By: Habeeb Abdul
There were three of them; two tall, long-legged, and covered from head to toe in traditional Muslim wear. The other, a guy, had a slightly darker hue and was shorter compared to the ladies. Now, what struck me was neither their stature (though, being short myself, I felt a tingle of intimidation at the gap) nor their clothes, but the funny accent they had to their English. My guess was Morocco.
Educational tourism is commonly defined as a travel-based learning, where students cross international borders to study in foreign institutions. It developed as far back as the 17th century, when European elites sent their children on tours of the European continent. The focus of this kind of tourism is to acquaint with the socio-cultural and historical values of different societies. For the purpose of this article, let us consider educational tourism as the interaction of foreign students with local institutions. In other words, a pursuit of education in Nigerian universities, and vice-versa.
Globally, Nigeria is the largest contributor to the flux of sub-Saharan African students to foreign institutions. But it records little to no reciprocity from its counterparts. The reasons for this are not far-fetched; they are centred on the quality of education in the nation’s universities. Once, the country was tagged an appealing destination for international students with its leading universities, Obafemi Awolowo University and the University of Ibadan being favoured hubs. Today, however, data suggests the contrary.
The reporter could not subdue an overwhelming sense of shame as directly to the left of the ‘Moroccans’ was a gaping pothole in the road. On their right, the barbed-wire fence around the playing courts leaned inwards in a broken pose. This scene is currently mimicked around major centres in the University — potholes, dysfunctional streetlights, overflowing mountains of refuse dominate the university atmosphere with a relentless grip.
To add to these, places which were primarily designed for appeal, such as the fount at Heritage Park, and the Love Garden, are at various stages of Infrastructural decline. Thus, it takes no creativity to imagine the shock of foreign visitors when they observe these elements.
The University’s portal for applications by foreign students highlights the prospect of gaining on-campus accommodation, however, one questions if there is an inviting character in this. Hostels are no less than two floors high, but are commonly starved of running water. It becomes even worse when one considers high-rise accommodations like Awo Hall, where females either employ the paid services of water boys or bundle their vessels up themselves.
The absence of running water is also the prime suspect in the sanitary epidemic that pervades the halls. Many times than one, toilets have collapsed under the weights of unflushed excreta. It is a fact of life for hall residents to witness this several times in their academic career. So, if this is the case, can foreign students be expected to cheer a scholarship in the university?
Internet and Insecurity
Despite its many promises, the university scarcely caters for the internet needs of its students. Repeated pledges to this effect yield an insufficient output. Across many halls are relics of an attempt at providing internet, and failed experiments on solar power. Also, the frequent outages in electricity, especially during online classes, cast doubt on the school’s ability to meet expectation. Consequently, students who otherwise would have enjoyed a study here are repelled by the state of things.
Every semester comes with its own risk — that the Academic Staff Union of Universities will strike again. For students who can afford it, the classic response is to either enrol in a private university or go abroad. The nation’s premier university, unfortunately, is the hotbed of union strikes. Foreign students who therefore desire a hitch-free run in their academic years will be forced to accept the Nigerian situation. Courses go on without an end in sight and this will definitely appeal to no one.
Importance of Sound Structure
Adequate infrastructure has been touted as a boon for institutions. Where proper facilities are in place, students have been noted to perform better. Thus, a redesign of the learning environment spurs growth in academic performances.
In addition to this, the University encourages curiosity in what it means to learn at the institution. The assurance that 21st century academic standards are upheld is a magnet to students, foreign and local.
The benefits of attracting international students are unlimited. Financially, the institution can expand its purse from the fees paid by international students. The foreign applicants’ website shows a fee range of more than a thousand dollars to five thousand. Globally, the international students market is valued at more than a $100 billion, little of which the country earns. Developing tertiary infrastructure, particularly that of the university, is therefore an investment with great returns.
In conclusion, bringing the university back to its glory days requires more than lip service. The school has to explore options to market itself and highlight its qualities. Although finance is admittedly a problem, it can be mitigated by seeking alternative sources of revenue. The school must control its fate.