• Monday, May 27, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigerians studying in the US rise to a 6-year high

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Faced with incessant strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), poor funding of education and inadequately equipped schools, Nigerian youths are increasingly running to the United States to get education.
ASUU are currently on another of their annual strike actions aimed at forcing the government to increase funding for universities in the country. The Union embarked on an indefinite strike action since November 4 but more than a week after, the government is yet to call ASUU to the negotiating table. Students are already back home and praying that ASUU and the government start what has become a ‘strike, negotiation and suspension of strike’ annual ritual.
In between this ritual, students suffer and some are not able to even return to school due to one misfortune or the other. Four year programmes in many universities tend to drag on for five to six calendar years due to this annual ‘strike’ ritual.
But for a few privileged Nigerians that can afford it, the United States has become the preferred destination to get an education. The number of Nigerians studying in the United States rose last academic year has risen to a 6-year high in the 2017/2018 academic year.
Nigerians in American tertiary institutions rose 8.4 percent to 12,693 in the 2017/18 academic year from 11,710 in the 2016/17 year, according to the 2018 Open Doors report released on November 13, 2018. It is highest number of Nigerian students in the USA since the 2013 session, BusinessDay analysis of the figures have shown. Nigerian students studying in the US has increased steadily from 7,316 in the 2012/2013 academic year to the current level.

READ ALSO: Matters arising on ASUU strike

The increasing number of Nigerians in US universities is despite the fact that average tuition fees in the US for the 2017/2018 academic year is US$25,620 (N9.2 million) per annum according a report by US based student support organisation College Board. This means that the 12,693 student studying in the US are paying as much as US$325 million (N117 billion) per year as tuition fees. This is besides the feeding, accommodation and transportation costs.
Students in Nigerian public universities pay less than N500,000 per annum as tuition fees. Some education analysts say this explains the poor funding for education in the country and hence the exodus by those who can afford higher quality education outside the shores of the country.
Globally, Nigeria ranked 13th among the countries with the highest number of students in America, while China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada are the top five countries, according to the report.
ASUU claims its current strike is to protest against alleged federal government’s failure to honour a 2009 funding agreement with the union. Similar strikes by ASUU in the past disrupted the academic programmes of public universities and in some cases led to elongation of periods that students spend to complete courses.
“The constant emergence of strikes from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which makes Nigerian students spend longer than what is required to study, low funding of the universities makes them to be poorly equipped to give the kind of education that the modern digital economy requires,’’ Ayo Akinwunmi, Head of Research, FSDH Merchant Bank told BusinessDay by phone yesterday. He added that Nigerians are drawn to the USA by scholarship opportunities that are available for study there.
The desire by Nigerians to acquire the ‘‘qualitative knowledge’’ that is available outside the country is also another factor responsible for the rise, says Ernest Odior, who teaches economics at the University of Lagos.
‘’The quality of education offered there is better than the one that we have here,’’ Odior said by phone yesterday. ‘’We do not have the hardware, though we have the manpower. So people go to America to study because of the exposure to higher studies,’’ explained Odior, who said he did his PhD ‘‘partially’’ abroad.
Many Nigerians also prefer to study in the US because ‘’the American system is a bit faster than the Nigerian system,’’ says Odior, so they go there to complete their studies on time.
He also believes that many Nigerians flock to the US to study because there are job opportunities there. ‘‘Once they finish their studies there they have the opportunity to get jobs.”
This view is supported by Akinwunmi, who said that the poor quality of education in Nigeria could lead to brain drain. “We need policy reforms that will upgrade our educational system in Nigeria,’’ he said.
Johnson Chukwu, CEO, Cowry Asset Management Limited warns that preference for foreign schools by Nigerians will not be in Nigeria’s interest, given the cost implications.
“There will be a capital outflow from the local economy. When there is an outflow of students to any country, you will notice the burden on foreign exchange because we have to pay for those services with our foreign reserves,’’ he said.
The report by Open Doors also shows that in the sub-Saharan Africa region, Nigeria ranked as the number one source of African students studying in the U.S, followed by Kenya with 3,322. Ghana came in third with 3,213, Ethiopia fourth with 2,118, while South Africa had 2,040 students.
The report, prepared by the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the U.S Department of state’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), highlights the impact of international education on the U.S higher education sector. It also examined the numbers and profile of international students in the U.S in 2017/18 and of U.S students receiving academic credit for studying aboard in 2016/2017.

 

BUNMI BAILEY