For Nigerian students, the standard of education in Africa’s most populous nation is below par. Last year, $1.7 billion was allocated to education in Nigeria – a figure which has since been highlighted as being more than 15% below the recommended figure for developing nations by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
As a result, Nigerian students are looking at schools in different countries like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom to escape this plight with a particular focus on schools in the United States.
In the last academic year, Nigerian students have spent $514 million on tuition in the United States according to the Institute of International Education – an expenditure that exceeds that of students from European countries like Germany, France, and England.
Currently, there are over 13,000 Nigerian students in the US – double the figure at the start of 2010. The problems with Nigerian education can be primarily traced to under-funding. Little or no funding over the last two decades has caused a dip in the quality of teachers and infrastructure at higher institution level.
Moreover, perennial strike actions by different associations (the non-academic and academic staff unions) continue to disrupt the school calendar and make studying in Nigerian schools akin to a game of chance.
The rise of more stable private universities does not offer a remedy for the problem as these schools are expensive and not viable alternatives for low-income families in the country. There is also the challenge of the country’s education system being overburdened by strong population growth.
Nigeria has a little over 150 universities, however, yearly is estimated to have more than one million university applicants, meaning that many prospective students are rejected. And for those who scrap through the Nigerian educational system, they must face the reality of unemployment and underemployment upon the end of their programs.
Feeling at loss with how to navigate the multiplicity of challenges within the Nigerian tertiary educational system, the best and brightest minds end up looking to schools abroad for a higher quality of education and stability.
However, the desire to study at western institutions goes beyond the attraction of a good education and the availability of standard facilities. There is the consideration of opportunities for assimilation in the United States or its neighbour, Canada.
Furthermore, western-educated Nigerian students are shown statistically to have a competitive edge in Nigeria’s complex labour market after completing their degrees, compared to Nigerian-educated students.