in secondary schools in Britain.
Most of the Nigerian students studying abroad according to DreamApply.com have their study areas majorly in Engineering, Management, Public Administration, Economics, Computer Science, International Relations, Business, Agriculture, Environment and Medicine.
Many experts and parents indicated that the shabby state of the Nigerian education system is basically fuelling the education tourism pursuits of Nigerians, especially as it concerns tertiary education. The learning environment is poor in Nigeria. Nigerian institutions lack the capability to compete with top institutions around the world in terms of standard and quality.
This is simply because institutions in Nigeria are poorly funded and therefore cannot meet up with the demands of the increasing student population.
Besides, lack of conducive and quality learning environments, deplorable state of infrastructures, lack of qualified lecturers, corruption, poor social welfare packages for students, etc; are some of the many problems that have contributed to Nigerian students migrating abroad for tertiary education.
Most of the people, who leave the shores of Nigeria for studies abroad, do so simply because they could not get the right environment for studying in their country. The Nigerian education system is not friendly at all.
“In United States Of America, the education system is so flexible and well-structured that one could be a student and at the time be working. Some schools are so structured that a student has five hours for lectures and five hours for his work.
There are no idle moments there; as a student who is up 18years, you are expected to work and earn a living even while you are in school,” an expert pointed out.
Friday Erhaboh, director of media and strategy at Marklenez Limited believes the effect of education tourism on the Nigerian economy is a two-sided coin.
Nigerian students migrating to foreign countries for their undergraduate and postgraduate studies will negatively weaken the country’s currency via exchange rate but ultimately bring about human development to the country as Nigerian citizens are exposed to higher levels of human capital development.
“As more Nigerians move to study abroad, it weakens the country’s currency,” he said.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data witnessed an increase in the labour force as well as an increase in the number of unemployed people in Nigeria.
The statistic puts the number of the labour force at over 66.8 million people in 2022 while the number of unemployed people stood at 22.45 million. This posts a bad and scary precedence for students in Nigeria and the country as a whole.
This is another reason why Nigerian students who have the means to study abroad gladly take the opportunity rather than study in Nigeria where the chances of securing good jobs after graduation is relatively low.
“As many Nigerians study abroad, there is the tendency that they will get jobs after school which gives rise to repatriated funds to the country”, Eraboh said.
On its effect on Nigerian tertiary education development, Erhaboh opined that it does not paint a good picture of the country’s education system
“When a lot of citizens are leaving the education system in their country to study abroad, it suggests that the system has collapsed. Hence it weakens the confidence outsiders have on your education development.
And that is the major reason Nigerians are mandated to sit for other examinations when applying for a place in foreign institutions, because they do not have confidence in the certificates they obtained here,” he noted.
Like it is said, ‘it all begins in the heart’, looking at the way forward, some Nigerians believe the first approach to arresting this ugly trend is to have a paradigm shift towards our educational system. We should begin to think outside the box to find solutions to this biting problem.
An expert believes that we should not even think of stopping our students from traveling abroad for further studies because that will amount to reducing the scope of learning amongst our citizens.
Rather she advised that the authorities in charge should go out there, learn what these advanced countries are doing to promote their education system and come back and develop our system.
“The education managers should work on the education system and make it attractive,” she said.
Furthermore, she said; “A major way to get this done is through partnership programmes. Education exchange programmes with some of these advanced countries should be largely incorporated into the Nigerian education system.”