If you read our story about deported Nigerians trying to start over, you would know about Tupac, a Nigerian who had gone to study in Cyprus but ended up in jail for dealing drugs. Many Nigerian students have been killed in that country in the past years. Post-study anxiety leads many into dangerous paths, as does survival: they cannot rely on funds from home, or easily get the side jobs visa agents had boasted about. As few pathways to permanent immigration exist and getting a job after study can be difficult, criminality may win.
From Cyprus to many European countries and the United States, post-study uncertainty haunts many. Sources who spoke to Nigeria Abroad narrated sad experiences about themselves and friends, including about other Africans.
“I know one Nigerian who couldn’t get a green card after graduation here in the US,” a source said. “She refused to go home. She’s toiling so hard here and she’s from a wealthy background. A graduate from Columbia University. It’s terrible.”
Columbia University is an Ivy League school, which means even children of the Nigerian elite are equally affected. US student visa is being tailored to last just the length of an applicant’s academic program, and extensions are open only to immigrants who get jobs in select industries. Chances of getting such jobs are limited even for those that studied the relevant courses.
Some elite Nigerian students abroad get support from parents back home. But the rich at a point also stop being money spinners. Our source said her friend’s father soon stopped sending her money upon her graduation. In the UK, however, another Nigerian who has studied for over a decade there says his Nigerian elite course-mate had a somewhat similar story.
“His dad was a top shot in the NNPC. So, this guy wasn’t doing anything as some of us did odd jobs during and after school to survive. He was driving an S Type Jaguar. His dad once got him a job in a Nigerian bank, but he wasn’t used to that kind of low pay, so he soon came back here. The dad kept paying his bills every month from Nigeria. Do you know what that means with the exchange rate? But at a point the money stopped too, so he joined G-guys de hustle for street.”
In the UK at least, many Nigerian students from humble backgrounds have since found a way to beat the system: once they finish a program, they enroll for another just to stay legal.
“Some of our guys did that and I couldn’t,” said Ifediora Ohaneje, a Nigerian financial analyst now based in Canada. “You’ll see people with two or three master’s degrees. They just keep going like that until they stay long enough to qualify to apply for permanent residence. Only those in the medical fields have a preexisting pathway to becoming legal, and maybe some others in some special fields. I moved to Canada because here it’s easier to become legal after study.”
Another Nigerian who spoke to Nigeria Abroad said most of the countrymen held for internet fraud in Europe were students who could not become legal to be able to find befitting jobs, so they embraced their laptops. The marriage pathway has its own complications. The option of going for more academic programs can be a huge financial task except one gets some form of fellowship or grant.
All of these exclude those who, unable to cope with schoolwork, drop out without the knowledge of parents back home. These experiences are same for other African students abroad.
“I know one lady from Cote d’Ivoire,” a source tells the magazine. “She got pregnant and was weighed down with taking care of her son. She couldn’t tell her parents. She was having a hard time here in the US and friends were helping her out.”
Since the naira nosedived hopelessly late 2020, many Nigerian parents became incapable of paying tuition for wards studying abroad. “The tuition remained the same but doubled in naira value,” a Nigerian student in Ukraine told Nigeria Abroad. She says life has been unbearable, especially as the pandemic closed opportunities even for odd jobs.
But not everyone stays back abroad after studies. Economics graduate from the University of Nigeria Macdonald Ukah moved to UK’s University of Reading for a master’s in Emerging Markets in 2014. He came back after completing his studies and is currently working as a financial analyst in a Lagos accounting firm. Why did he return?
“The rules were simply unkind to anyone who sought to stay without falling afoul of immigration laws,” Macdonald says. “David Cameron, wanting to stave off pressure from the Farage-led far right, had tightened rules for student immigration. You had 16 months within which to complete your studies (M.Sc in my case) and secure paid, visa-sponsored employment, or bugger off. The latter didn’t happen, despite several attempts. As 2015 came to a close, with reservoirs drying up, I left. Did not care much for my convocation; had my degree delivered in the mail. With a bit of guarantee of paid employment upon return to Lagos, I reassessed and left.”