A Nigerian student who was withdrawn from enrollment by Swansea University and forced to hold off his degree course for 6 months after paying fees hours late has received an apology from the institution and an offer of compensation.
Emmanuel Okohoboh, a 26-year-old master’s student in Business Management was taken off his course in August last year risking deportation as his academic withdrawal halted his student visa benefits.
Despite informing the university of the difficulties in payment because of economic issues in Nigeria at the time, following the country’s replacement of its high-denomination currency notes, the university held on to the money and maintained its decision was in line with its requirements under its UKVI sponsor licence.
Okohoboh who said he had to sell two parcels of his land in Nigeria to raise the £4000 fee (₦3.8 million at the time) was disappointed about the situation. He said it was an “unfair” decision. But he is happy to be back to school to continue his studies regardless.
“I was honestly not happy about it,” Okohoboh told Wales media. “I’m grateful the university did their own internal investigation and found that the fault was not on my part, it was beyond my control and that there was nothing I could do about it,” he said.
Okohoboh is back to school but with some emotional scars as the 6-month hiatus is accompanied by worries and concern for him and his family back home.
“It was so depressing. I had a mental breakdown and I collapsed in my apartment due to the stress. I had to go to the hospital because of that,” he said. “Coming from Nigeria, spending so much money to come here, it wasn’t easy. Back home our families were terrified, they were scared thinking we had wasted everything, the effort, the money, the time.”
However, he was poised not to let the issue throw him off his goals.
“I was motivated by my passion and drive for studying and I was never going to give up and for the six months I continued to study online courses…I always made sure there was a light at the end of the tunnel and I kept on pushing my career.”
Monetary compensation of £1000 from Swansea University was offered to Okohoboh for his troubles. Some people who supported him through his depressive period, however, were not pleased.
“A thousand pounds for someone who was severely depressed, who had to rely on food banks for six months, who is in arrears to his landlord is not enough,” said Alfred Oyekoya, director of Bame Mental Health Support, a charity helping people like Emmanuel who were wrongfully removed from their studies.
“What the university could have done is recognised his deposit as his full tuition payment, as he has had to start borrowing money again to pay his school fees. A thousand pounds compensation is not a true reflection on what should have been given to Emmanuel,” he said.
Okohoboh was one of the three students reported to have been removed from the enrollment list at Swansea University, in the UK by BusinessDay in August last year. The two others, Omolade Olaitan and Paulette Ojogun were also withdrawn for late payment of fees.
“I am happy that I am here, I am happy that I am studying, so why would you take that away from me because my school fees came in late? I’ve explained everything to them, I sent emails, and they still would not give me a listening ear,” Ojogun had said.
Oyekoya and Okohoboh are determined to help. Oyekoya, through his organization, says he is trying his best to appeal to the University for a reinstatement of their study.
“It worries me, I can only appeal to the university because it is within their control to look at these cases afresh and give them the chance of enrolling. The university needs to give them the benefit of the doubt because they only paid their tuition fee a few days late,” he said, emphasizing the need for the university to recognize their efforts to gather the funds despite the money problem back home.
“We must put this into context, they are not asylum seekers or refugees, they are individuals who have paid thousands of pounds to come to Wales to study…Just like they have done for Emmanuel, please do the same for the other students and we can all celebrate together and allow these students to achieve their objectives.”
Okohobor on his part expressed displeasure at the situation appealing for an acceleration of the call-back so his colleagues can catch up on progress lost.
“Finally, I am here now and I am grateful for that but I am not happy that my friends are still left out. The university needs to look at their cases individually and give them what they deserve, give them what they want, which is to study.”