As a female student working to make ends meet in a foreign land, Miss Yele Olowe, a Nigerian doing her Masters in International Finance at the London School of Business and Finance, United Kingdom, says survival in a foreign land is tough. She shares her experience with Charles Ajunwa
As a foreign student studying in United Kingdom, how do you cope with the recently increment in your school fees?
I know that the increase in school fees have affected a lot of students studying in the universities, many foreign students are going back to their countries because it's very difficult to make money here to sponsor yourself in school and pay other bills. The increment in school fees, is not affecting the existing students but there are other things that are affecting them, like if you go for your student renewal, you are not allowed to work. So that is quite discouraging for a lot of people and I think the economy is just saturated.
It's a developed economy and the growth is very slow. So because of the school fees increment and the harsh economic condition most of my colleagues preferred to go back home and continue their education online. We experience a lot of constraints here.
One, accommodation is very expensive. Two, it's very difficult to get a job as unemployment is very high. If you are to get a good job, there is still some bit of favouritism or limited racism if I can put it that way, going on because they prefer to give a British or another European or a white person than to give the job to a black person. When you come here it's not like what you expect, like the way they make it look so rosy and so beautiful that you don't have problem when you come and things are sorted out for you.
When you come here you are solely on your own, it's not like in other African countries like Nigeria where you have people to help you. If you are back home nobody will want you to suffer. Your uncle, aunt or friends will come to help you but here (London) nobody helps you. You are just on your own. So if you don't have a job, it's very difficult to survive in London.
For me, assuming I don't have accommodation and a job I will prefer to go back home where I will be attended to by my parents. Not go back home because you are not able to face the challenges but going back home because you know it's better to be at home where there are a lot of opportunities so why waste my time here.
What is your advice to students from Nigeria planning to further their education in the UK?
They should be prepared and make sure they have arrangement for accommodation and they should make sure they have some money to keep them going because like I said, nobody in London or in the Western world will give you money. Except the person is sent by God, nobody borrows money and nobody lends money because everybody keeps to him or herself here.
If you find a job, fine. Whatever job you find just hold tight to it to enable you pay your bills. And my advice is that if you finish your school programme just go back home except you get a good job that will make you stay. Even if you get a very good opportunity, you pay like 20 to 50 per cent in tax depending on the type of job you are doing. If you are earning more than 150 thousand pounds, you pay 50 per cent of it in tax.
For new students coming with the hope to get papers to nationalise, all those things should not just distract them. Some people don't tell their parents back home the pains and difficulties that they go through here. Such parents will think their children abroad are okay while they are not. The children will not like to tell to them about the reality on ground because he does not want them to be sad. So if you are sending your children abroad be prepared for them, let them have enough money.
Why do many Nigerians prefer to study in United Kingdom instead of studying at home?
If the standard of education in Nigeria was good enough people will not be coming to the United Kingdom to study and then and face all the hassles they go through. Some will just have to take the blame for the appalling standard of education in Nigeria. Some people will sell all they got to make sure they bring their children abroad just to make sure they have standard education. A lot of brains were exported from Nigeria coming here to do odd jobs - house helps and very ridiculous things. If government in Nigeria can give us very basic social amenities, a lot of people will be willing to come back home.
Lagos is very close to my heart, it's nicely developing but other parts of the country as well should have small Scale industries coming up because that is what grows the economy.
If there are small Scale industries a lot of people will consider not going abroad. Some people staying abroad for over seven to 15 years are still doing the same job. When they come to Nigeria they want to paint the picture that everything is right. So elected government officials should instead of just taking money for themselves alone, try to do something in their constituencies. They should go to the schools once in a while and check what they are doing and make them know that they are still under check.
But for you, what was studying in Nigeria like?
When I was in secondary school in Ibadan, we had nice girls and when we were there it was interesting. But after we left my younger sister then was there, the standard of education collapsed and my younger sister had to leave. She left at the junior secondary school level and my dad took her to a private school. That is why a lot of people struggle to send their children to private schools. But how many people have money to take their children to private schools? How many people have money to take their children abroad? They should make Nigeria a place that we can come to and feel at home and not be scared of this or that. If each person in power can just face his own constituency there will be massive development in the country.
I know the youths are really trying because I read a lot about the youths but we need the older ones to at least leave us a legacy, leave us a space to develop up. The youths are really trying because most young people that I know are exposed.
What is your advice to young people aspiring to fulfill their dreams?
My advice to young people is that if they should work hard, they can be who they want to be. They should not be afraid of anything and shouldn't be afraid to take risk. They should go with their instincts, if your mind tells you to do a thing and your conscience is clear, go for it.
They should not let the voices of too many people distract them from where they are heading. There are a lot of young people who are not really grounded and they are just caught up in too irrelevant things. They should stay focused and should make themselves relevant to their generation. With hard work and prayer, you will make a difference.