Nigerian Students In UK Beg Charity Organisation For Food

By: Damola Russell-London, UK

Nigerian students hit by a financial crisis make up the majority of clients at a food charity, its manager has said.
An economic crash in Nigeria left international students struggling to afford tuition fees, with some at Teesside University blocked from their studies and ordered to return home. Manager Debbie Fixter said 75% of clients at Thornaby’s Sprouts Community Food Charity (SCFC) were affected students and the situation had pushed it to “maximum capacity”.

The university said it was providing support and international applicants must provide evidence of sufficient funds when applying for a visa.SCFC organises a range of activities and offers food for free or at low cost, along with clothes and household items. Over recent months, the charity said its clientele had noticeably changed with the majority of those visiting being Nigerian master’s degree students from Teesside University.

Nigeria is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in a generation, with the value of the naira depreciating by more than 200% against the dollar in the past 12 months. As a result, students at UK universities have seen their savings wiped out and budgets suddenly and significantly reduced, leaving them struggling to afford the cost of living. Some have subsequently been ordered to leave the UK after struggling to pay their tuition fees on time, as reported by the BBC this month. But Teesside University continues to recruit students in Nigeria, according to a spokesman.

An increasing number of students who come to the UK are turning to community charities and organisations for much-needed help, according to SCFC manager Ms Fixter.”They’re struggling, they need help and they’re part of our community,” she said. Client Boluwatife Elusakin said he has had to “dive deep” to afford the cost of living and studying in the UK. Nigeria’s economic crisis means he is having to spend double what he had budgeted.”Things are no longer the same,” he said.”I’ve had to cut costs because of the currency crash, it hit my savings as I’d already budgeted funds to come here.”It makes me feel sad, but I hope I can endure just one year and all will be well.”

Another student, who did not want to be named, said the university’s change to payment plans – from seven instalments to three – had exacerbated problems.
He said students who hoped to find jobs to help plug funding gaps were limited by the amount of hours they were legally allowed to work.
“When I was applying, the exchange rate was around 600 naira per pound, but by the time I arrived, it was 1,400,” he added.
“At the time we filled out forms, we had proof of funds to cater for nine months.
“But the money is not enough, you don’t have a job or the means to get one, the little you have is depleting and a lot of us have difficulties.
“When you don’t have funds in your pocket, frustration sets in and a lot are having mental issues.”Some wish they had never come.”

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