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Nigerian students in the UK groan as high cost pressure them into multiple jobs

Nigerian students in UK groan as high cost pressure them into multiple jobs

When Akin arrived in the United Kingdom (UK) earlier this year, he was grateful to God for delivering him from Nigeria. Life had been tough for him back home, from his stressful job to long-commute hours due to traffic, landlord problems, epileptic power supply, and constant insecurity amongst other challenges.

A friend had convinced him to switch to the UK where his skills would be better compensated. However, what the friend did not tell him was that life is not all that sweet in the land of milk and honey. Things were about to get tougher.

Akin, a former supervisor in one of the major telcos in Nigeria, was full of great aspirations and positive vibes. The plan was for him to study for his master’s at the University of Keele, a public research institute in the United Kingdom. The degree, coupled with his professional experience, would enable him to earn more than he did in Nigeria. He also figured he’d be in a better position to send funds back home to his family, or so he thought.

Part of his lofty plan was to bring his long-time girlfriend to the UK after a while. Hopefully, she could find a job there, start schooling and then marry him. This is what the ultimate japa dream is made of!

Akin’s struggles: Unfortunately, securing a better life abroad is not as straightforward as he thought. In time, he realized that the UK, like most European countries, had a social ladder which everyone had to climb to achieve relative financial stability. It’s even worse if you are a foreign student from a poor country.

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As he struggled to settle in, the other part of the struggle which his friend failed to inform him about started to unravel. The high cost of accommodation, limited working hours, and odd jobs soon led to Akin’s agitation.

Being an international student, he can only work about 20 hours a week, which means he could not get white collar jobs which he was accustomed to back in Lagos. He was left with the option of doing odd jobs.

He had declined a job offer from Vodafone just two weeks after he got into the UK due to his work-hour limitation. 

To survive and keep up with the huge standard of living in the city of Newcastle, he had to work multiple jobs.

Shared experiences: Thousands of Nigerians looking for a better life in the UK face similar struggles as Akin. Chukwudi, who is doing his pre-master degree at Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, admitted that “life here in the UK has not been easy”.

Chukwudi’s experience could be likened to that of Akin, who spends almost all his earnings on accommodation and feeding. He told Nairametrics that he has been combining school and work, a very demanding and stressful reality to find one’s self. 

Note that many foreign students who do odd jobs in the UK earn at best £1,800 per month. Interestingly, accommodation costs can take about £800 to £900 monthly or even higher, especially in big cities like London.

Accounting for taxes and school fees payments, which gulp almost £1,500 monthly, makes it nearly impossible for anyone to survive on their less than £2,000 monthly income.

Timothy’s Japa ordeal: Timothy, a Nigerian banker, gathered funds before the covid-19 in 2020 to send his wife and three kids to the United Kingdom so that his wife could complete her master’s and hopefully get a job and then pave the way for him to join them.

Why they are leaving: The United Kingdom is a top choice for Nigerian immigrants hoping to benefit from the UK’s post-study work visa policy that allows international students to remain in the country for at least two years after graduation.

What the government is saying: Last week, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo urged Nigerian youths to resist the pressure to leave the country due to fear of the unknown. He urged Nigerians to be hopeful despite the economic challenges. 

But this is not a piece of advice many Nigerian youths will be willing to consider, especially given the tough economic realities in the country.

How japa affects the Nigerian economy: The massive migration from Nigeria to other advanced economies has both positive and negative in the short and long-term to the Nigerian economy. We will consider how the massive human flight affects the largest African economy.

Better days ahead: Like Akin and Chukwudi, Oluwatobi, a second-year student at the University of Salford recounted his early days’ experience in the UK, which he explained were hard as well but was able to scale through.


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