Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

NIGERIAN STUDENTS IN BRITAIN: Steep Currency Devaluation Hampers Fees Payment

  • Students’ Fees Should be Recalculated at the Old Rate of N584.2, While the Universities Cover for the Difference

  • Students’ Unions Must Take Up this Campaign in all Campuses Where Nigerian Students are Affected

  • For a United Struggle of Students and Staff to Force University Managements to Accede to this Demand

By Odun Eniayekan Leicester Branch, Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales)

In recent times, the plights of Nigerian students in Britain have gotten worse with many faced with threats of losing their admissions as a result of inability to pay fees. The recent sharp devaluation of the naira, Nigerian currency, by the Bola Tinubu government through the floatation of foreign exchange rate is largely responsible for this hapless situation. The naira has lost about 65 percent of its value as at April 24 against the pound sterling since the introduction of the new forex reforms.  In other words, the money in the bank accounts of Nigerian students, which is denominated in the naira, in the twinkle of an eye, greatly eroded in value when converted to the pound. Adding to the challenge, the limitation of a 20-hour working week has made it difficult for most students to secure part-time employment to earn pound sterling which could help cover expenses and mitigate the obstacle posed by the exchange rate.

Therefore, many are unable to secure accommodation in their first few weeks of landing in the UK and have to spend the already devalued monies in hotel and Airbnb accommodations. Indeed, some have even experienced worse situations. For instance, the media is awash with stories of international students having to put up in train stations and bus stations for shelter while struggling to secure accommodation and meet up with the stringent conditions put up by letting agents.

The aforementioned crises have put Nigerian students in a desperate situation, hence the need for an immediate coordinated action plan to save them from admission loss and deportation thereof. Students of Nottingham Trent University have taken their destinies into their hands by organising protests on 27th of February. Also at University of Surrey, the management was apparently forced by the threat of a protest to allow students to stay on at the university if they pay 50% of their originally agreed fee instalment. The university had asked for 100% previously. The protest was called by the university’s Nigerian society, Nigeria Solidarity UK and Surrey Socialist Students. These are examples of positive step that should be emulated. The students’ union leadership across campuses must now lead this struggle to withdraw all threats of admission loss and place a demand that allows for all affected students to pay at the old rate of N584.2 to a Pound, while the Universities bear the balance.  Considering that international students already face fees twice as high as their domestic counterparts as reported by the Guardian in London (31st January 2024), this demand is achievable and should be fought for. Students’ unions across campuses should call mass meetings of Nigerian students affected to discuss action plans which should include protests and petitions to the university managements. Staff unions like the UCU should also be approached for solidarity given that a massive drop out of students will definitely bear a resultant impact on jobs of staff.

The heavy reliance of British universities on funds from international students especially after Brexit is itself a reflection of the marketisation of education policy of the Tory led government which does not view education as a social service that it is but rather a commodity for profit making. Unfortunately, the government of Labour under Keir Starmer, which is likely to emerge from the upcoming election, has pledged to follow suit with its slogan of fiscal responsibility which implies more cuts to social services including education.

Only a united struggle of the working class, students, youth and the poor can force the government, not only in the UK but also in Nigeria, to fund public education adequately and create jobs with decent wages for all.

By and large, the plights of Nigerian students in the UK further underscore why Nigerians in the UK must pledge full solidarity with the working masses and youth protesting economic hardship and anti-poor capitalist policies in Nigeria.  It is in order to provide a platform for such solidarity that Nigeria Solidarity UK is sponsored by the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI in Nigeria), the Socialist Party (CWI in England and Wales), the Committee for a Workers’ International and Socialist Students in Britain. The group is currently fighting for the following demands:

  • Down with Tinubu’s anti-poor policies of fuel subsidy removal and floatation of the naira.

  • Transform Nigeria so that its huge resources are used for the benefit of the vast majority, not the greed of a few.