After a recent tour of Accra-Ghana, Damilola Oyedele writes on the rising trend of Nigerians attending sub-standard universities in Ghana and how these schools take advantage of the situation in Nigeria’s educational system to fleece Nigerian students
Ibrahim Abubakar (not real name) chose to go to Ghana for his university education. He is a second year Information Technology student at King’s University, a private institution established in 2009. Abubakar is one of the rising numbers of young Nigerians who opt to study in Ghana as a way to escape the perceived difficulties of accessing university education in Nigeria.
In his bid however, Abubakar may not be receiving qualitative education. In a chat with this writer during the flight from Accra to Abuja, he disclosed that he was finding it hard to secure admission into any Nigerian school because he did not garner enough credits in his Senior School Certificate Exams nor meet the cut off marks for the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board. He pays $4000 per session in addition to another $1800 for accommodation.
Ghana provided the easy way out for him and others.
Just a few years ago, it was Ukraine, Cyprus, Malta and some other countries that Nigerians were flocking to for tertiary education for various reasons. Today it is neighbouring Ghana where, according to conservative figures, there are at least 150,000 Nigerian students; studying in various tertiary institution.
The reasons for this exodus are not far-fetched; top on the list is the incessant strikes by various university staff unions especially the Academic Staff Union of Universities. Nigerians would not forget in a hurry the last strike by the union which lasted for a whole six months and cost most universities at least a session. The teaching style of many of the lecturers is considered faulty as some mandate students to purchase handouts or books authored by them (lecturers) as part of requisites for passing the courses.
The low carrying capacity of Nigeria’s public universities has also been blamed as barely one third of the annual number of candidates who sit for JAMB-UME, obtain admission. Also most of the public schools do not have what can be considered a conducive environment accompanied by adequate learning facilities to impart quality knowledge to their students.
THISDAY visited Sikkim Manipal University at busy Ring Road Central where 98 per cent of its over 800 students are Nigerians who hail, mostly, from Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, and Kaduna States. The remaining two per cent hail from Cote d’Ivoire and Togo as there are barely any Ghanaians in the school. The school which was established in 2001 is located in Abena Ateaa Towers which also houses Blue Crest College, another university. The school, owned by Indians, does not provide hostel or recreational facilities for the students although its brochure claims otherwise. Its brochure also lays claim to a state of the art campus.
The school charges $1250 per semester and claims to offer more than 40 programs at all levels with bachelor degrees awarded in just three years of study.
Some of the Nigeria students whose command of the English language left much to be desired, told THISDAY that they choose to school in Ghana because they do not need to write any entry exams and can be admitted with six passes from their WAEC results.
Aminu with a defiant look, said he does not need any facilities to study. A student of Business Administration from Borno State disclosed that he and others have to shell out as much as $2400 for two years rent as their landlords do not take one year rent. This is asides the money they have to use for transportation daily as their residences are not close to the school which is in a commercial area.
“We are not less than 15 from my immediate family that we are here and 43 relatives from Maiduguri, Borno State. But Maiduguri, Borno students are the most population and are more than any state here in Ghana. Assuming Nigerian students are 75 per cent, Maiduguri students are up to 55 per cent. The French students we are living with here are not up to 2 per cent and Ghanaians don’t attend this school much because it is too cost. The money we pay for room is more than our school fees talk less or our transport and our fees,” he said in poor grammar.
Rukayat Muhammed who is in her second year said the admission process in Nigeria was too frustrating not just at JAMB level, but for Post UTME, which informed the decision of her parents to send her to SMU.
“I have applied so many times in Nigeria but no admission so I decided to come here as a private university. if you passed your WAEC, here you will get admission. Again, strike in Nigeria is a factor. You know when the last strike in Nigeria was on I thanked my God I was not studying in Nigeria”, she said.
The Deputy Director of Information at the National Universities Commission (NUC), Mallam Ibrahim Yakassai confirmed that indeed many Nigerian parents have made enquiries to the commission concerning the quality of education provided at the SMU.
Wisconsin International University College in North Legon can barely accommodate 15 cars in its compound which houses a four story building. The school is affiliated to the University of Ghana and the University of Cape Coast. International students pay $2668 per session outside charges for accommodation.
Zenith University charges $620 per semester for foreign students. The school has no recreational facilities. At Accra mall where Nigerian shoppers and holiday revellers flock to, THISDAY noticed a Kings’ University Stand manned by two young men. It’s banner reads, “Get Instant Admission.” THISDAY also observed one Pentecost University housed in a three-storey Kamal Plaza.
Interestingly, these schools are all accredited by Ghana’s Education board.
Valley View University (VVU), owned by the Adventist Church is however different. With stricter standards for admission, it is rated ninth in Ghana’s Universities Ranking and is the most highly regarded of Ghana’s 53 private universities. It is currently training Ghana’s Police Force. Like its sister university in Nigeria, Babcock, the school is strict on morals and academic standards. It also enforces a strict dress code.
250 of the 7800 students of VVU which was established in 2006 are Nigerians. The school fees are about $2700 per session. THISDAY spoke to some of the Nigerian students at the institution. Ola David in the Development Studies Department, said he was driven by the incessant strikes in Nigeria’s University system and chose the option of Ghana. Wisdom Ehijele, a 300 level Computer Science student, disclosed that he did not secure admission into any Nigerian university for a while after his secondary education.
“Eventually I secured admission into one of the Federal Universities, and just two months after, ASUU commenced strike,” he disclosed.
For indigent Onyema Chidinma, who is a 400 level Agric Engineering student, the school has provided her succour by employing her so that she can get money to pay her school fees. She must however not fall behind in her grades, she told THISDAY.
The Dean of International Students at the University of Ghana, Prof. Naa Ayikailey Adamafio, in an interview with THISDAY, said academicians in Ghana have questioned the credibility of some of these private universities.
“We are asking questions. Are many of these institutions fit to be accredited, they have lax standards and are just interested in the money that the students can pay,” she said.
Adamafio, who is a Professor of Bio-Chemistry, said these sub-standard schools are making a lot of money off Nigerians because of the incessant strikes plaguing Nigeria’s education system.
Enquiries revealed that Ghanaian students hardly attend these private schools, not necessarily because of the costs (as public universities are significantly more expensive), but because the quality of education being imparted is considered low.
An Accra based journalist, Francis Kokutse, said, “Well, I would not send my children there, a lot of things about these schools are suspect.”
The Deputy High Commissioner at the Nigerian Embassy, Mohammmed A. Kurmawa, in an informal conversation blamed this trend on the declining standard of education in Nigeria. He however noted that there were very good schools in Ghana that parents could send their children to, if only they would research properly and also contact the High Commission to make enquiries.
“Ghanaians do not send their children to these schools, they will rather send them abroad to study. Unlike Nigeria’s elite, Ghanaians send their children to public schools because the standards are higher. 90 per cent of the students in private universities here are Nigerians, it is a scam. Someone comes from India with a briefcase and that is the person that would award a certificate,” he lamented.
“We also have many of these rubbish schools in Malaysia,” he added.
THISDAY gathered that while these schools have cashed in on Nigeria’s falling education, they set up business in Ghana because of the realisation that they will not be accredited in Nigeria where the standards for setting up private universities are higher.
The Executive Secretary of the NUC, Prof. Julius Okojie, has consistently harped on cost sharing in universities to ensure that students pay tuition. He lamented that the National Assembly has refused to sit on such proposal, they are saying, but we have not been charging any tuition”.
Speaking with THISDAY in Abuja recently, Okojie said if tuition fees are introduced, there would also be preferred modalities for indigent students to access funds such as provision of educational loans and scholarships for excellent students as obtained in other climes.
There are allegations that Ghanaian authorities may have chosen to look the other way; one, because their children do not attend these schools, and two, as a way of making some revenue from Nigeria in a relationship where the trade figures are heavily tilted in Nigeria’s favour.
Nigeria’s relevant agencies and indeed all stakeholders cannot afford to look the other way in respect of this dangerous trend. The Foreign Certificates Verification Committee, under the Ministry of Education, has to get its acts together and truly vet the certificates obtained from these schools. The committee would do parents and guardians a lot of service by periodically publishing the names and addresses of foreign institutions whose credentials it finds questionable.
Parents too, should make it a point of duty to contact the Education Officers in Nigeria’s foreign missions to vet schools which they find on the internet before sending their wards to such schools.
Lastly, the government must not renege on its promises to revive Nigeria’s education system holistically.