If you were to list commendable efforts by Nigerian leaders to ensure progressive development, you may be thinking of how students are sent to foreign countries on scholarships; as part of some bilateral education agreements. You may also want to consider how the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) sends students from the Niger Delta region abroad to study – nothing but a welcome development seeing that there will be an exchange of ideas and cross-cultural relations.
No doubt, there have been several scholarship and exchange programs that have positively impacted people across the world. For instance, the United Kingdom is reputed to have scholarship opportunities for young students from across the world through the Commonwealth and other initiatives. This could be interpreted as a way of mentally perpetuating the British Empire but whatever it is, it is part of nationhood and it has positive impacts on young people from across the world.
The provision of many scholarship schemes for international students from across the world has also proven to be one of the things keeping the US as the melting pot of the world. Other countries have scholarship schemes too and there is a very active movement of students and knowledge across the world.
Here in Nigeria, Federal Universities used to admit students from all over the world and Nigeria could indeed compete with other countries on very sound academic grounds. An African-American student is reputed to have said that schooling in Nigeria is one of the best things that happened to him. Such was Nigeria’s honour in those days.
However, as the country declined economically and the mismanagement of resources led to insecurity, crises, educational decline amidst other problems, foreign students stopped coming and the spaces hitherto reserved for foreign students were converted to cater for the rising population of local students.
But, even as Nigeria stopped being the destination of foreign students, the country did not stop sending her own students abroad. This is not a problem in itself, the problem is the processes students have to go through to get these scholarships and graduate – without passing through avoidable problems.
The country has a Federal Scholarship Board that handles the schemes, but there are still accusations of nepotism and corruption in the award of the scholarships. Most embarrassing are cases of government abandoning students abroad and not fulfilling their part of the agreement even though the students remain in good standing. This development has embarrassed the country more times than anyone can remember.
Noteworthy is the recent embarrassment by the NDDC. The commission did not pay the fees and allowances of its scholars abroad and the students had to protest repeatedly. This affected their studies and they had to do press rounds, protest and engage people at home to assist them.
One wonders why the commission refused to fulfil its part of the bargain but the answer to that is in the recently publicised cases of mismanagement by the commission. The depth of corruption in the commission is so deep that it should not surprise anyone that they cannot pay their scholarship beneficiaries.
Over the years, this has put Nigeria in a bad light and perhaps it is time that Nigeria looks inward and invests in local universities. It is understandable that it is beyond investment but there needs to be increased allocation to the education sector with radical reforms that will overhaul the entire system itself. The Government needs to stop awarding foreign scholarships if the scheme will end up embarrassing the nation internationally.
“Ayọ̀délé Ìbíyẹmí is a lifetime student of Literature. He is also a reader who writes occasionally. For him, words are what makes the intractable world livable. Ayo tweets at @Ayo_eagles. He was a Wawa Book Review Young Literary Critics Fellow and won the 2019 Ken Saro-Wiwa Prize for Book Review.”