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Quest for Knowledge: Endless attacks on Nigerian students abroad raise concern

Nigerian students in foreign lands appear to have suddenly become targets for elimination.

If they are not murdered by the security agents of their host countries, they are murdered by citizens of foreign countries.

From Africa to Europe, Asia to America, the story is the same.

Many Nigerians who have travelled to countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Ghana, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Cyprus, among others to get quality education, have been gruesomely murdered in recent times.

It has been tales of sorrow, pains and anguish for parents whose wards have become victims of these unfortunate incidents.

Many of them were murdered when they had almost completed their course of studies. Others had scarcely settled down to their studies when the messengers of death came calling.

Unfortunately, offenders of such heinous crimes against Nigerians have never been brought to book. The host countries had always treated such incidents with levity.

Even where they appeared to have taken interest, they would not pursue the matter to a conclusive end, thereby eventually creating a window of escape for the offender.

Just last month, May 17, 2024 precisely, a 43-year old Nigerian, identified as Prince Ebuka was allegedly shot and killed by the South African Police in Danielskuil, Northern Cape, a development that sparked outrage by the Nigerian Diaspora Forum, NDF.

According to the report, the circumstances that led to it remained unclear, but sources close to the deceased family revealed that he was a law-abiding citizen who had no criminal record.

The NDF condemned the killing, describing it as a senseless and avoidable tragedy.

A statement by the NDF’s Country Director, Hon. Chike Amadichi called on the South African authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident.

He said: “The Nigerian Diaspora Forum (NDF) expresses its deep concern over the recent tragic event in Danielskuil, Northern Cape, South Africa on May 17, 2024.

“We urge the public to stay informed as we closely follow developments and cooperate with the authorities to ensure a thorough and transparent investigation.

“Our commitment remains strong towards advocating for justice and upholding human rights for all Nigerians living in the Diaspora.”

This incident has raised concerns about the safety and well-being of Nigerians living in South Africa, many of whom have faced xenophobic attacks and harassment in recent years.

The group also urged the Federal Government to take decisive action to protect its citizens abroad

“As the investigation continues, the Nigerian community in South Africa and beyond is mourning the loss of Prince Ebuka, a husband, father, and friend who was brutally taken away from his loved ones.

“His family and friends are demanding answers and justice, and the world is watching to see how the South African authorities will respond to this tragic incident,” the NDF submitted.

Also, the family of the 19-year-old Afolabi Opaso is still waiting for answers on the circumstances surrounding the death of their son on December 31, 2023.

Afolabi was allegedly shot dead by Winnipeg police officers in Manitoba, Canada.

According to the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, which investigates all serious incidents involving the police in the province, the officers were alleged to be responding to a well-being call at an apartment building at 77 University Cres, at about 2:30 pm on December 31.

In spite of the dangers Nigerian students in foreign lands are exposed to, parents and guardians still besiege the embassies of foreign countries seeking for education visas for their wards in those countries.

Very many Nigerians believe that the Nigerian education system is in comatose and that has been responsible for the increase in education tourism abroad.

They attributed what is happening to Nigerian students studying abroad to failure of leadership.

Commenting on Nigerians’ quest for foreign education, a human rights lawyer, Malachy Ugwumadu, attributed the scourge to total collapse of the educational system in Nigeria.

He said: “Nigeria has not ceased to amaze those who are critical. You do not wish away what you have no capacity to control.

“The bottom line is that the outsourcing of education is a direct function of the failure of the educational system in Nigeria.

“As you know, those who have the luxury of sending their wards to study abroad are paying through their nose; they are paying far more expensively than those studying in Nigeria.

“The corresponding risks to which our worlds are now exposed is one that underscores really the insufficiency of the government to provide education, and it has complicated the whole challenge of Nigerians and their search for quality education in such a way that our successive governments are now exposed to the ridicule of the entire world.

“Even as close as the Benin Republic here, the statistics of Nigerians there in the make-shift buildings in the name of education is pitiable.”

He also said that the failure of successive Nigerian governments to keep faith with the United Nations’ recommended minimum budgetary requirement of 26 percent of annual budget for education had also increased the poverty of our situation.

He equally agreed that the perennial cases of industrial actions by lecturers have not helped matters in the sense that students have continually experienced an endless educational system.

“And that is what has promoted the private universities in our country where our people are subjected to excruciating expenses to take their wards through normal academic education.

“So, instead of spending 10 years for a course of five years, parents tend to make do with the private universities where they are made to pay what it has taken the entire generation to go to school,” he submitted.

He attributed the upsurge in the number of Nigerian students abroad to what he called politicization of education in Nigeria.

“There is too much politicization of education in the system. It is no longer seen as a core professional and foundational enterprise that determines and defines the future of the country, as well as guarantees the quality and content of leadership that can come from there,” he added.

He, therefore, submitted that unless things were done right, Nigerians would continue to seek for foreign education in spite of all the dangers out there.

“So, to think that people will stop sending their children abroad, is to imagine that all of these things are already in place.

“But, the reality is that they are not in place, and there are no signs that they will soon be in place with the direct consequence that things will continue to be as they are,” he said.

On the nasty and poor treatment that Nigerians are exposed to in foreign land, he attributed that to the strong resentment, which other countries have for Nigeria and its citizens.

He said: “The poverty of the situation is that given the total resentment of the comity of nations against this huge and potentially great country that is squandering its fortunes, our people are subjected to the worst forms of attacks and harassment.

“In South Africa, it is xenophobia; in Asian countries, it is intolerance because anything committed by any Nigerian, be it the least of offences, attracts maximum punishment.

“The common denominator is that our citizens have come under direct siege in their pursuit for better education outside the shores of this country. It is an indictment of the government.”

He called on the National Assembly to rise up to its oversight function by whipping the Ministry of Foreign Affairs into line in this regard.

According to him, “I think that the Committees on Diaspora in the House of Representatives and Senate must find a way in furtherance of their over-sighting to compel the foreign affairs ministry to do something.

“It is not just drinking tea from one country to another; these are core responsibilities.

“The way and manner we have continued to undermine and expose ourselves to the ridicule of the world makes it easy for them to kill us and nothing happens. So, the ministry of foreign affairs should be able to mobilise and respond adequately.”

Also reacting, the President and Founder of SelfWorth Organisation for Women Development, Mrs Chinyere Anokwuru thinks that in spite of the dangers which Nigerian students abroad face, those who could afford to send their children abroad for studies, should not be discouraged.

She cited the dysfunctional educational system in Nigeria at present as one of the reasons for her position.

Such dysfunctional elements, according to her, include constant industrial action by lecturers, as well as unqualified teachers.

“So those that can afford it should go ahead and do so,” she stressed.

She also said that lack of proper parental counseling and orientation equally contributes to the disaster, which always befell their children.

“But it depends on parenting. I know that some of the victims were involved in clubbing and cult-related activities.

“If a child is properly orientated at home; properly taught and groomed at home; when such a child gets out of Nigeria to study, he knows he is representing his parents there and his family’s name is at stake.

“So, he will go there and behave well. He will try to stay out of trouble because he is there to study and not to club. Why the clubbing, the cultism and the fighting? He will hide himself and focus on what he has gone there to do.

“If parents train their kids properly, they will keep out of trouble in foreign lands,” she argued.

She noted that if the good private schools in Nigeria which were mostly owned by churches were made affordable, the craze to go abroad for quality education would be greatly minimized.

“If these churches can charge so high for the education they are offering, where is the charity; where is the love?

“I implore the churches to lessen their tuition fees, and I believe if their fees come down a bit, we might just stop sending our children abroad and patronize our local colleges that are also doing well,” she posited.

But, for the public administrator, Curis Anthony, people should look beyond why Nigerians travel abroad for studies.

He wants people to take a holistic look at such issues as why students even travel out in the first instance, as well as what the state of education and security in the country are.

He believes that the foregoing factors are critical because according to him, “When you talk in terms of safety, you need to relate it to the issue of the abducted school girls in northern states and many other Nigerian students who have been killed in the Northeast and across the country, on account of insecurity.

“I think it is very important to have a holistic approach to understand these issues and not just necessarily getting alarmed about what happens to Nigerian students abroad.

“What is also Nigeria’s role in protecting her citizens in the country or outside the country? So, these are the critical questions that must be addressed.”

He also looked at the matter from the economic angle, when he said: “When you run a global economy that is exploitative and more concerned about the profit and market forces, there is always a disregard for human life.

“So, the context of security whether in Nigeria or anywhere in the world, must be placed at the heart of who controls the economy and for what purpose. Is the economy being controlled in the interest of the people or not?

“You also have people, who also have their own peculiarities in terms of insecurity, irrespective of what is being presented. When you present such places as peaceful and comfortable, it is to the extent of what is being projected, which shows that there are some discontents in those societies.

“And for those who are marginalised of access to their basic needs, they also transfer aggression and that’s what has been responsible for violence instead of promoting unity and peace.

“My perspective has always been that the spirit of internationalism has to be based on what affects us and that is why the slogan of workers of all countries is, ‘unite against the oppressors and exploiters of various countries.’

“That is the context because without placing it in that context, we just get unnecessarily alarmed. For those who have to travel abroad, there is the material force that propels them because they have to survive, irrespective of the dangers they are going to face.

“It is like somebody who is in danger; he will assess which is less and that is the desperation of Nigerians wanting to travel abroad despite the dangers. The policy environment necessarily turns them into those frustrations.

“For them, death is a necessary consequence they have to face if they don’t want to starve to death.”

On whether parents should keep sending their wards overseas for studies in spite of the dangers ahead, he said: “It is not about parents.

“Do you know how many thousands of Nigerians that go abroad without the consent of their parents? That is the issue.

“How many parents in Nigeria can afford to send their children abroad? The children of the poor that you find abroad, stowed away in most cases; they struggled themselves to be there out of desperation. That is the issue to look at.

“If the academic environment in Nigeria is conducive for learning, people won’t be going abroad to study in such large numbers.”

He also agreed that the collapse of the educational system was largely responsible for the prevailing education tourism.

He said: “The decay has been over the years and that principally informed what has been the campaign over the years on the same public education.

“Several Nigerians have also been victims of travelling abroad which can also be attributed to the irresponsibility of the political environment. The approach is not just to have some of those cosmetic pronouncements by the government.

“It is basically to have a holistic approach to it. Once you have a system that cannot guarantee people the basic necessities of life, they are bound to have those kinds of things.”

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