ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
There are also rising fears that standards are falling in the UK
education system, though not at the same rate as in Africa.
African Students Studying in the United Kingdom
By Uche Nworah
The United Kingdom (UK) appears to be the favourite destination for African students; this is not surprising considering the colonial links between the UK and some African countries. Also, the United Kingdom government actively pursues a policy of making UK education the number one in the world; it markets the UK education brand all over the world in association with its many universities through the British Council and other agencies. Students are recruited using various methods such as brochures, word-of-mouth, road shows and related events, and also through technology, i.e., internet marketing. Local representatives are also appointed in some countries and are charged with the responsibility of marketing the UK education brand to local students all through the year.
According to a publication by ukuniversites.ac.uk, International student numbers in UK higher education institutions have increased by over 60% in the last five years. In 2003/04 there were 213,000 international students and 104,000 students from other EU countries in UK higher education institutions (HEIs), the report said. These foreign students contribute about £4 Billion annually to the UK economy.
There is however a school of thought which argues that, what the UK government is doing can be likened to reverse-colonialism because of the persisting paternalistic nature of its educational provisions, as regards African and foreign students. This has led to fears that the brain drain syndrome will continue because on graduation, many of the African students settle back in the UK, thus denying Africa and the rest of the developing world the opportunities of benefiting from the skills which the students may have acquired while studying in the UK, thus the much touted western education offered to these African students ultimately benefit only the western countries. This agenda is further perpetuated by policies and schemes such as the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). Such stay-back preferences and schemes counter the more recent argument in certain quarters that the current situation which sees Africans flock to the UK and other western countries to acquire education should be regarded as brain-gain instead.
There are also rising fears that standards are falling in the UK education system, though not at the same rate as in Africa. Some have even described the situation as pure opportunistic exploitation and fleecing of the resources of developing countries, as some of these students are sponsored by African governments. Some however sell family properties and also borrow to sponsor themselves to the UK. The average yearly tuition fee in UK universities for foreign students is £7,000 (excluding living and board) for undergraduate students. Post-graduate tuition fees are £9,000 (excluding living and board) for a year depending on the university and course of study.
There have been unpleasant stories and experiences from some of these African students studying in the UK, many of whom were conned by flashy websites only to be shocked and disappointed on arrival, by the reality on the ground and the fact that some of these institutions are actually un-accredited one-flat colleges. There are also complaints against some of the older established universities as regards the quality of teaching, added value, course contents as well as the general enrichment of the students experiences. Such complaints therefore justify the Times UK Universities League Table exercise and their Good University Guide publication. It also challenges the UKs Department for Education and Skills (DFES) to improve on its supervisory and oversight functions, and gives rise to a recurring need to probe further on whether these fee-paying African students are getting value for their money.
We went to town to sample the views of some African students in the UK, to get their thoughts on UK education and also to find out their plans upon graduation.
Helen Chibogu Edozie (M.Sc International Marketing Management student at the University of East London): I came to the UK to study because I wanted to learn how marketing is done at the international level compared to what we have back home in Nigeria, and also to reposition myself for greater challenges. The Nigerian economy is opening up once again, and employers prefer overseas trained graduates, especially in my sector (the banking sector), with the recent bank capitalization and re-structuring policies, you need western education if you really want your career to progress. Of course I Intend to take the knowledge and experiences back to my country and add value to my people. The experience has really been inspiring and very challenging.
Mohamed Jama (Accounting Management student at the University of Greenwich): There are obvious differences between education in the UK and in Somalia my home country. Teachers in the UK are more lenient and understanding with students, especially if the students are going through difficult times, there are no such things as extenuating circumstances back home. Its either you hand in your work when due or you fail. However, I miss the strictness and discipline in Somalia, here teachers are too soft and lenient and dont always push students to their limits. Sometimes I think that I could have achieved better grades if I was studying in Somalia because you are made to work harder, and you also compete with your classmates for the first position. I plan to settle in the UK when I graduate, although I will maintain links with my home country and help out in any way I can.
Mary Onishile (Business Studies student at Newvic): I dont miss studying in Nigeria, and really value UK education, there are abundant resources such as computers and books, the teachers are always here unlike back in Nigeria where lecturers were always going on strike. This is a big opportunity for me to achieve my goals in life, in the UK students can work and study at the same time, whereas in Nigeria, you will be dependent on family and friends for financial support. Im not planning to go back after graduation, I intend to settle here in the UK, until maybe when I become a pensioner, and then I can retire back to Nigeria.
Carlos Goncalves (Accounting student at Middlesex University): I appreciate UK education because of the ready availability of resources; you have internet access round the clock to help you in your research work. Also the libraries are well stocked. There is really no reason for not doing well and achieving top grades here. You wont believe what a difference it makes to have uninterrupted power supply incase you want to study at night, without having to resort to candles and lamps. This may sound funny but such little things have really made a difference for me. I miss the African atmosphere though, the spirit of togetherness and so on, people back home are friendlier but then, something has to be sacrificed.
I will encourage other people who plan to come to the UK to study to do so; I really see more opportunities here, as one can get a job on graduation. I plan to live here after graduating but would hope to have business relations with Angola, my home country.
Delfina Antonio (A level student at Newvic): I am particularly happy with the opportunities for disabled students, the government and teachers in the UK try as much as possible to accommodate their needs. In Angola, many disabled students studying in the UK would have probably dropped out and classified as illiterates. I also value governments grants to students aimed at encouraging and supporting them. The UK government understands that young people are the future and so provides them with career guidance, and adequate resources. I do have problems though with the syllabus, especially the A level law syllabus because it is constantly changing, and students have to struggle to play catch-up all the time. I plan to go back to Angola someday, but not in the immediate future, when I do go back, it would be to do some charity work, where I can volunteer my skills.
Emmanuel Osei-Tutu (Business studies student at London Metropolitan University): Studying in the UK has its positive and negative sides. On the positive side, the teachers are more helpful, probably because they also need the students to pass in order to retain their jobs. There are also the availability of computers, and technology which are largely lacking in Ghana and in other African countries. On the negative side, the UK society suffers from moral decay; young people could easily get into trouble here by associating with bad friends. There is not enough parental control here, children and other young people are too independent, this is not so good. In this regard, I still prefer the African discipline system where the whole community watches out for each other. Also, feedback from teachers here can sometimes be demoralizing and can make students lose confidence.
I am afraid in a way because there are no longer guaranteed job opportunities in the UK as we had thought when we came, especially with the increase in the number of immigrants and also the influx of EU citizens. My advice to other African students especially from Ghana my home country is to make plans of returning after graduating. After graduating, I plan to work for some time, save some money and set up a business which will take me back and forth to Ghana.
Nonye Chidomere (Recently completed the M.Sc Information Management and Finance degree at the University of Westminster): I recently completed my masters programme at the University of Westminster, having previously studied electrical engineering at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The UK experience was quite revealing in many ways, while it lived up to its billings in some areas, it came short in others. I particularly liked the opportunity of meeting and studying with other students from other countries, and getting to learn their culture, the university also offers students career guidance and workshops. Teachers here encourage group activities and this builds your team work skills, something that employers value a lot.
Students in Nigeria are pampered in a way, but here you grow up quickly because you have to learn to do research on your own, this is not so much a problem because the resources, technology and books are there. My other issue is that in my course, because it is a combined finance and information management degree, we had limited practical exposure in the information technology modules but the finance bit was okay. I have no immediate plans of relocating to Nigeria, but probably someday, who knows?
Nnadubem Moghalu (Law student at Holborn College): Despite the initial culture shock and difficulties in settling down to the system, I would say that UK education is still value for money because of the quality of teaching, however this is at a risk of students becoming complacent because of the teachers approach which is more soft-touch. Compared to the law library in my former university in Nigeria (The University of Abuja) which was housed in a small flat, I would say that Holborn College is well resourced with up-to-date law publications and periodicals. Definitely I plan to go back to Nigeria eventually, and would advise other African students to think along the same line, although opportunities abound in the UK, I believe that those of us that are privileged to have studied here should also take back our skills to improve the social and economic well-being of our people back home.
Chizoba Onyiuke (MA Public Communications & Public Relations student at the University of Westminster):I believe that the quality of higher education in the UK is quite high, despite the high cost that students pay, at least employers here and in Nigeria value it. In that regard I would say that Im quite lucky because I paid home students fees as I was born here. On the down side, the cost of living is extraordinary, to survive students have to work part-time and this eats into their study time. I am not emotional about settling in the UK or relocating back to Nigeria, after all emotions dont pay bills. I will settle where ever I have better job prospects and opportunities.
Uche Nworah is freelance writer, lecturer and brand strategist. He studied communications arts at the University of Uyo, Nigeria and graduated with a second class honours degree (upper division). He also holds an M.Sc degree in marketing from the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus and obtained his PGCE (post-graduate certificate in education) from the University of Greenwich where he is currently enrolled as a doctoral candidate. His articles have been published by several websites and leading Nigerian newspapers. He received the ChickenBones Journalist of the Year award in 2006.
posted 13 September 2006
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A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family thats about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrinas inexorable winds is the voice of Wards narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her familys raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brothers blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt. Her fathers hands are like gravel, while her own hand slides through his grip like a wet fish, and a handsome boys muscles jabbered like chickens. Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isnt usually just metaphor for metaphors sake.
She conveys something fundamental about Eschs fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, whats salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.
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By Melissa V. Harris-Perry
According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless Mammys behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own familys needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.
As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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21 May 2012