This piece is targeted at Nigerian parents who would like to send their children to study in foreign countries, particularly the United Kingdom where I am writing from. Since the collapse of our educational system, particularly tertiary education, a lot of parents are confused about letting their children remain in Nigerian universities or sending them to other countries that offer quality education.
Before I write about the advantages and disadvantages of studying abroad, it will be relevant to discuss the attitude of parents who send their children out of Nigeria for higher education. For the purpose of this discourse, let us categorise them into three.
The first group includes the old guards among the Nigerian elites who have held positions in the country, amassed so much wealth and developed a thirst for anything foreign. They are the variety who own houses in the cosiest areas of London and, to be frank, some of them have contributed in killing our educational system.
The second group includes politicians and senior civil servants who have amassed so much wealth by holding public office and who would also like to compete with the first group so that their children would also not be left out in the scheme of things.
The third group includes the average businessmen, middle cadre civil servants and other members of the public who understand the value of education and would not like to see their children left out or become second class citizens in their own country.
Regardless of the category you fall into, parents are largely interested in working for the success of their children. However, the challenge is parents send their children, a lot of them teenagers, to foreign countries without fully understanding the implications.
I would rather suggest that Nigerian parents should encourage their children to have their first degree in Nigeria. At least, they would develop contact with people who share the same country with them, and in the future they are likely to become the leaders who will manage the resources of the country.
Secondly, by studying for their first degree in Nigerian universities there is the likelihood that they will understand the weaknesses of the system so that when they take over leadership responsibilities, they may try to address the inadequacy of the system. In addition, by studying in local universities, they may not suffer from cultural alienation.
In foreign countries they are likely to become isolated or be easily swayed by the temptations of foreign cultures. The resources spent by parents can also be an investment within the Nigerian economy. If you decide that the preferred option is to take them abroad, for example the UK, here are some dos and don’ts.
First of all, as a parent, to what extent do you understand the country you would like to send your kids to? You know your child better than anybody else; are you confident that he/she cannot be easily overtaken by the artificial beauty and temptations attached to foreign countries?
Secondly, do you have contacts in that country? People whom your children can respect and listen to their advice? Some parents do of course identify some people as guardians; unfortunately, not all the children see things from the perspective of their parents, as such once the father/mother joins the next flight to Nigeria, that is the last time the guardians would see them.
Thirdly, one of the mistakes made by parents is in the choice of universities. As a father or a mother, do your homework by identifying the best university for the course your child wants to study. Some parents think that as long as a university is in the UK or the US, then it is good. But it is not so. There are a lot of dodgy institutions whose certificate are not worthy. They are simply money-making ventures that will come to Abuja, Lagos or Kano, distribute the best brochures in town, while the quality of their education is not worth the glamour of the public relations effort.
Fourthly, when you make the decision to send your kid abroad, do not just give him money as if he is out shopping rather than coming to learn. Many parents lose their children this way. Frequently visiting your child and maintaining contact with him/her on phone will be helpful. In fact, in this age you should sign on Facebook and Twitter and join the list of his/her contacts.
You should have a copy of his timetable, his assignments and let him send a copy of his results to you once they are available. And when he has finished his exams let him join the next available flight home. These are still not enough, your prayers and mentoring will be useful. Also making your child understand that the essence of sending him abroad is to help him build a successful future, not to brag before his friends back home that he is no longer in their league.