Focus on Ghana shows 75,000 Nigerians studying there

The recent deaths of some Nigerian students in Ghana shattered the ‘Eldorado’ perceptions of Nigerian parents towards Ghanaian tertiary institutions. Subsequent critical assessment of Ghana’s institutions has highlighted their good, bad and the ugly sides – along with the extraordinary news that there are now some 75,000 Nigerians studying in Ghana.

Authorities in the two West African countries have agreed to implement the Arusha Convention on recognition of higher education qualifications in Africa, with a view to improving the portability of degrees and tackling problems in many private universities in Ghana, where Nigerian enrolments are on the rise.

The murder of Godwin Ayogu (19), a Nigerian social science student at the University of Cape Coast, awakened the consciousness of Nigerians towards some harsh realities of the living and working conditions of Nigerians in the neighbouring country.

In April, five students were arrested for allegedly killing Ayogu when he tried to recover money lent to a fellow student. Late last year two Nigerian students accidently drowned while on a university outing in Ghana, and a Nigerian school pupil died mysteriously in Tema.

Surprising numbers

The Ayogu case triggered an intervention by the Nigerian government through its embassy in Ghana’s capital Accra, and also made Nigerians aware for the first time just how many Nigerian students were in Ghana’s public and private universities.

In a public lecture Lamido Sanusi, former governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, revealed the numbers and cost implications for students.

“Although there are no comprehensive data on the number of Nigerian students abroad, recent data have shown that there are about 71,000 Nigerian students in Ghana paying about US$1 billion annually as tuition fees and upkeep, as against the annual budget of US$751 million for all federal universities.

“In other words, the money spent by Nigerian students studying in Ghana with a better organised system is more than the annual budget of all federal universities in the country,” Sanusi said.

“Nigeria is today placed third on the list of countries with the highest number of students studying overseas.”

Sanusi’s extraordinary figures are considered reliable, since all requests for overseas remittances – including for student fee and upkeep payments – go through the bank. But they could be on the low side as they are based only on remittances, and other estimates have put the numbers at 75,000 Nigerian students in Ghana.

Nigerians highly value education and families dream of producing a graduate. But there are not nearly enough places in universities.

Every year about 1.5 million school leavers sit for compulsory entrance examinations into 150 public and private universities whose approved carrying capacity is 600,000 students.

It is not surprising that Ghana has become a destination for many of the very large number of Nigerian students who do not gain access to higher education at home.

Media highlights problems

But many Nigerians have questioned whether the huge resources being spent in Ghana have been commensurably benefiting Nigerian students there.

Not necessarily, was the answer from journalists Eno-Abasi Sunday, Ujunwa Atueyi and Kanayo Umeh of The Guardian, Nigeria’s influential daily newspaper, who visited Ghana to investigate.

They published articles titled “How Ghana profits from Nigeria’s troubled tertiary education system” and “Sub-standard Ghana private universities take Nigerians for a ride”.

Ghana has nine public universities operating in line with international standards, and to which admission is highly competititve, The Guardian revealed.

They are the universities of Ghana and of Professional Studies in Legon; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi; the universities of Cape Coast and for Development Studies; Energy and Natural Sciences in Ahafo; Mines and Technology in Tarkwa; Health and Allied Sciences in Ho; and Education in Winneba.

But there are problems in the private sector, which has some 50 universities.

One is Valley View University, owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church – the first and still the only private university that awards its own qualifications rather than those of foreign or public institutions. The other 49 private institutions, the journalists claimed, had defects:
  • • They are largely sub-standard and affiliates or satellite campuses of foreign-based universities. Quality control mechanisms are mostly absent.
  • • Weak infrastructure, with institutions housed in rented, inadequate and in some cases incomplete structures.
  • • Curricula are controlled by overseas home campuses without input from Ghana’s National Board of Accreditation.
  • • Prospective students do not have to possess required numbers of credits before being admitted: such students register for remedial courses to make up the shortfall while simultaneously undertaking undergraduate courses.
  • • Some Nigerian students are used as ‘middle-men’ to attract fellow citizens to institutions and are financially rewarded based on the number of candidates they lure.
The journalists reported Professor Naa Ayikailey Adamafio, dean of international students at the University of Ghana, Legon, as saying that local academics “consistently questioned the credibility of some of these private universities.

“Courses in these institution are not accredited. These sub-standard schools are making a lot of money off Nigerians because of increasing industrial strikes of academic staff in Nigerian universities.”

Professor Peter Okebukola, former head of Nigeria’s National Universities Commission, revealed that he had also conducted investigations into what he called sub-standard private universities in Ghana, where degrees were dished out on a “cash and carry basis”.

Okebukola said Ghana and Nigeria – under the auspices of the revised Arusha Convention – should seek solutions to this problem.