On the 5th of August, 2015, students seeking admission into the University of Lagos together with their parents staged a peaceful protest in front of the school gate.
The Joint Admission And Matriculation Board (JAMB) and its educational stakeholders had fixed the cut-off mark for universities at 180 as requirement for admission, while the polytechnics and colleges of education at 150 but the insistence of University of Lagos’ management to set it at 250 incensed the parents who believe their children are being deprived of what they believe is solid education.
Solid education in any country is characterized by good teaching methods, qualitative research, optimum lecturer to student ratio and a conducive living and learning environment. In truth, very few Nigerian universities possess these qualities.
To worsen the situation, the drop in crude oil price has led to the biggest exchange rate depreciation in over a decade with the Naira now exchanging for the US dollar at a rate of about N350/$1. This is about double the rate barely a year ago. In practical terms, this means parents who may have wanted to send their children abroad (even Ghana and Togo are now major destinations for Nigerians) cannot afford the fees any longer.
Thankfully, there are several international organizations who have recognized the gap in the Nigerian educational system and are working with Nigerian partners to help deliver qualitative education to Nigerian students willing to take up the opportunities presented.
One such partnership is between the Friends of The Environment (FOTE) and the Brazilian embassy who are looking to provide scholarships to study various courses in participating Brazilian universities.
To qualify, there is a prerequisite 6-month language proficiency course which started in October 2015. The course also offers entrepreneurs and other business professionals the chance to broaden their business horizons to include Brazil, Portugal, Angola, and other Portuguese-speaking (Lusophone) countries in Africa.
Successful candidates will obtain full scholarships for post-graduate studies, and tuition scholarships for undergraduate studies.
In a sense, the University of Lagos debacle combined with the fall in the Naira exchange rate, could re-ignite a lost shared heritage between Lagos and Brazil.
Once upon a time, returnee immigrants from Brazil (and other South American countries) collectively known as Brazilians or “Aguda” (Catholics) made up a significant part of the Lagos population with names such as Da Rocha, Pedro Martins, Da Silva, Salvador, being very prominent in various facets of society – academia, trade, business, religion and politics.
In truth, darker skinned Brazilians owe their heritage to the millions of African slaves brought into the country from West Africa during the slave trade; Lagos was a major export terminal for the West African slave trade.
There just may be a new wave of Agudas as Nigerian students explore ‘the new world’ all over again, and possibly return with Brazilian partners – business and marriage – to Lagos to add to the long and rich history between both countries.