Forex crisis: Nigerian students abroad return home in droves


…others opt for menial jobs to survive

Uba Group

Many Nigerian students in tertiary institutions abroad have been forced to return home due to the inability of their parents to procure foreign exchange to pay their school fees, our correspondent’s investigation has revealed.
Others who could not afford to travel back to Nigeria have picked up odd jobs in their host countries to enable them to eke out a living and survive.
Already, parents and students have decried the current situation.
Recounting his experience, a student of Segi University, Malaysia, Mr. Adewunmi Samuel told our correspondent about his colleagues’ ordeals in foreign lands due to the current financial crunch, which has made it impossible for them and their parents to procure funds to settle their tuition fees and other essentials.
Samuel said, “Before the forex problem, we paid about N400, 000 per annum but now, it has been increased to N600, 000, aside other bills you will be asked to pay. Some of my course mates lodged the complaints of their parents’ inability to source forex at very high exchange rates on the ‘parallel’ market because commercial banks charged black market rates when students made withdrawals with ATM cards.”
He also disclosed that many Nigerian students in Malaysia have been suspended by their institutions due to their inability to pay outstanding tuition fees.
“Some students are having problems with immigration and police authorities because they have not been able to renew their visas or expired passports, or meet accommodation and other daily financial obligations. Some said life has become unbearable,” he said.
Another Nigerian student at Al-Madinah International University, Selangor in Malaysia, Miss Edith Valentine said that no fewer than 200 Nigerian students at the institution once approached the Nigerian High Commission in the Asian to seek financial assistance to escape being deregistered.
Valentine said that the high commission merely wrote to the university, pleading that it should give the students more time to enable them to pay the outstanding fees.
Speaking in the same vein, a Nigerian student at the Islamic University, Uganda, Mr. Aliyu Abubakar Shehu, said that the administrative charges by commercial banks were prohibitive, adding that there were also very high charges attached to receiving funds through Western Union or MoneyGram.
The parent of a Nigerian student at the Abu Dhabi University in the United Arab Emirates, Alhaji Ahmed Rufai told The Point correspondent that he could no longer cope with the payment of the high tuition fee and might be compelled by the current situation to withdraw his son.back home.
According to Rufai, “I pay nothing less than N700, 000 yearly, but the current situation of the country is not encouraging. So, I need to send my son to Nigeria until we can afford to pay again. They can always continue from where they stopped when they return for their studies.”
Similarly, Nigerian students in China are not left out of the foreign exchange ordeal. They expressed their grief about the situation.
One of them, Mr. Sola Omoju studying at Xiamen University explained that many Nigerian students are contemplating searching for jobs to make ends meet – even though Chinese law does not allow us to work and they could be expelled from the country.
“Before Buhari halted Central Bank of Nigeria’s assistance to students abroad, devaluation of the Naira had negatively affected our living conditions. We used to pay 25,000 Yuan (N800,000), but now we pay 35,000 Yuan (N1,120,000),” he said.Experts evaluate the situation
Evaluating the presidential directive on forex, the CBN Director of Banking Supervision, Mrs. Tokunbo Martins said banks had resolved that most of the foreign exchange demands would be chanelled towards developing the real sector.
Martins said, “It is something that affects all of us and I think that the watchword is belt-tightening. It is the pain we may need to go through today, so that there will be long term development in the country. If you think about it, the pressure on forex now – from school fees abroad – is significant.”
She said that the dwindling foreign exchange earnings of the country was due to the slump in oil prices, adding that, “the worrisome part is the seeming disdain for student mobility in tertiary education, which is a global phenomenon which may be because of the neglect of our education sector.”
An economic analyst, Professor Femi Shaibu, argued that the apparent downgrading of overseas tuition fees on the scale of the country’s foreign exchange priorities “betrayed an embarrassing want of strategic common sense, especially when this is coming at time when the quality of tertiary education in the country is abysmally low.”
Another university don, Professor Olanrewaju David explained that by most rankings, no Nigerian university had been among the top 500 in the world.
“Even on the African continent, our universities rank rather poorly behind institutions in countries like South Africa, Ghana, Egypt and Kenya. And yet we are at a stage in the global scramble for strategic development when nations with the highest number and quality of tertiary educated manpower also hold the lead in the areas of development that truly makes nations great: cutting edge research in science, medicine, technology and engineering,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, an educationist, Mr. Oladele Joseph said, “What should not be lost on the authorities is that the Nigerian parents who make the sacrifice of sending their children abroad to acquire the best possible qualifications at personal expense are invariably contributing to placing our country at a competitive pedestal with other important nations.
“Therefore, for them to be penalised by a deliberate government policy that is treating overseas higher education as a luxury for foreign exchange allocation is a sad irony of the ‘change’ slogan of the current administration.”