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General News of Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Source: Nigerian Tribune

Studying in Ghana: How Nigeria "loses" billion dollars every year

In search of the almighty tertiary institution certificates, admission-seeking Nigerians storm Ghanaian schools and in the process invest over a billion dollars in the Ghanaian economy. Ajayi Oluwapelumi reports.

NOT much was known of the numerous Nigerian youths schooling in the Republic of Ghana, and the huge sum of money being invested in the Ghanaian education system in form of school fees paid annually by Nigerian students until Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, gave the intimidating figures in 2011 revealing that over 71,000 Nigerian youths were schooling in Ghanaian higher institutions.

The reason, which is unconnected to the consistent industrial action by lecturers; the corruption-soaked process of gaining admission, lack of a structural education system, in-conducive environment and insecurity; which is quite the opposite of what Ghanaian education system offers; a development which has resulted in droves of Nigerian youths moving to Ghana to seek admission in whatever school they find it in all the 10 regions that make up Ghana. Thus, Nigerian students in Ghana are spending over one billion dollars annually as school fees.

And because of this, admission into various higher institutions in Ghana, most especially, private ones, is always easy to get; with flexible system designed to suit foreigners and locals.

Complementing the edge they have over Nigerian higher institutions is the constant electricity and peaceful atmosphere, among other basic amenities which often suit the desire of an average Nigerian.

Aside from the $1billion investment of Nigerian students on education in Ghana, another value Nigerians schooling in Ghana are adding to Ghana is the boost of Ghanaian real estate and medium scale businesses.

House rent has continued to skyrocket as a result of high demands for accommodation by students who are ready to pay any amount to get a descent place to lay their heads, a development which estate agents are already busy exploiting, while landlords who have tasted how profitable it is to rent out their apartments to Nigerians have started building new ones in order to accommodate more Nigerians and other foreigners who still crave for a shelter despite the cut throat rate.

This artificial rent hike has also caused groaning among majority of Ghanaians who claim that the properties were not of much value before Nigerian students flooded every part of Ghana.

According to Constance Dickson, who spoke with the Nigerian Tribune, “house rent in certain places, for example Koforidua and Accra, was not this expensive before, but the high inflow of foreigners, most especially Nigerian students, has stepped up demand for accommodation, which, according to the principle of Economics, automatically leads to high rate.

And the disadvantage of this development is that many poor Ghanaians now have to pay through their noses to either keep their rented apartments or secure new ones.''

The decision of some landlords who demand that house rents are paid in US dollars majorly in highbrow cities like Accra, Tema, Kumasi and other regions where universities are situated has also heightened the stress in successfully securing a comfortable apartment.

One would wonder if Nigerians seeking admission in Ghanaian higher institutions never get bothered by these challenges of paying hard currency as directed by some schools and landlords; the struggle of securing an apartment and coping with all kinds of discrimination due to the dented image of the country.

But all these seem to be the least of their problems as far as they secure admission in the school of their choice.

According to Olatubosun Ademuyiwa, a Nigerian student of the All Nations University, “We see ourselves as a people who can survive against all odds as long as we get the best education we came here for, which guarantees us hope for a brighter future, instead of being victims of strike every semester.”

Nigerian Tribune investigation reveals that many Nigerians schooling in Ghana see the country's education system as a rescue option from many months of strike and complicated admission process into university, compared to Ghanaian universities which don't require candidates to pass UTME to gain admission.

The population of Nigerian students in Ghana has also been responsible for the creation of a sister body of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Ghana chapter, presided over by the founding president, Micheal Opeyemi Ige, a student of University of Winneba, Ghana. He also doubles as Nigerian Youth Ambassador for Peace and Security Council, Modern African Union Summit and the winner, of the Outstanding Student Award recently organised by the Nigeria High Commission.

Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune on how NANS Ghana came into existence, he said, “the campaign for the establishment of a student association, different from the already existing International Students Association, started in 2009 with the objective of creating a platform that would not only connect all Nigerian students, but also protect the interest of thousands of Nigerians spread across Ghanaian higher institutions; projecting the good image of Nigeria and to maintain a cordial relationship with the National Union of Ghana Students.

“We came up with the interim National Executive Council and Senate in June 2010, where I was appointed as the interim president, while the Senate comprises of NANS presidents in all schools.

“In 2011, we had our first general election which was witnessed by the representatives from Nigerian High Commission and the media. I contested and became the first elected president of NANS Ghana on 12th March 2011.''

Micheal Opeyemi, while relaying some of the challenges Nigerian students encounter in Ghana, expressed his concern for the exorbitant school fees charged foreigners; mind blowing accommodation charges and discrimination, but concluded that they were part of the sacrifices Nigerian students had to make in order to pass through a well structured and flexible educational system.

In his words, “it's quite challenging schooling in Ghana, because we pay as foreign students, which also mean some of the schools, which are majorly private universities, often require that we pay in hard currency and of course, much more than what our Ghanaian counterparts pay.

“Moreover, we also pay huge amount of money for accommodation. Sometimes, we are required to pay two years in advance. But we still intend to adapt in order to enjoy the value of what Ghanaian educational system offers and her peaceful and conducive environment of learning.

“For example, in terms of flexibility; there are schools that could wave a year for you, as far as you can prove that you are above 25 years old, with good grades though. This means, you automatically start from 200level.

“Another interesting thing about Ghanaian education system is you can sign up for summer school, a system which keeps you in school to continue your studies while others choose to go on break; if this process is taken, the student could spend two years and some months for a four-year course.

“And to complement the dynamic educational system is the ambience of peace, security, constant electricity and pipe-borne water; which makes life more comfortable and the atmosphere more suitable to learn. Even though the living standard is high, which eats more into the pockets of the students.''

Opeyemi, speaking on the achievements of NANS so far, said, “the name 'NANS' is our first achievement, because without the name, it would have been difficult for us to face many challenges that have surfaced in the process of promoting the good image of Nigeria; standing in the gap for students who get involved in trouble.

“NANS Ghana has also been registered with the Ghana Director General Office, and we have a certificate to function as a non-governmental organisation. We also do orientation for new students about their new environment, while we also use platforms provided by the Ghana-Nigeria media organisations to re-orientate Ghanaians about their wrong perspective that Nigerians are arrogant, fraudulent and violent.

“We also try as much as possible to encourage Nigerians coming to school in Ghana to make sure that their first port of call should be the Nigerian High Commission, where they will be registered and given a consular card, which is quite important in helping such a student, anytime they get into trouble or when their international passports get missing.

“We have also been able to establish a relationship with the Nigerian High Commission, which is our supervisory body.

“Another achievement we can proudly point at was the Nigeria independent celebration in Ghana which took place here on the 29th of September, which we held in collaboration with the Nigerian High Commission.

“As a pressure group, we have been assured by the NHC that our colleagues who graduate from Ghanaian institutions would not find it difficult to participate in the mandatory National Youth Service Corps in Nigeria.

“We would also like to put it on record here that NANS Ghana Chapter is still pressing for a comprehensive and accurate database of the total number of Nigerian students, a national tour to all schools where Nigerians are studying in Ghana.

“We are also pressing for bursary for all students here because there are times some of our students get stranded here financially,” he said.

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