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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Exploited And Endangered: An Exposé On The Lives Of Nigerian Students Abroad

On Saturday, Jan. 25, SaharaTV launched the beginnings of its exposé on the challenges affected Nigerian students schooling abroad in Eastern Europe and Asia. The exposé, which will be featured in two pieces over the course of two weeks, was born after several complaints regarding conditions abroad made by Nigerian students.
Nigerian students schooling in Belarus, Ukraine, Malaysia, and Cyrpus spoke to SaharaTV’s Adeola Fayehun about their experiences, which include shocking allegations such as racially-motivated beatings, attacks, killings, exploitation, neglect and more. Students assembled claimed the prejudice and discrimination stemmed from a skewed perception of African students.
"They don't even look at you as a human being," Toby Gozie, a student from Malaysia said.
Several students echoed that sentiment, sharing stories of egregious inequity on the part of officials in their host countries. One student and activist from Ukraine, Ahmed Lukman, reported that two Nigerian students at the same university died within a week, their deaths arising from lack of appropriate concern on the part of medical staff treating them. Contrary to what the doctors claimed, namely that the students did not have the money for treatment, Lukman claims the students were neglected.
“It was a case of negligence,” Lukman said. “With [one student], the doctors said that we should give them five minutes to smoke cigarettes!”
The student later died, and the incident received erroneous coverage in the Ukrainian press. “The report from the Ukrainian media was false,” Lukman furthered.
Similar disregard by the media was also a major issue in Cyprus, where a student going only by the name “Ayodele” shared that a landlord in Cyprus badly beat his Nigerian tenant, a student, for requesting his property’s heating system be fixed. The incident made the news, but was attributed to Beijing instead of Cyprus.
This is but a fraction of the issues in Cyprus, Ayodele detailed, as a Nigerian medical student recently died in her apartment and her roommate was rendered unconscious, a result of a purported gas leak that was never sufficiently investigated. Another 20 year old student was struck down and killed by a motorist in Nicosia, with no justice taken in his case and no condolences sent to his family by the university or Cyprus officials.
Other students allege that they were defrauded by agencies abroad, applying for and paying for academic programs that they were later barred from. A Nigerian student in Ukraine claimed that he applied to a university to study medicine, but was instead shipped off to an agricultural university in a location undisclosed to them, mistreated, and victimized.
“They gave us food like animals,” he said. “They sentenced us to emotional trauma.”
“The agencies deceive students,” Braithwaite Umenta, a Nigerian student in Belarus said.
This deception, derision, and extortion occurs with complete disregard to the student’s legal status in the country, many of the students claimed. “Whether you have a valid passport or not [Malaysians] will try to humiliate you,” Toby Gozie said of his experience. The racist thinking of the foreign community, Gozie said, poisons the possibility of any positive judgement of African students.
“They see a black man and they cover their nose, like they think we have some kind of virus,” he added.
Asked if they had reached out to Nigerian embassies or government agencies abroad about the depravity, students said they had no expectations of such organizations.
“What baffles me most is the nonchalant attitude of the Nigerian embassies in the diaspora,” Ayodele said.
Though he expressed hope that someday the Nigerian government would work to ensure that the Nigerian student’s image is protected abroad, Ahmed Lukman of Ukraine stated despairingly “we know that the government won’t do anything.”
Ultimately, many of the students urged their peers to be wary when planning study abroad.
“Nigerian students, before you study outside the country be careful,” Lukman cautioned.
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