Canada luring Nigerian students

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Recently, it was revealed that Nigerian students boost the United Kingdom’s GDP to the tune of N246 billion. With regard to the United States, many Nigerian students are apparently paying an average of $21,000 per year on tuition. Because of the high regard Nigerians place on education, Nigerian students can be found in every corner of the globe studying far away from home. Educational fairs with institutions of learning from across the African continent, and indeed the world, are very commonplace, and lucrative money makers, in Nigeria.

Being that the suicide bomb attempt by Abdulmutallab, has somewhat frozen Nigeria-U.S. relations, making it harder for Nigerians to get education visas to the US and other countries, Canada has announced that it is seeking Nigerian students. The Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Denis Kingsley, assured that Canada would provide scholarship opportunities for Nigerian citizens accepted to Canadian schools. Speaking at the 7th Canadian Educational Fair which was held in Lagos and Abuja, the High Commissioner explained that new visa rules now allow Nigerian students to work 20 hours a week, while studying, so they can make ends meet. According to Kingsley,

We help the Nigerian community, but also transfer the knowledge and the capacity that we have. Education is a gift that you can afford to give your children and also get one for yourself. I think that what happens in going to Canada to get your education is that the institutions are renowned, it is a safe country, the training is an experience and adventure, it fosters relationship.”


While one must respect the spin with which Kingsley spoke of the benefits of Nigerians and Canadians working together on education, it must be made clear that this ‘relationship’ is not altruistic and boils down to dollars and cents (in this case Canadian). Nigerian students are a potential market for Canadian institutions as has been proven by the money they pump into the United Kingdom. Furthermore, it is well known that Canada has for years sought to increase its population via favorable immigration laws. This push for Nigerian students would benefit Canada in that many of those students will likely remain in Canada, using their skills to improve that country.

Nevertheless, considering the current state of Nigerian education, it only makes sense that countries like Canada would push to get Nigerian students. Education, like anything else, bows to the laws of demand and supply. Nigeria is a country in which people are of little worth unless they have attained not just a college degree but additional degrees that look like an alphabet soup at the end of their name. It is for this reason that the most educated group of immigrants in the United States are not Indians, but Nigerians. Hence, if the Nigerian government and private institutions cannot satisfy the high demand for quality education, it is only reasonable that someone else, in this case, the Canadian government, will attempt to do so.

Although Nigeria apportioned N210bn for the education sector in 2008 and N249bn for the sector in 2009, the fact that tens of thousands of Nigerians can be found in England or the U.S. seeking an education indicates that the budgetary monies for education in Nigeria need to be tripled, if not more. The federal government cannot ignore the statistics showing that 23mn of the nation’s youth are unemployable, nor that unemployment stands at 28.57%. The increased and effective spending of money on education will improve Nigeria’s labor force and in turn spurn even more entrepreneurs who are positioned to transform the nation’s economy. This will not happen if other issues are not addressed, primarily the lack of electricity and continued corruption that impedes progress. The Nigerian government cannot continue to rely on the hope that Nigerian expatriates will come home when called upon to do so or if forced to by the global economy. As such, it is a better tactic to train Nigerians who are in Nigeria so that the nation has a capable workforce already within the country. And, this way, these individuals will not be pushed to the side by foreigners specifically imported to handle local jobs.

As Nigerian families continue to seek ways to get the children educated, countries like Canada will continue to fill the educational void created by Nigeria’s struggling educational sector. The possible consequences of this might not manifest for many years, but what is clear is that today, not tomorrow, Nigerian students need access to a quality education. And, they should not have to leave Nigeria to get it.

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