By Etim Etim
My 18-year-old cousin is inconsolable. He was denied a student visa at the US Embassy for reasons we don’t understand. He claims that all his documentation was complete, and his father, a wealthy Abuja businessman, had provided evidence of his ability to meet his obligations to the young man.
My cousin wanted to study engineering at Pennsylvania State University, one of the prestigious US universities. He graduated top of his class from a top-rated Secondary School last year. For him, studying in the US has been a lifelong ambition. But now, he doesn’t know what to do and his parents are in a dilemma.
Every year, thousands of Nigerian kids apply for student visas at the US embassy, UK High Commissions and other embassies in the country for the opportunity to study abroad. However, many of these applications are declined despite the exorbitant application fees the students had paid.
Nigerian students who are already studying overseas are also facing another kind of challenge. Scarcity and high costs of foreign exchange make it extremely difficult for their parents to remit school fees and upkeep allowances for them. Many of these students have had to withdraw from school or suspend their studies due to funding challenges.
Previously, it was easier for foreign students to pick up part-time jobs to augment their incomes and perhaps pay their fees. However, these opportunities have become scarcer and scarcer due to various reasons, and this means a lot of Nigerian students are stranded in many foreign countries.
Some students have not only withdrawn from school, they have also failed to inform their parents of their new status. The students themselves are reluctant to come back home without a degree.
The favourite destinations for Nigerian students are the US; Britain; Canada; Cyprus and other European countries. Before the war broke out last year, Ukraine was also a preferred destination.
According to an educational consultant, Across the Horizon, there are six important reasons why student visa applications are rejected, chief among which is lack of university admission. If you do not have admission into an acceptable university, the US embassy will not grant you a student visa. There should also be evidence of funds sufficient to cover tuition, living expenses and other costs. The student must be proficient in English Language. To prove this, a high score in TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is desirable for those going to the US.
Insufficient showing of intent to return home after studies have also led to rejections of visa applications. But how does a consular officer determine which student will be less likely to return home after studies? There is no hard and fast rule on this, and this is where a lot of would-be students go for a 14-day dry fasting to secure divine intervention.
However, a trained consular officer will check the applicants’ family background and financial status; future employment opportunities back home and families left behind to determine the applicant’s frame of mind. The applicant’s social media activities could also hamper their chances of being denied a student visa.
Those who indulge in posting sexually explicit or violent content are more likely to be denied student visas than a kid who routinely posts lists of books he reads or music he listens to.
The scarcity of foreign exchange is also a major problem facing parents who are eager to send their kids abroad. The nation has witnessed a severe depletion of its foreign exchange earnings in the last several years due to reduced crude oil production.
Crude oil theft and low investments in the sector by the IOCs have led to a steady fall in our OPEC daily quota of two million barrels per day. Throughout much of the Buhari years, our daily oil output was hovering between a million barrels and less. The banks are under constant pressure from parents who want to buy and remit FX to their wards. ‘’I am under constant stress, worrying about how my children are coping in Canada’’, cries a friend, John Etebi, whose children have only spent two years overseas.
Besides financial headaches, Nigerian families who have children studying abroad also worry about the new age of sexual permissiveness and cultures like homosexuality; transgender; drugs and firearms that abound in Western societies. Although we have these things virtually everywhere, Nigerian parents are a lot more conservative and are very reluctant to expose their young children to such cultures early in life.
Recently, I saw a video in which the nephew of a well-known Nigerian who has been living in the US for many years, was boasting that he had turned gay and that he would attend his village meeting in New York where he would formally announce his new sexual orientation to his town folks. You can imagine the horror and embarrassment this would cause the family.
In the US and Europe, the movie industry is profiting from the intense conflict among social groups and the struggle to dominate each other is so intense that an innocent or impressionable child could easily be swept away. Almost every single movie from Hollywood is themed to promote homosexuality and this is also promoted heavily by many liberal politicians.
It is so bad that in some US kindergarten schools, even children are taught that they have the right to change their gender and sexual orientation. ‘’It is a violent assault on our civilization and a negation of my faith as a Christian, and that is why my wife and I decided to bring our children back from the US’’, says Dr. Patrick Nwosu, a banker.
Like Dr. Nwosu, other Nigerians are succumbing to the fear of fear of these strange cultures; and they now prefer their kids to obtain at least undergraduate studies at home before going abroad. The thinking is that they should mature a bit before they go outside to face Western lifestyles.
Schooling at home in a standard institution has many benefits. The students will enjoy lifelong friendships and social contacts through their alumni network. Classmates offer the first in the series of contacts that we build as we climb the rungs of life, and in many cases, they end up being our friends and associates for life.
Many years after graduation, I continue to keep in close contact with my classmates and friends I met at the university, and I know of many others who have secured important business and career opportunities through their alumni associations and class contacts. Alumni groups like mine also offer veritable safety nets and group life assurance packages to members.
The choice of schools for our kids is a decision that every parent should take seriously as quality education is an important foundation for success in life. Successful Nigerians like Herbert Wigwe; Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede; Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; Hakeem Belo-Osagie; Amina Mohammed; Derin Awosika; Aliko Dangote; Fabian Ajogwu, just to mention a few, who have inspired younger generations owe their attainments to the education they received, either from Nigeria or overseas. The best inheritance we can bequeath to our children is a good education, whether it is obtained from a Nigerian institution or a foreign one.