Nigerian student is "forced to return to school" due to the conflict in Ukraine

Olawale Oyewumi Azeez

Oyewumi Azeez Olawale makes his way to a visa appointment while meandering through the congested traffic in Lagos, the capital of Nigeria.

After the Russian bombardment started on February 24, the Nigerian medical student was frantically trying to find a way out of Ukraine.

However, since he had no other viable options for further education, he decided to return to Ukraine for another term later that year. He now desires a trip back there.

The 28-year-old explained that she was returning to Ukraine in order to complete her final year, take her exams, and receive her diploma. .

In Nigeria, he continued, "I have no options.".

In 2020, Ukraine was home to over 80,000 international students, with nearly a quarter coming from Africa.

As they look for a place to complete their studies, some are thinking about going back to Ukraine.

The decision was simple for Mr. Olawale.

The Nigerian Medical and Dental Council (MCDN) announced that as of July 2022, it would no longer recognize online degrees conferred by Ukrainian universities. Two months later, the Ghanaian Medical Council imitated it.

Mr. Olawale declared, "I had to finish my degree in person.".

He was fortunate that his study location was far from the front lines of battle.

Mr. Olawale is in his final year at the National University in Uzhgorod, which has largely been spared from the war's destruction because it is located in western Ukraine close to the Slovakian border.

Mr. Olawale told the BBC, "My city is safe, and it's the best option for me.

Others have not had the same luck.

Ukraine was a popular destination for those looking for affordable education in Europe because of its simple visa procedures, affordable tuition, and high standard of education.

For many students, it was simply not an option to go home broke after years of saving money for their degrees.

However, locating a new nation in which to complete their studies has not been simple.

Jessica Orakpo, a Nigerian medical student who encountered racism while attempting to leave Ukraine last year and whose story received extensive media coverage, is one of those thinking about going back.

She first fled to Hungary before making her way to the Netherlands, where she is currently housed with a host family.

Without a skilled job, her temporary visa expires in a month.

She earned her medical degree in 2022 and is now a licensed doctor, but she claims that finding employment without knowledge of Dutch has been difficult.

"Staying here or returning to Ukraine are my only options.

Dr. Orakpo said, referring to the country's deteriorating economic and healthcare systems, "Some people say why don't you just go back to Nigeria, but they don't understand, that's easier said than done.".

I want to practice medicine, I have a goal in life," she said, adding that the security situation in Nigeria makes that difficult.

Since she has lived outside of Nigeria since 2016, she does not have a permanent address or bank account, making it nearly impossible for her to obtain a visa to return to Europe.

Fehintola “Moses” Damilola
Some of Fehintola "Moses" Damilola's classmates have returned to Sumy to sit for their last exams.

Fehintola "Moses" Damilola, a Nigerian medical student who was studying in Sumy near the Russian border, struggled to continue his classes online, much like many other medical students who are from that country. This was especially true after the authorities declared that an online degree would not be recognized.

Since then, everyone has been rushing, according to Mr. Damilola.

He stated, "I don't want to return to Ukraine at this time. It was extremely traumatic to be trapped in Sumy as the bombardment started and to have trouble leaving, he continued.

However, as final exams draw near, Mr. Damilola is aware of Indian students who have returned.

Due to the war, exams from last year were waived. However, this year's exam will be administered in person on March 14 in Kyiv, according to the Ukrainian exam authority.

The email to students stated that attendance entailed signing a waiver to "accept all safety risks.".

The availability of "140 computer testing centers all over the world" as an alternative for those "who do not want to return to Ukraine" is still unknown, however, as are the implementation dates.

Actually, Mr. Damilola said, "We don't have many options.".

Many of us are considering returning because the test centers in other nations don't seem feasible at the moment. ".

Nearly eight million people have reportedly fled Ukraine for neighboring European nations, according to the UNHCR.

625,000 non-Ukrainian nationals were among them, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), though it cautioned that some people might have been counted more than once.

In search of a secure nation where they could finish their degrees, waves of students have spent months migrating across the continent.

Complex bureaucracy has ensnared many people.

Enrolling in a different university frequently entails a lengthy visa application process, language requirements, and high tuition costs because many scholarships are only available to Ukrainian citizens.

Nine Fumi Yamamoto of BIPoC Ukraine, a Berlin-based organization assisting people of color fleeing the war, said of European governments: "European governments have welcomed Ukrainians with open arms.".

However, she added, "third-country nationals fleeing the same war haven't been as fortunate.".

When the Temporary Protection Directive (TPD) was first put into effect, the European Union gave Ukrainians rights and freedoms that had never before been possible.

The law grants those who qualify a residence permit as well as access to both the labor market and education.

This, according to the EU, includes citizens of third countries who "are unable to return in safe and durable conditions to their country.".

According to the report, 200,000 of the four million war refugees who have received TPD visas are not Ukrainian citizens.

However, a lot of charities and community-based organizations claim that the reality is quite different.

"We have witnessed individuals who have lived in Ukraine for 10 years being turned away. Some people have nowhere to go because they are unable to return to their home nations. "During the war, they left their papers behind," Ms. Yamamoto said.

"The students have slipped through the cracks of the TPD. Many of them are unable to go back home and just need a safe place to finish school. ".

In order to complete his degree in Europe, Andrew Awuah, a final-year medical student from Ghana, has been working nonstop.

He said, "I take my classes online, participate in clinical rotations on my days off, and attend German language classes in the evenings.

The top-ranked student in his class who consistently earned As even published a study on how the war affected the health of international students.

When asked if he would consider going back to Ghana, he replied, "I only have five months left to go and I just don't want my degree to go to waste.

Andrew missed out on a six-week scholarship program to Harvard because he is not covered by the TPD and could, according to the authorities, return to Ghana. As required by the terms of his temporary visa, he must remain in Germany.

In finding a clinical rotation at a German university, he said, "I consider myself lucky.".

Victoria Osseme
In Ukraine, Victoria Osseme has settled down and established a life.

While some students are thinking about going back to Ukraine, Victoria Osseme never left.

"The only black female in Kharkiv, Ukraine," claims the Nigerian national.

She claimed that she "became Ukrainian" after completing two degrees and living there for nine years. " .

She continued, "I could not abandon them during such a trying time.".

The best way for me to support them was to remain and experience their suffering with them. ".

She has been sharing her experience on social media since April 2022 and claims that Ukrainians have responded favorably to her show of solidarity.

"My loved ones and friends are proud of me for staying behind and standing up for Nigeria. ".

Throughout her time, she has struggled against the cold, bomb threats, and injuries from broken windows.

While many students might not be as devoted to Ukraine, some, who have been unable to obtain visas to travel elsewhere, are beginning to realize that returning, despite the conflict, is their only remaining option.

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