Mrs. Dolapo Ajakaiye is a Human Resource Manager who trains Nigerians in diaspora and a number of foreigners. She is also the author of a book “Searching for Greener Pastures,” which is a reflection of the challenges she passed through in life. In this interview, she talks about her migration to the United Kingdom, her book and difficulties some Nigerians are facing abroad. Excerpts.
By Etop Ekanem
Movement to the United Kingdom
I migrated from Nigeria, about two decades ago with my family, settled in the UK. In the UK, I started as a student, did my first and masters degrees; raised two children, went through so much. But I am really glad that after everything, I manage my own business in the UK at the moment.
Why I relocated from Nigeria to the UK
At a point in time, life was becoming tough, the government policies affecting what I was doing because, then I was running my business. I would go to the UK to get goods but by the time you I came back, the policy would have changed: exchange rate and everything. You get your goods at a cost you can no longer sell them. Telecommunication was difficult. We did not have the GSM we have today, So, the head of the family was always abroad; most of the time and when he was away, he could not communicate with me and the children.
And at a point in time it was becoming very tough. The children were going through so much challenges and then you think, “Ok. let’s relocate, let’s go abroad; So that we are closer to the head of the home, he is closer to the family and the children will have a better life and then for me to get more education.”
What cultural differences did you experience on your arrival?
It’s a very big shock from what we see in the country to what we have over there. In Nigeria we have the family network. It’s either your mother, your mother-in-law, cousins, friends, etc.
The first shock I got in the UK was when I wanted to go for a job interview and I wanted my neighbour to look after my three-year-old daughter, she asked me to pay her 5 pounds. I was shocked. I had to pay from nothing that I did not have. I started learning.
Was there a time you felt like returning home?
Yes. I tell you, the first time I felt like returning was less than three months into UK because what I expected was not what I got.
On the book, “Searching Greener Pastures”
I wrote this book at a point in my life when I was really down. I went in as a student, complied with all the rules. But I got to a stage when my student visa expired. I went to renew it but I couldn’t. And I found myself at that point in time where they told you that I can’t renew.
You come into the system, You don’t have a record of public fund. What it means is that your visa status does not allow the government to support you. You are not a citizen, you are on a student visa. Depending on your student status, you will not have access to fund. So you start suffering. The children are not getting any support. So anything you live on is based on whatever income you can bring in with your husband.
As a student, you are limited to a 20-hour of work a per week. You can hardly survive on it when you’re thinking of paying your fees. You are an international student, you need to pay your fees. There are many challenges.
Advice to intending migrants
I am a Nigerian, I am proud to be a Nigerian. No matter what you say at the end of the day, Nigeria is a great nation, we are blessed, even though there are many challenges.
We need to start doing things differently. The young ones are the future of any nation. Our youths should start thinking differently. Fine, I want to go ahead but have I done my research on what I want to do?
If I want to make a success of myself when I go there, no matter how hard and challenging it is, I know that it is a difficult life. As a youth I should be able to know that there is dignity in labour.
So I would not advise anybody not to go. Before you go, do your research. What I am going there to do? What visa status am I going with?
A lot of people come on visiting status visa and at the end they want to stay. You have lost it from day one because there is no way forward for you. Ask yourself: If I am coming on a student visa, do I have money to pay for my fees? Even though they give you right to work for 20 hours per week, that 20 hours is not for you to pay your fees. It for you as a student to be able to pay for your utility bills and other minor things.