By Adesina Wahab
AS Coronavirus continues to ravage many nations across the globe, its economic impact on different sectors is better imagined as such is still being collated on daily basis. However, with an estimated six million people studying at tertiary institutions outside their countries, the period when the disease struck, (beginning of the new academic session in many countries), may inflict a great blow on institutions relying on foreign students to make money.
The American situation
According to statistics obtained from the Institute of International Education in the United States, the country could lose about $41 billion being generated as income from international students by universities and colleges in the country. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, there were about 370,000 Chinese students in America with many of them now stuck in China. China has the highest number of foreign students in the US and is followed by India.
According to the Association of International Educators in the US, most of the affected foreign students are unable to go back to school, while new intakes are finding it difficult to resume. In 2018/2019 session, foreign students contributed over $41 billion to the American economy. In the US, the New York University, NYU, with its main campus in Greenwich Village, is the most sought after university by foreign students in America. It has over 20,000 foreign students. This year, it got over 85,000 applications for admission, according to its spokesman, John Beckman, but the question is; how many of the students would be able to go and take up their admission?
Hafeez Lakhani of Lakhani Coaching, New York, said the implications of the development were many for the universities and colleges. “It could be a setback to many universities and colleges because in the last decade, there have been deep cuts in state funding of higher education which made universities and colleges to focus on admitting more international students. And if there are fewer foreign students in American universities and colleges, those schools would have to admit more domestic students that would pay full tuition and that means the schools may not be able to be generous with their financial aid offerings,” he opined.
The situation in Australia
The country has a world-class higher education system and most of the foreign students there are postgraduate students. According to figures from Australia Council for International Education, there were over 212,000 Chinese students in the country in 2019, which was about 28 per cent of international students in the country. The students contribute over A$12 billion to the country’s economy annually. Now, about 100,000 of the students are stuck in China. The Australia Council for International Education has set up the Global Reputation Taskforce to do some rapid response research on the implications and impacts of the crisis.
In the United Kingdom
Though there is no current figures of Nigerians studying in the country’s universities, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, HESA, said 17, 640 Nigerians studied in UK universities in 2011/12 session, up from 5,385 that did that in 2003,/04 session. With the global economy badly affected by the Coronavirus outbreak, many foreign students, including Nigerians, may not be able to afford such a luxury now. Officially, the American dollars is now N380, getting the money to fund a year of studies in the country that averages £10,000 may be herculean.
The situation in Nigeria
Before the Federal Government shut down all schools at all levels, some states had earlier decided to close all primary and secondary schools, starting with states in the North-West geopolitical region. The cost implications are enormous, even though one cannot yet quantify them now. In Lagos State for instance, the second term for primary and secondary schools was about winding down before the shut down. The development led to different approaches by private and public schools operators and consequent implications on them.
Moreover, a number of high grade events in the education sector had to be postponed. The Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo, had to shift its 24th convocation ceremony billed for this week. This is despite the huge resources already spent on preparations among others.
A number of seminars, workshops and fairs planned for this period have also been put on hold.
Public and private school operators
The Chairman, Triple Square Private Schools, Lagos, Mr Doyin Adebusuyi, said private school owners now have to grapple with how to pay their teachers for the period the schools would be closed. “Though the action is commendable, it came when we were preparing for the second term examinations. When we got the information of the shut down on Wednesday, we had to make ad hoc arrangement to conduct our examinations on Thursday and Friday. But we could not touch all the subjects and had to test the pupils in core subjects,” he explained. The issue now is when the shut down is lifted, probably after a sort of long holiday, will the school owners pay their teachers during the period?
What the teachers in private schools may lose in income may not be the lot of their
colleagues in the public schools. The government is going to pay its teachers their salaries, but the impact of the dislocation of the system regarding the time the academic year ought to come to an end cannot be fathomed now.
Stakeholders ready to bear the cost
It is agreed by many of the stakeholders that no cost is too high to bear regarding ensuring the safety and health of our children and their teachers. The Lagos State Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, Otunba Adesina Adedoyin, said: “Though the situation has led to some inconveniences, we must regard such as necessary sacrifices to make. It is when one is alive that he or she can teach or learn. We cannot afford to toy with the health and safety of our children who are our future.”
A parent, Mr Azeem Alade, opined that parents would indirectly spend more on their children’s education as a result of the development. “Students in higher institutions for instance, are coming back home. They will still go back but before then, their parents are likely to spend more money on them when they are at home than when they are in school,” he noted.
The South-West Coordinator of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Comrade Kappo Samuel Olawale, also agreed that no price is too high to pay to safeguard the lives of Nigerian students.
As it is now, parents, teachers, students and even the government are hoping that an end to the Coronavirus pandemic comes quickly, for a healing process of the damage already done to the education sector to begin.