Where Are Nigerians Going to Get Their Degrees?

This inquiry, as you would find by reading further, is pregnant.

On one hand, it asks a very serious question: When will the students caught in the entrapment that is Nigeria’s educational system get their degrees? In the environment of another indefinite strike, the weatherman’s current signal may not be forecasting an eclipse, but this cloud could take some time to disperse. And giving the environmental impact of staying away from school for a long time, from where will we say they have received their certification “in character and learning” when they come to the end of their academic journey in the Universities? From the streets or from the classrooms?

But that’s only one part, the second being more to the purpose of this article, though not completely away from the discussion of the effect of multiple strike actions in Nigeria.

Which countries are Nigerian students going to the most to obtain their degrees?

We have it on record from officials at the Houdegbe North American University that 90% of the students there are Nigerians. That school is not in the US or Canada or on any fancy North American Island – it is in Benin Republic, not very far from Mile 2 in Lagos. Nigerian students have ‘colonized’ a University in Benin Republic, because? That’s a different matter that will require serious investigation. From another report, Nigeria is expected to surpass India as the second highest source of international postgraduate students in the UK. Think about your friends on Facebook who are schooling in one school or another in the UK, or about to depart Lagos for Heathrow and you will agree this is almost a reality now.

To state the fact, no other Africa country sends as many students abroad to seek degrees as Nigeria does. According to the ICEF Monitor, Nigeria surpassed Morocco “somewhere between 2010 and 2012”. There were two strikes in 2009 and 2013 that lasted a total period of 12 calendar months. Parents and students probably used the ’09 episode to predict the future, leading to a mass exodus in the years that followed. But we digress, afterall there could be other reasons for seeking a foreign degree, including gaining a foreign accent.

The focus here is that, with 71,351 students leaving the country for degrees elsewhere between 2010 and 2014, Nigeria sends far more students abroad to study than any other country on the continent. Ghana, by contrast, sends 11,116 students. Balancing these figures by each country’s population reveals, rather interestingly, that both send out approximately the same 0.04% of their population abroad for studies. These data are according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), which also reports that Ghana is one of the top three destinations to which Nigerian students go, the others being the US and the UK. Nigerians are also the largest contingent of African students in the US, according to World Education Services (WES).

Data from the UIS does not speak to the other countries in which many Nigerian students are enrolled. If we can relate that it is common to find former classmates or persons we met at NYSC camp (designated as ‘foreign trained’) who came from far and wide, including Cyprus, Ukraine, Hungary and Korea, then we probably don’t need data to be convinced.

The UIS report has it that the outbound Nigerian students constitute a lowly 5.09% of the total number of students enrolled locally. What does this fraction represent? Are the members of this limited group, who will have experienced “best practices”, the only ones Nigeria can depend on to return and drive the nation forward? What can be said of the 94.91% that are periodically affected by strike actions and the distressing academic environment in the country?

We can conjecture on those while we seek out research to explain better. At least we have got an answer to the main inquiry posed by the headline, so that should the figures of outbound students increase, we will know where they are going to the most.

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