Dying to Study Abroad

Ruqayyatu Rufai, minister of education
Ruqayyatu Rufai, minister of education

Uncertainty in universities’ academic calendars, poor state of Nigerian tertiary institutions and preference of employers of labour for foreign trained graduates propel many Nigerian youths to prefer studying abroad

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Aug. 26, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

MICHEAL Adepegba has always been an ambitious young man. Right from his undergraduate days at the Lagos State University, he has always shown interest in the academia and never hesitates to tell anyone about his lofty dreams which include becoming a professor before the age of forty.

To achieve this dream, Adepegba enrolled for a master’s degree in a Nigerian university as soon as he completed his national service in 2010. But after spending almost a year on the course, he abandoned the programme to begin a new one at a university in Ukraine.  Explaining the rationale behind his decision, Adepegba told Realnews that it would be “impossible” to achieve his dreams if he remained in Nigeria. “The system is frustrating and very slow. It is almost impossible to complete a master or PhD programme in a record time and that is why many of our scholars run abroad.”

In a similar tale, Onyekachi Egonwa, abandoned her studies at the University of Benin when she got an offer to study at a university in the United Kingdom. To her, the opportunity was a relief from the delays she had experienced due to incessant strikes embarked upon by lecturers in Nigerian universities. “I was very happy when the opportunity came. It was a big relief because I was tired of the strikes and other issues that delay people in Nigerian schools.”


Like Adepegba and Egonwa, there are many Nigerian scholars who have lost faith in the country’s educational system and are looking for ways to get out. The quest for foreign education has seen many Nigerians travelling to far flung countries such as Finland, Australia, Malaysia and India among others in search of university admission.

Moses Akide, a Lagos-based travel agent, said the desperation of many Nigerian youths to get foreign degrees has led them to countries that are smaller and far less developed than Nigeria. He attributed the desire for foreign education to the emphasis placed on certificate by the Nigerian society.

“I deal with lots of youths and I see how desperate they are when they come here. Many of them just want to get out of this country because they think it is better over there. There are lots of Nigerians studying in Cyprus and other smaller countries that are not even as good as Nigeria. We place too much emphasis on certificates in this country and that is why young people are desperate to go to anywhere in search of that certificate”.

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, governor, Central Bank  of Nigeria, recently declared that Nigerians spend over one billion dollars annually to acquire education in Ghana. Sanusi also disclosed that there are about 71,000 Nigerian students in Ghana, paying one billion dollars annually as tuition fees. He added that the amount generated by Ghanian institutions is more than the N121 billion of the annual budget of all federal universities in Nigeria.

As expected, Sanusi’s revelation generated reactions from the academic circle. Omololu Soyombo, dean, faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lagos, said Nigerian scholars are running to Ghana and other countries because the government has not shown enough commitment to education.

“It is unfortunate that the government is not doing enough to stop this capital flight. Ghana does not have more resources than Nigeria but their schools are better than ours because the government takes education as a serious business. “It is really disheartening to learn that such huge amount is leaking from Nigeria to Ghana while our system suffers back at home.”

Soyombo advised government and stakeholders in the education sectors to seek ways of developing Nigerian institutions in order to make them attractive to people. “This is a challenge for the government and stakeholders in education. We must seek ways of improving infrastructural development and research in our own institutions in order to stop our people from seeking education abroad.’’

Like Soyombo, Efe Odiri, a lecturer at the University of Benin, hinged the quest for foreign certificates amongst Nigerians on the government’s failure to develop institutions in the country. “People go abroad for different reasons but it is mainly because our institutions are not well funded. It will take you years to complete a PhD programme here but if you go abroad you can get it done in less than four years.

Efe added that because some employers prefer candidates trained in foreign institutions during interviews for job placements, many Nigerians now prefer to get foreign degrees. “Employers in this country are also not helping matters by showing preference for candidates with foreign degrees. That they were trained abroad doesn’t necessarily mean that they are better than Nigerian graduates”.

For the students, factors such as exposure to research, up to date facilities and a consistent academic calendar encourage them to seek admissions in foreign universities. Dora Ideh, a Nigerian studying at a university in South Africa, said she prefers to study abroad because the educational system over there is better organised. “Unlike Nigerian schools, you will do a lot of practical work and complete your programme at the right time.”

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