interviewBy Nurudeen Oyewole
Lagos — At the 10th Canadian education fair recently held in Lagos, Marcello DiFranco, Canadian Deputy High Commissioner in Nigeria spoke to Daily Trust on why his country has sustained the annual education fair in Nigeria and why effort is being focused on the nation's vocational education.
What visa application process has been put in place by your consulate to ease the stress of students intending who wish to go to Canada?
The process of visa processing is down to respective colleges and universities. You know they have to apply to the school and then secure admission, et al. Then it is up to them to get the processing done then our consulate here in Lagos will help them in facilitating the visa processing. We also have a Visa Application Centre here in Lagos that handles students' studies and education related programmes.
What exactly is Canada doing to assist Nigeria's education sector apart from the yearly education fair being organized to recruit students?
Yes what we have done a little while ago, I mean in the last couple of years what we have been able to do was through the Canadian Association of Community Colleges. And what they are doing is that, the representatives of the community colleges in Canada are already working with Nigeria to identify opportunities and share Canadian expertise and knowledge on vocational trainings and programmes because we see that there are a bit of a gap here in Nigeria especially in the area of vocational education. So, the Association is already working with lots of people, government agencies and employers of labour and all others so as to see how we in the future can build a vocational training centre here in Nigeria and also have in place a vocational training programme that will help to understand the need of industries and organizations especially when the need arises for a specific number of technicians for instance, the x number of mechanics and all that. The Canadian Colleges will assist the Nigerian Colleges with vocational training programmes that will help to identify this gap and make sure that Nigerian graduates, once they have their certificates from the colleges, are employable. In Canada, 96 percent of graduates have a job within six months. And to that extent that demonstrates how successful our programmes are because that is really what the objective is all about.
Are you saying that the issue of unemployment in Nigeria especially among graduates can be tackled from this perspective?
Potentially, if such exercise is sustained, it can generate employment for Nigerians because the way Association of Colleges look at things is demand-driven. So what we do in Canada is that if there is a need for a nurse, the school provides the hospital with a nurse. If there is a need to have a plumber, the college works to provide the employer with a plumber. Something similar can be replicated here by making sure those employers of labour work directly with the colleges such that specific graduates needed in the labour market are those being produced. That is how it works. Nigerian Colleges can fashion out programmes and Canada can come in developing the programmes. And the graduates will be the ultimate beneficiaries because when they graduate, they can look forward to being employed.
Canadian education fair has been on for some time in Nigeria, what exactly has led to its sustenance?
This is the 10th edition of Canadian education fair in Lagos. We are very proud of the event. From about 10 institutions we had participating 10 years, now we have up to 47 Canadian institutions in this year. We have Universities, Colleges, Private boarding schools, High Schools. So, in all we have vast array of Canadian institutions. They are here to promote Canadian education because we feel Canada has one of the strongest education sectors in the world and Nigerian students love to travel and study abroad. So, we feel it is a great opportunity for Nigerian students to travel to Canada and school in our universities, colleges and other educational institutions and also tap into other opportunities available to them there. So, they are welcome to Canada.
Why is Nigeria a choice destination for Canadian institutions that come here on yearly basis?
Canada and Nigeria share excellent relationship which has been on for so many years. The two countries work well in so many aspects up to bilateral relationship. One of them is on trade. Another one is culture and another is academics. So we really love to partner with Nigeria and that is why Nigerian students especially those in Lagos as well as other states are welcome to study in Canada. And it even makes lots of senses to study in Canada because the quality of education is excellent and the cost of studying is cheaper when the cost is compared to what is obtained in some of the top institutions in America and Europe. So, the Canadian advantage is very attractive for our students.
What are the inherent benefits for Nigerian students willing to study in Canada?
Absolutely, there are benefits for Nigerian students. I studied in Canada myself and my programme wasn't an international programme. But in my class, there were 15 Canadian students and 15 international students and you know what? I still maintain contacts with some of those in my class. So, more than any other anything, studying in such atmosphere helps in building bridges across the world. So, it helps Nigerians who go to Canada to acquire knowledge, to acquire contacts and build relationship and after their studies, they can come back and use that knowledge to develop Nigerian society. For the fact that Nigeria and Canada has strong bilateral relationship, trade relationship, it makes it easier to build friendship. So this kind of exchanges for students going to Canada, affords them the opportunity to study in Canada, set up businesses there and at the same time when they come back to Nigeria, they can also set up businesses here and use their knowledge in business and academics.
Any international students who study in Canada whether from Nigeria or anywhere else, he or she has that interconnectivity and the contact with Canada remains forever. They can continue to do businesses and they can continue to build relationship. So by and large, those are the benefits.