Saturday, May 18, 2013

Abroad, Nigerian students graduate on schedule but pay through the nose, some end up with worthless degrees

Abroad, Nigerian students graduate on schedule but pay through the nose, some end-up with worthless degrees
Ghana grosses over N200b yearly from 100,000 Nigerians, Britain over N45b
…Countless others enrolled at illegal tertiary schools in Benin Republic, Anglophone school also big business in Togo
By MAURICE ARCHIBONG, after months-long tour of several nations
(+233242829216), mauricearchibongtravels@gmail.com
President Goodluck Jonathan, during his visit to Cotonou, Benin Republic on 31 December, 2010. PHOTOS: MAURICE ARCHIBONG: All Rights Reserved.
 
A mauricearchibongtravels investigation shows that the over 100,000 Nigerians currently enrolled at various universities and colleges across Ghana contribute more than N200 billion (US$1.5 billion) to the economy of the old Gold Coast.
 
In the same vein, Nigeria loses more than N45billion through school fees and living expenses on her nationals studying in different tertiary institutions across the United Kingdom. Addressing reporters at Transcorp-Hilton Hotel in Abuja recently; Mr. Brian Wilson, Programmes Director of British Council’s Education Exhibition, revealed that 18,000 Nigerians were currently pursuing various undergraduate and post-graduate courses in Britain.
 
Interpretation: Let’s take £10,000 (N2.5million) as the average (probably higher) spent by a Nigerian studying in the UK. If we multiply £10,000 by 18,000, it boils down to £180,000,000. Convert £180,000,000 to naira and you get N45billion. However, it is worth pointing out that this N45billion does not include money spent on training countless Nigerian children enrolled in secondary schools in Her Majesty’s home country.
 
Interestingly, more Nigerians are also studying at various institutions in virtually every country across the world. Collectively, hundreds of thousands of Nigerians are also studying in Canada, Germany, US and elsewhere. In far-away China, for example, we know of a 27-year-old Nigerian, Mr. Onyemauche Kingsley Ike, from Orlu in Imo State; who is a final-year medical student at Beijing Capital Medical University.
 
However, this report basically revolves around mauricearchibongtravels’ study of the situation in three contiguous countries in West Africa: Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana. Apart from a huge number of Nigerians enrolled in different institutions in Togo, countless others are among tertiary schools’ students of some 20 universities as well as secondary and primary schools in next-door Benin Republic.
 
Although data are largely unavailable, Nigerians annually spend billions of dollars on tuition, accommodation and feeding as students in foreign lands.     Apart from the issue of capital flight, mauricearchibongtravels can also authoritatively reveal that even as the degree and certificates some of the graduands get, after years of studying at foreign institutions, may not be worth the paper they are printed on, the hundreds of thousands of Nigerian youth in countless tertiary institutions in various countries across the world also end-up victims of social dislocation.
 
A glaring instance of the distortion some Nigerians studying in foreign lands suffer came to light during a visit to a junior secondary school by the Nigerian envoy to an ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) member state; recently. In response to a question by the visiting top-flight diplomat, one of the high school students actually submitted “Dr Thomas Yayi Boni” as the name of President of Nigeria. Naturally, many were alarmed, even embarrased, by this development.
 
If the above faux pas could be written-off as an inconsequential blunder on the part of a minor with inadequate knowledge of Current Affairs, how does one explain the experience of Ms Chika Achebe? Three years after taking a BA (Bachelor of Arts) degree in French Language from University of Science and Management in Benin Republic, Achebe is still unemployed.
 
Reason: on her return to Nigeria, Ms Achebe was declared ineligible to do national service aka National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme because the institution, where the young woman spent four years pursuing her BA French course, is not recognised by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Education.
 
In other words, Achebe does not qualify for NYSC because she attended a university allegedly lacking necessary accreditation to run the course for which she committed four years of her life, not to talk of colossal sums of money spent on school fees over the 48-month period that she was an undergraduate at the Benin Republic-based school, whose name she gave as University of Science and Management (USAM).
 
Interestingly, after bagging a degree which according to authorities is worthless in Nigeria, Ms Achebe recently went to acquire skill in soap-making with a view to becoming self-employed. Speaking with mauricearchibongtravels in Porto Novo recently, Achebe rued that she could not have imagined that her alma mater lacked accreditation to run the course she lost four years and a lot of money to.
 
Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Education has an Evaluation and Accreditation Department, established to guide students seeking admission to foreign institutions. Did Achebe contact this agency to verify her former school’s eligibility to run the programme before proceding to study there? Her reply was that, she expected her country’s embassy in each country to assist Nigerians by providing a list of recognised universities in places, where our missions are located.
 
Unfortunately, Nigerian Embassy Cotonou, Benin Republic; had no substantive envoy at the time Achebe commenced her studies at USAM. But, when contacted, incumbent Nigerian Ambassador to Benin Republic, Amb Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin, revealed his mission was working assidously toward raising awareness on the issue.
 
HE Lawrence Obisakin PhD, Nigeria's Ambassador to Benin Republic. 

This ambassador helped to put the disturbing trend in context, thus; “After enquiries we conducted recently, it was discovered that many of the private universities in Benin Republic lack necessary accreditation for many of the courses they run. Unfortunately, many of these schools have a large population of Nigerians among their students”.
 
In deed, sources at Houdegbe North American University (HNAUB) revealed that Nigerians account for more than 70 per cent of the students at this college located in Quartier Houdegbe, close to PK 10 (Peka Dix) roundabout, Cotonou. Ambassador Obisakin subsequently revealed that a Joint International Committee had since been floated with a view to identifying tertiary institutions operating in Benin, where Nigerians could register for recognised courses.
 
Benin’s Ministry of Tertiary Institutions and Nigerian Embassy Cotonou as well as other stakeholders are members of this joint committee. When contacted, Mr. DanKano Kakshak, Minister I at Nigerian Embassy Cotonou and Supervisor of Nigeria International School (NIS), confirmed the establishment of the joint committee. Kakshak, who sits on that committee, added that the body has been very busy and that its report would be ready, soon.
 
He, however, would not divulge any aspect of the draft, explaining that it was an international issue; and, that at the appropriate time; after all stakeholders had dotted the “i”s and crossed the “t”s; the report or parts thereof, necessary for public consumption, would be revealed.
 
Some Nigerians turn to foreign universities after many years’ attempt to gain admission to a local university proved futile. While many migrated because they could not scale the JAMBE (Joint Admission and Matriculation Board Examination) hurdle, some claimed their parents/guardians sent them to foreign universities because of the degeneration of Nigeria’s educational sector over the last 20 years or so.
 
This perceived drop in the quality of the Nigerian academia was on many tongues during the 2013 British Council Education Exhibition held in Abuja. In fact, Mr. Wilson, the Programmes’ Director, merely echoed the minds of millions of Nigerians, when he advised Nigeria’s Federal Government to do more toward improving the standard of education in our country. 
 
Discouraged by the rather exorbitant fees charged by British universities, which for most Nigerians is unaffordable, innumerable parents and guardians find nearby Ghana particularly attractive. Such parents/guardians prefer sending children and wards to that country’s tertiary institutions because like Nigeria, Ghana is also an anglophone nation.
 
Some respondents also drew attention to the widely-held belief that, international recognition of degrees/certificates awarded by colleges in the old Gold Coast must be among the reasons so many Nigerian students are now found in Ghana’s universities. Whereas Nigeria had widely respected universities, which produced Nobel Laureate Prof Wole Soyinka and Prof Chinua Achebe as well as countless other distinguished academics in previous decades, the situation has worsened so badly that Ghana’s first college, University of Ghana (UG), Legon; trumped every Nigerian tertiary institution in the 2012 World Ranking of Top Universities in Africa.
 
That rating put University of Ghana at 14th best in Africa; whereas the few Nigerian universities that made it into that list fell very far below. A Nigerian youth studying at Houdegbe North American University Benin (HNAUB) told mauricearchibongtravels that his father sent him to study in Benin Republic because his elder sister spent seven years at Othmanu Dan Fodio University, Sokoto; before taking a B.Sc (Bachelor of Science) in Bio-chemistry. Normally, that programme runs for four years, but the young woman lost three years due to various work stoppages by academic and non-academic staffers in Nigerian universities.
 
Speaking further, the young man (name withheld), who hails from one of the states in the North West geopolitical zone; added: “Occasionally, universities in northern Nigeria are shut because of terrorist attacks: I believe you can recall the case of massacre of students of Federal Polytechnic Mubi, Adamawa State. Also, some parents believe that those of us sent abroad to study are spared the menace of cultism”.   
 
The above are truly among factors responsible for Nigerian youth flooding some universities outside their country. The plenitude of Nigerians in search of university admission has prompted countless investors in various neighbouring lands to establish academic institutions. Across Benin Republic and Ghana as well as Togo between them, countless Nigerian students were found during our survey.
 
Nigeria’s loss, others’ gain
Evidently, Nigeria’s loss is invaluable gain to Ghana, Britain and every other country, whose schools feature a large population of our compatriots. For example, countless Nigerians recently applied to Ghana Institute for Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) for admission to its 3-year Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) Law Programme.
 
“The GIMPA course is much sought-after because its degree is respected and its admission requirement is simple”, explained Mr. Kelechukwu Ike, a Nigerian living in Ghana. “Apart from being able to foot the $10,000 (roughly N1.6 million) tuition fee; all you need is a first degree in any area”, explained Ike, who is an alumnus of University of Ghana.
 
But, like other non-Ghanaians, Nigerians are victims of discriminatory fees. Aside from having to pay, sometimes as much as $6,000 (roughly N980,000) for tuition, per session; the non-Ghanaian must have earlier coughed out some money for an admission application form. Instance: When AUCC (African University College of Communications) recently announced it was admitting students for the 2013/2014 academic session, each Ghanaian was required to pay 50cedis (barely N3,500) for an admission application form; against $80 (over N12,000) for each foreigner.
 
Apart from the staggering fees, which Nigerian and other non-Ghanaian students pay for tuition, foreigners studying in Ghana also literally pay through the nose for accommodation. For example, Comrade Dumo Black-Duke, President of the Association of Nigerian Students in Ghana, revealed he pays the equivalent of N18,000 as monthly rental on the self-contained one-room flat, where he resides.
 
At this rate, Dumo coughs out N432,000 per year on accommodation alone. And, that is not all: He has a monthly energy bill of N10,000 (N120,000 per year) to settle. Additionally, this Nigerian student has another N1,000 water rate to tackle monthly (N12,000 per annum) as well as a quarterly levy of N7,000 (N28,000 per year) to evacuate his flat’s soak-away. Evidently, Dumo alone contributes roughly N600,000 to the Ghanaian economy, each year. It is worth noting that this N600,000 is far less than what Dumo spends per annum because more money goes into feeding and transportation daily.
 
Aside Dumo, at least two other Nigerians studying in Ghana also cited accommodation as an enervating problem. The duo, both 200-level law students and school-mates at Zenith University College, Accra; are Mr. Zinami Iwariso, who hails from Abua in Abua-Odua LGA, near Ahoada in River State and 22-year-old Patrick Chijioke; an indigene of Ihiala LGA in Anambra State.
 
These law students explained that, though some of the tertiary institutions own hostels, the ever-increasing population of foreign students mean growing inadequacy, and; therefore, scarcity. Such is the biting situation that “in some private hostels, students pay as much as N360,000 per annum”, Zinimi revealed. This boils down to N30,000 per month!
 
Despite all the challenges Nigerian students studying in overseas varsities face, countless youths are yearning to go abroad to further their education; because they were unable to get admission to local tertiary institutions, having failed to scale the JAMB (Joint Admission and Matriculations Board) hurdle, time and again. An example popped up as this script was being written, when 19-year-old Chioma Ohaegbu called our Ghana phone number seeking information about applying to any college in the old Gold Coast.
 
Imo State-born Miss Ohaegbu revealed she completed her secondary school education in 2010. Today, three years on, Miss Ohaegbu lamented she was tired of waiting endlessly for admission to a Nigerian university, when some of her high-school mates were making progress. In response, we had linked Miss Ohaegbu to Mr. Kelechukwu Ike, who set up an educational consultancy unit under his company, Kekeson and Gregory, to address such issues.
 
Desparation on the part of countless parents/guardians to get children/wards into tertiary institutions locally or abroad has spawned fraud and many conmen have been cashing-in on this desparation. Some of such fraudsters posing as admission agents sometimes charge and collect fees that in reality do not exist. One of such levies, Acceptance Fee, is non-existent as far as placement in a Ghanaian college is concerned.
 
According to Ike, racketeers were exploiting poor awareness on the part of Nigerian parents and their wards. He revealed that to save Nigerians from conmen robbing people under the camouflage of university placement, he had to add Education Consultancy to his line of business.
 
An alumnus of University of Ghana (UG), Legon; Ike revealed that his company, through deep-rooted experience of educational institutions in Ghana, know the process of admission; from picking an application form to matriculation.
 
Ike, who is Principal Partner of Kekeson and Gregory Ghana Limited; recalled: “We were more that 1,000 Nigerian students at University of Ghana by 2004, while I was a student, there. However, unconfirmed estimates showed an annual increase by roughly 50 per cent in the number of Nigerian students coming to University of Ghana”.
 
As to why he left Nigeria to seek admission in Ghana, Ike had this to say: “I thought that my fate was peculiar until I came to Ghana. I had taken JAMB for six consecutive years without getting admission to any university in Nigeria. At some point, I actually thought my fate was peculiar, until I came to Ghana”.
 
Concluding, KK remarked: “Apart from universities, countless other Nigerians are studying at Ghana Maritime Academy, Ghana Aviation Institute. I must, however, point out that the cost of books, accommodation and feeding were not part of the between the $5,000 and $6,000 we paid per session. There is serious capital-flight taking place. Interestingly, the costlier part of studying in Ghana is accommodation, books and feeding”.
 
Inside Benin Republic
By late 2012, some 75 Anglophone private schools could be found across Benin Republic’s economic capital, Cotonou; whereas 20 years ago, such institutions were very rare in this country. Such is the plenitude of these anglophone/bilingual institutions, that their founders/owners came together to establish a chapter of the Nigerian-based National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools in Cotonou.
 
Interestingly, a number of schools owned by non-Nigerians are also running bilingual system with a view to attracting Nigerian students. “There’s a big boom in education across Cotonou”, Mr. Calistus Maduakor, proprietor of Abundance schools’ chain; revealed. This boom, he opined, is traceable to relocation by countless Nigerian families to Cotonou in the last 20 years.
 
According to Mr. Maduakor, some of these institutions are doing purely Nigerian curriculum but there are others that pursue international or bilingual system, so that products of such schools can enjoy the benefit of both worlds. However, what is spent on the education of Nigerian children attending nursery, primary and secondary schools in Benin Republic could be described as insignificant, compared with what obtains at the tertiary education level.
 
Nigerians in search of the proverbial Golden Fleece have literally flooded Benin Republic. In fact, the demand for higher education by Nigerians has led to a proliferation of universities in this neighbouring country; whose capital city, alone, now throws up over 20 universities, against only one 20 years ago.
 
Aside young Nigerians, some middle-aged ones are also anxious to go to school. It could be recalled that during a visit by President Goodluck Jonathan to Cotonou on 31 December, 2010; some members of Nigerian community in Benin Republic actually pleaded with Dr Jonathan to facilitate the establishment of a Nigerian university’s campus in the neighbouring country.
 
Speaking at the event, which was a reception for the visiting Nigerian President, a wealthy Cotonou-based merchant lamented that he took to trading because want of money to pay school fees. But, now that he was rich enough to pay his way through college, this trader said he was anxious to go back to school.
 
As to why he had not enrolled in one of Benin’s public or private universities; the man revealed he had plans to return to Nigeria someday; therefore, he preferred Nigerian-style education at an institution recognised by his country’s ministry of education. In response, President Jonathan had promised to explore through the Federal Ministry of Education, the possibility of having a Nigerian university’s campus in Benin Republic.
 
Universities in Benin Republic
In Benin Republic, Université d'Abomey-Calavi (UAC), founded in 1970, is public-owned; and for decades, was the only such tertiary institution in the land until Université de Parakou (Parakou University) in Parakou, Borgou Region, some six hours’ drive north of Cotonou; entered the picture.
 
Considering that this duo began as State establishments, there can be no question over their accreditation. However, these two colleges barely have enough place for Beninese nationals, let alone the deluge of Nigerian youths seeking admission. The majority of such Nigerians, therefore, naturally gravitate toward private universities; and, here the problems lie.
 
It is worth pointing out that, the 2012 edition of the International Colleges and Universities Web Ranking list six universities as the Benin Republic’s leaders. Université d'Abomey-Calavi, Cotonou; Université Catholique de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (Catholic University) in Cotonou; Université de Parakou (University of Parakou), Parakou; L’Université Polytechnique Internationale du Benin, Cotonou; Université des Sciences Appliqueé et Management (University of Applied Sciences and Management) in Porto Novo; and, Université des Sciences et Technologie du Benin (University of Sciences and Technology, Benin) in Cotonou; make up the sextet.
 
However, other universities, some respectable amid sub-standard ones, have mushroomed over Benin at an alarming rate. Houdegbe North American University Benin (HNAUB) in Akpakpa; L’Université Polytechnique Internationale du Benin (UPIB) around Etoile Rouge; Université CERCO and Université ISM Adonai, both in the Sikecondji neighbourhood of Cotonou; are among the over 20 universities that can be found in the Beninese economic capital.
 
Apart from these and the Top Six, Benin Republic also boasts Université Catholique de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (Catholic University of West Africa) in Cotonou; Institute d’Enseignement Superieur Sonou Afrique in Porto Novo, which is also home of Protestant University of West Africa. Other universites in former Dahomey include Université ESGIS, Université HECM, IRGIB-Africa, vicinal to Carrefour la Beninoise, PIGIER Benin, close to Cinema Vog on Avenue Steinmetz; UCAO and HEJT both in Cadjehoun, Ste Felicité in Godomey; as well as Projet ESAAM in Akpakpa.
 
That the Cotonou neighbourhood of Gbegamey alone throws up three universities helps to put things in perspective. The three universities in Gbegamey are COURS Gama, ISMA and Verachagune. Cotonou’s other universities include Esperanza near Camp Guezo, Fopaze and Weldios, both in Gbedjromede; Cle de la Reussite in Vodje, Menontin; and, CERI Formation in Fifadji.
 
Although Benin’s Ministry of Tertiary Institutions is not lax, at all, in its duties; it would seem that the ease with which one can register an academic institution in that country has fostered proliferation.
 
mauricearchibongtravels was told that, it takes less than a year to get a license from Benin’s Ministry of Tertiary Institutions to run a school. “Once you have the necessary qualification, especially a background in education; qualified and competent workforce as well as decent premises; you apply, with a sample of the curriculum you intend to run. As part of the vetting process, officials of relevant government agencies will visit the proposed school premises on inspection. Where they are satisfied, you are likely to get approval within six months”, one of our respondents revealed.
 
Apparently, whereas the State took steps to smoothen the path to the establishment of schools; some investors, on the other hand, appeared more interested in raking-in money.
 
Though founded in 1992, it would seem that HNAUB, which aims to be The Reference in West Africa; was licensed by Benin Government, vide Decree No 089/MESRS/CAB/DC/DPP/SP du 19/10/2001 as well as No 067/MESRS/CAB/DC/DPP/SP du 18/10/2002; going by this university’s prospectus.
 
Gate of Houdegbe North American University Benin (HNAUB), located near PK Dix, Cotonou.

Houdegbe’s Faculties and Departments include Kwame Nkrumah School of International Affairs, Political Science and Public Administration; General Mathieu Kerekou School of Health Science, Sir (Dr) Kesington Adebukunola Adebutu Faculty of Law, Prt Andre Kolingba Institute of Languages  and School of Translators, School of Economics; and, Rev. Dr Leon Sullivan School of Business Administration.
 
During our latest visit to Houdegbe, on Tuesday, February 26, 2013; we finally got to meet a senior staffer of the institution. The top-brass, Mrs. Thelmathecla Udo, is Director of Admissions at HNAUB. Her face lit up, when we mentioned University of Ghana, Legon; among the universities our investigation had taken mauricearchibongtravels, to.
 
Whereas Mrs. Udo enthusiastically told us that she is an alumna of Ghana University, the lady was not forthcoming with answers to our questions on HNAUB. Our questions: “We were told by several Cotonou-based respondents that, ‘Nigerians account for over 70 per cent of Houdegbe University’, is this true? We also learnt from visits to Accra, that University of Ghana, Legon has a total student population of 39,376. What is the situation at Houdegbe University”?
 
In response, Mrs. Udo had advised us to submit a formal questionaire. “And, after going through your memo, we would know what exactly you want and how to go about addressing the issues”, this director of admissions remarked.
 
In any case, while waiting to see Mrs. Udo (we actually spent over an hour in the Admissions’ General Office before seeing the woman); one observed that a booklet containing receipt issued for the purchase of admission application forms; was close to its last pages. Even at that, many Nigerians, prospective students and parents/guardians, were on queue to buy forms or make enquiries.
 
It was in the process of waiting to see Mrs. Udo that we noticed some tell-tale signs on a shelf behind one lady issuing admission forms. On the multi-rack shelf were different piles of forms filed by prospective students.  Whereas Business Administration featured the highest pile of application forms, followed by Medicine/Pharmacy; application by those wishing to study Mass Communication were barely 12. Were Nigerian youth, supposed leaders of tomorrow, wary of journalism and its occupational hazards?  Whatever the case, how does one get admitted to HNAUB?
 
Road to matriculation
For starters and perhaps a crucial factor behind the influx of Nigerians to universities in Benin, Ghana and elsewhere, prospective students have no obstacle like JAMBE (Joint Admission and Matriculations Board Examination) to contend with.
 
The admission process, which could be likened to Direct Entry, begins with picking up an application form. The price for this form varies from school to school. In fact, the cost of admission form even differs within the same university, depending on what course the prospective student was applying for.
 
At Houdegbe North American University Benin, where the price is standard, an admission form currently goes for 15,000francs (N5,000). It would seem that the torrent of Nigerians virtually dying to get admitted to HNAUB pushed up the cost of the admission application form because, two years ago; this document sold for 10,000francs or the equivalent of N3,500 at the time.
 
At HNAUB, the prospective student is expected to have “a minimum of five credits in WAEC/GCE/ O Level NECO at not more than two sittings and must include English Language and Mathematics and other courses relevant to choice of study” (sic). We further learnt that, aside from the 15,000 francs for purchasing an admission application form, each successful freshman subsequently has a tution fee of 920,000francs (over N320,000) to pay.
 
Interestingly, more fees await each HNAUB student: there is Hostel Charge, which extracts 300,000francs (N100,000) per student, each semester; and, another 30,000francs (N10,000) Caution Fee. Moreover, a student is also required to pay another 30,000francs (N10,000) as Health Insurance premium, per semester. Although Houdegbe boasts excellent hostel facilities on campus, the rooms and bed-space are grossly inadequate for the ever-increasing number of Nigerian students washing over here. Not to worry though, because some investors have put up multi-storey structures with dozens of rooms near HNAUB to cater for students that cannot find accommodation on campus.
 
So, what does the student get at the end of the day? This university’s authorities claim the institution “is situated in a serene, pleasant and healthy environment, ideal for academic excellence”. While visits by this writer verified their claim, questions would be asked as to the accreditation of some courses. In terms of blocks, Houdegbe could hardly be faulted. Our penultimate visit, on Wednesday, February 20, 2013; showed how rapidly infrastructures at this complex have grown, compared to what we met on ground in late-2010; when we came this way.
 
This institution now boasts a World Politics Hall and a Zamfara State Hall among several structures that have been added to the ever-growing list of buildings that have sprouted here over the last 18 months. But, blocks alone do not a university make. Perhaps, even more important than physical infrastructure are the presence, adequacy and competence of the academic staff.
 
At the rate this university has blossomed over the last 10 years or so, one could not help but wonder how their teaching staffs is sourced. Bachelor of Art (BA) in Political Science or Public Administration might not raise eye-brows here. But, a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Pharmacy, for example? Benin Republic’s Ministry of Tertiary Institutions as well as Nigerian Embassy Cotonou need to clarify things, fast. Especially as our recent tours revealed that Nigerian youths are literally falling over themselves to get admission, here.
 
Inside Togo
The one-time German colony of Togo is one country, where things are still largely tightly-controlled. For example, whereas some countries around Togo throw up about a dozen GSM operators, only two networks (Government-owned Togo Cellulaire and private-run Moov) are licensed operators in this former French colony.
 
As regards universities, the situation is very similar. There are only two universities in Togo. These are Université de Lome, established in the capital city in 1965; and, the latter-day Université de Kara, in the country’s northern parts. With just two colleges in this nation of roughly 6 million population, there is, evidently; barely enough room for indigenes seeking university admission. Expectedly, therefore, most non-Togolese have to look elsewhere.  
 
Nigerian Envoy to Togo, Amb Matthew S. Adoli.

Although some Nigerians were found at Togo’s oldest degree-awarding public institution, Université de Lome; many were students of colleges back home but are in Togo for the compulsory One Year Linguistic Immersion Programme. Nonetheless, countless Nigerians are enrolled in numerous anglophone nursery, primary and secondary schools in Togo.
 
Signboard of one of the many Anglophone schools in the Togolese capital, Lome.

In other words, Togo is not among countries flooded by Nigerians in search of the proverbial Golden Fleece. However, this is not to say that the demand by Nigerians in Togo for primary and secondary schools for their children and wards are not very high. Although the idea of a Nigeria International School Lome was mooted more than 20 years ago, that institution has not materialised. In fact, the construction of Nigeria International School Lome is far from completed, even though a Building Committee has been in place for over a decade.
 
Mrs. Osuagwu Lovina Mamuromu, proprietor of FMC schools in Lome.

Taking advantage of the inability of Nigeria International School Lome to metamorphose from egg to larva, not to talk of pupa; private entrepreneurs had since intervened to meet the needs of thousands of Nigerian children living with parents and guardians in Togo. This explains why there are now no fewer than 12 anglophone schools in Lome, capital of Togo. A Nigerian-born proprietor of one of Togo’s anglophone schools, Mrs. Osuagwu Mamuromu of Faith Mission Centre (FMC), Lome; spoke with mauricearchibongtravels.
 
Inside Ghana 
About 15 years ago, there were less than 15 universities across Ghana. Today, the situation is very different. Many missions, both Christian and Islamic, have established universities. Although the majority of Nigerian students in Ghana are enrolled in schools based in the Ghanaian capital, Accra; many others are pursuing various courses at various colleges in Kumasi, Cape Coast, Winneba and elsewhere in that country.
 
Amb Onafowokan with pupils of Holy Infant Nursery/Primary/Secondary Schools in Agbor, Delta State during their visit to Nigerian High Commission Accra as part of their week-long excursion to Ghana.
mauricearchibongtravels also discovered that thousands of Nigerian youths are studying at University of Ghana (UG), Legon; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), University of Cape Coast (UCC) and University of Education in Winneba (UEW). The above-named quartet is among Ghana’s six public universities, and; the remaining two of the sextet are University of Development Studies, where Mr. ABT Zakariah (PhD) is Registrar in Tamale, Northern Region; and, University of Mining and Technology in Tarkwa.
 
Founded in 1948, University of Ghana, which began as University College of the Gold Coast, following recommendations of the “Asquith Commission on Higher Education in the British Colonies”; is the oldest such institution in this country. Today, as authorities, alumni and other stakeholders prepare to celebrate this college’s 65th anniversary; UG boasts 39,376 students.
 
This almost-40,000 number of students makes UG the largest in terms of student population among all tertiary institutions in the old Gold Coast; according to the January 28, 2013 edition of The Daily Dispatch. Although University of Ghana is quite popular among Ghanaians, the country’s other preferred colleges include; Kwame Nkrumah University of Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi; University of Cape Coast (UCC) and University of Education, Winneba (UEW).
 

The Presbyterian University College, a multi-campus affair with one such outpost at Abetifi-Kwahu in Okwahu, is among the dozens of tertiary institutions run by Christian missions across Ghana. There are also the Catholic University of Ghana in Sunyani; Pentecost University College, Accra; Christ Apostolic University College in Kumasi as well as the Evangelical Presbyterian University College (EPUC), which prides itself as The premier university of the Volta Region; in Ho.
 
Furthermore, there is the Methodist University College, Weslyan Centre for Professional and Continuing Education in Dansoma; and, the Anglican University of Technology (Ang.U.Tech) in Legon, Accra but with other campuses, including one at Nkoranza. Not to be outdone, Muslim faithful have also set up a University for Islamic Studies in East Legon, Accra. Aside these mission-owned colleges, Ghana literally throws up over 50 universities or degree-awarding institutions.
 
These include Ashesi University College, Berekuso; Regent University College of Science and Technology, Accra; University College of Agriculture and Environmental Studies, Bunso; Kings University College, Accra; All Nations University College, Koforidua; Central University College in Dawhenya, on the fringes of Greater Accra Region; Valley View University; Zenith University College; Dominion University College, and West End University College in Ngleshie-Amanfro on the Weija-Kasoa Highway; both affiliated to UCC; and, Academy of Management and Leadership, which like numerous such institutions run “UK Accredited Programmes”.
 
Other universities in Ghana include Wisconsin International University College in Legon, Accra; Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA); University College of Management Studies (UCOMS), which began in 1974 as Institute of Management Studies. Located on the Weija-Kasoa Highway, UCOMS is affiliated to both University of Education Winneba (UEW) and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
 
There is also Ghana Technology University College, originally named Ghana Telecom University at Tesano in Accra. Accra Institute of Technology (AIT), a KNUST affiliate; Knutsford University College, off Bamako Road in East Legon, Accra and affiliated to University of Ghana; Garden City University College in Kenyase, Kumasi; Mahatma Gandhi University; Radford University College (RUC) in East Legon, founded by Nana Worae Wiredu; KAAF University College; Trans Africa University College (TAUC) near Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra; and, African University College of Communications (AUCC); are among Ghana’s tertiary institutions besieged by education-thirsty Nigerian youth.   
 
Frontal of Trans African University College (TAUC), Accra, Ghana.

Evidently, many of Ghana’s tertiary institutions operate from campuses scattered across the country; some have undergone name-change, but; most importantly, virtually all of these private schools are recognised by Ghana’s National Accreditation Board (NAB). Moreover, majority of them are affiliated to The Big Four; viz: University of Ghana, Legon; Kwame Nkrumah University of Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi; University of Cape Coast (UCC) and University of Education, Winneba (UEW).
 
In essence, therefore, the issue of taking a degree from an unrecognised college is, ab initio, largely ruled out. In other words, such schools follow British curricula and prepare their students as external candidates for recognised certificates, diplomas and degrees.
 
L-R: Mr. Ike, Hon. Asamoah Boateng and Hon. Albert Kandapa, a former Tourism Minister in Ghana and former Energy Minister, respectively at an event in Biriwa, near Cape Coast.
Whatever their warts, however, several universities and colleges in Ghana are becoming even more and more popular because they are dynamic in terms of course content and curriculum development. For instance, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) recently began a course in Road Safety and Traffic Management. With such development, it is hoped, the stifling traffic jam that sometimes turn the barely 30km journey between Accra’s Kwame Nkrumah Circle and Tema into a two-hour drill would soon be a thing of the past.
 
Conclusion
The President of Institute d’Enseignement Superieur Sonou Afrique in Porto Novo, Mr. Theophile G. Kodjo, said he and other stakeholders have tried to raise awareness on the importance of parents and their children verifying the accreditation of Benin-based tertiary institutions before enrollment. “Unfortunately”, he rued; “the problem persists”.
 
Before sending a child or ward to study at any university outside Nigeria, parents and guardians would do well to observe the adage, Look before you leap. And, even after looking; contact the Evaluation and Accreditation Department of the Federal Ministry of Education for clarifications, before that crucial leap.
 
Can Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), redress the situation?
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s envoy to Benin Republic, Ambassador Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin, has observed that one way of arresting the risk of Nigerians enrolling at Benin-based universities operating without requisite accreditation, is to establish outposts of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) in some settlements in that neighbouring country.
 
Hear him: “Our efforts include getting NOUN to set-up Study Centres in Cotonou, Porto Novo and Parakou. With such centres, a Nigerian can be sure that whatever programme he or she enrolled for, already had the backing of the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Federal Ministry of Education”.
 
Where such proves a success upon implementation, it may well serve as a template for different countries with a staggering population of Nigerian immigrants.
 
Meet 3 Nigerian students in Ghana
Comrade Dumo A. Black-Duke is President, Ghana Chapter of the National Association of Nigerian Students. Currently 30 years old, and a final-year Human Resource Management student at Zenith University College, Mr. Black-Duke hails from Buguma, Asari-Toru LGA in Rivers State. Black-Duke, who described the tuition fee at his school as moderate; added: “It’s only $1,200 (roughly N200,000) per semester”.
 
Mr. Dumo Black-Duke.

As President of the association of Nigerian students in Ghana, does Black-Duke have any idea how many of his compatriots were currently enrolled at different tertiary institutions across the old Gold Coast?
 
Hear Black-Duke: “Presently, there are over 80,000 Nigerians studying in Ghana. This 80,000 figure is based on estimates given by Prof Charles Soludo, while he was Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). At that time, a CBN report, which gave 71,000 as the number of Nigerian students in Ghana also revealed that we were contributing $1billion (N160billion) to Ghana’s economy, apart from accommodation and feeding expenses”.
 
With regard to the number of Nigerians in his school as well as that institution’s over-all student-population, Black-Duke revealed: “At the moment, the population of students at my school is roughly 6,000 and Nigerians account for at least 70 per cent of the total enrollment. This means that, there are at least 4,200 Nigerians studying at my school, alone. In fact, half of the roughly 400 students in my set are Nigerians. In my school, there are Nigerians from virtually every ethnic group, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and various minority ethnic nationalities”.
 
As to why he came to study in Ghana, Black-Duke had this to say: “I wrote JAMBE for four years without getting admission. In 2008, I wrote JAMB exams for the last time before making up my mind to look elsewhere. Here in Ghana, at my school for example; all that is required is six O Level credits, including English and Maths.
 
“But, if you are planning to be in the Faculty of Art, you need one core Science, and; if you are looking for admission to study a science course, you need one core Art subject. Once the plan to commence admission is announced, you pick the form. At my school, admission application form costs only 60cedis (less than N5,000), he further revealed.
 
When asked what his plans were, upon completion of his studies in Ghana, Black-Duke mused: “I believe I will be busy and occupied after graduation. I believe we should work toward making ourselves employable and I am seriously considering this option. We are making efforts to have comparative advantage over others. For example, I have experience as an international student. Some employers, if I chose to look for work in some multinational, could consider this an advantage for me”.
 
How about accreditation? Black-Duke again: “Accreditation is a challenge some Nigerian students face in Ghana. The issue of accredition is a major issue we are trying to resolve, Black-Duke admitted; adding, my school is affiliated to University of Cape Coast (UCC). Most of the private universities do not issue their own degrees because they are affiliated to the Big Four. So, on graduation, we actually end up as holders of degrees from one of the Big Four universities in Ghana.
 
“University of Ghana (UG), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), University of Cape Coast (UCC) and University of Education Winneba (UEW) are the Big Four government-owned universities. Currently, there are only two autonomous private universities, whose products’ degree/certificate carry the schools’ name and crest. These are Central University and Valley View University (the first accredited private university)”.
 
Concluding, Black-Duke said: “In Ghana, before you open a college or university, you have to meet the conditions of the National Accrediation Board (NAB) and such private university must operate for a decade before going autonomous. 
 
Patrick Chijioke
While in Ghana, mauricearchibongtravels also spoke with 22-year-old Patrick Chijioke. A 200-level Law student of Zenith University College, Mr. Chijioke hails from Ihiala LGA in Anambra State. He revealed he had also attempted JAMBE twice without success, before setting out for Ghana in search of opportunity to further his education.
 
Mr. Patrick Chijioke.

Was the road to matriculation smooth or bumpy for Chijioke? “The process begins with if you passed WASCE with six credits. If you did, then you have scaled the first obstacle. Next, you have to buy an application form, which costs 80cedis (less than N7,000). After filing your application, you will be invited to sit an aptitude test. After this test, the result is likely to be released in two weeks, successful applicants will get their letter of admission”, he said.
 
What is his take on fees as a Nigerian studying in Ghana? Hear Mr. Chijioke: “At my school, Zenith University College, we pay two tuition fees: One to Zenith University and the other to University of London to which my university is affiliated. As a beginner, the total fee to University of London is £804 (over N200,000), apart from the 1,300cedis (over N90,000) paid to Zenith University College. However, it came down a bit in the second year, because whereas we paid the same 1,300cedis to Zenith University; the payment to University of London, £375, was considerably lower”.
 
Any idea, if the fees would be revised again, when he got to third year? “I really cannot say. But, when we asked Zenith University’s Accounts Manager, he said there could be an increase. However, we still do not know to what extent”.
 
Does he foresee problems practising law in Nigeria, since some of the core courses in his school’s Law Curriculum revolve around Ghana? “We are using the English Legal System. So, most of our studies are trained toward English/Nigerian System. However, there are slight differences, when it comes to Law Reports. But, such issues are easily addressed because we have web-sites, which we visit for the latest English Law Reports”, he remarked.
 
For a 22-year-old deprived of emotional support from family and friends because he had to travel to a foreign land for studies, how was Chijioke handling this aspect? “At Zenith University, I believe they have a Counselling Officer. But, I’ve never had cause to consult that department. I was barely 20 years old, when I came here. Since primary through secondary school, I’ve been separated from my parents because of education. So, I’m like used to being on my own. Generally, I have been handling my issues myself, but; I must confess that my course-mates, both classmates and seniors, have been very supportive”, he explained.
 
Was Chijioke enjoying life as a Nigerian in Ghana? “I’m the kind of person that I don’t get attached to any environment. Moreso, for some reason, I don’t find Ghanaian cuisine very interesting. So, I can’t wait to graduate and return to my country”, he concluded.
 
Zinami Iwariso
Mr. Zinami Iwariso, who hails from Abua in Abua-Odua LGA, near Ahoada in River State, is also a 200-level Law student at Zenith University College. Who foots the bills for his studies in Ghana? “My parents pay my fees”, he said.
 
Mr. Zinami Iwariso.

How was he coping, cut-off from his parents and siblings as regards emotional support? “Being detached from parents, family and friends has been challenging, but I’ve been surviving and will continue to do so; especially with support from friends and the school’s counsellor”.
 
Was he saying that he ever had cause to visit his school’s Counseling Department? “Yes”, he replied. What took him there? “It was an academic problem that led me to consult my school’s counsellor, the very first time. It was a course, I had difficluty comprehending. I was given some very bulky textbooks to read over a very short period of time and couldn’t cope. But, after joint consultations with counseling officers, other less voluminous books were prescribed for me. This brought the crisis to an end”.
 
As a young man, there is the issue of falling in love or starting a relationship with a young girl. Has he encountered any challenge in this regard? “Yes. I had a challenge with one girl, a Nigerian girl”, he confessed. How did it go? “We both made mistakes and it was emotionally damaging to me. But, with time; I’ve got over it”, he said conclusively.
 
A: Universities/Colleges in Benin Republic at a glance
Public Universities
1. Université d'Abomey-Calavi, Cotonou 
2. Université de Parakou, Parakou
Others include
3. Cle de la Reussite
4. CERI Formation in Fifadji.
5. COURS Gama,
6. Esperanza,
7. Fopaze
8. HEJT
9. Houdegbe North American University Benin (HNAUB), Akpakpa;
10. Institute d’Enseignement Superieur Sonou Afrique in Porto Novo,
11. IRGIB-Africa,
12. ISMA
13. L’Université Polytechnique Internationale du Benin (UPIB);
14. PIGIER Benin,
15. Protestant University of West Africa
16. UCAO
17. Université Catholique de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, Cotonou;
18. Université des Sciences Appliqueé et Management, Porto Novo
19. Université des Sciences et Technologie du Benin, Cotonou
20. Université CERCO
21. Université ISM Adonai, Cotonou;
22. Université ESGIS,
23. Université HECM,
24. Verachagune
25. Weldios
 
B: Universities/Colleges in Togo at a glance
Public
1. Université de Lome
2. Université de Kara
 
C: Universities/Colleges in Ghana at a glance
 
Public Universities
1. University of Ghana (UG), Legon
2. Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST)
3. University for Development Studies
4. University of Cape Coast (UCC)
5. University of Education in Winneba (UEW)
6. University of Mining and Technology, Tarkwa
Select others
7. Academy of Management and Leadership
8. Accra Institute of Technology (AIT)
9. African University College of Communications (AUCC)
10. All Nations University College, Koforidua
11. Anglican University of Technology (Ang.U.Tech), Accra
12. Ashesi University College, Berekuso
13. Catholic University of Ghana, Sunyani
14. Central University College in Dawhenya
15. Christ Apostolic University College in Kumasi
16. Dominion University College
17. Evangelical Presbyterian University College (EPUC), Ho
18. Garden City University College in Kenyase, Kumasi
19. Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA)
20. Ghana Technology University College, Accra
21. KAAF University College
22. Kings University College, Accra
23. Mahatma Gandhi University
24. Methodist University College, in Dansoman
25. Pentecost University College, Accra
26. Presbyterian University College
27. Radford University College (RUC), Accra
28. Regent University College of Science and Technology, Accra
29. Trans Africa University College (TAUC)
30. University College of Agriculture and Environmental Studies, Bunso
31. University College of Management Studies (UCOMS)
32. University for Islamic Studies in East Legon, Accra
33. Valley View University
34. West End University College, Ngleshie-Amanfro
35. Wisconsin International University College, Accra
36. Zenith University College, Accra
NB: This list is by no means exhaustive.

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