FEATURE ARTICLE

Emmanuel Nweke OkaforMonday, April 12, 2010
[email protected]
Thailand

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WHY ARE NIGERIANS IN THAILAND? (PART 2) - THE EDUCATIONAL APPROACH

Continued from Part 1

Introduction:

was so delighted with all the comments that I got from various people across the globe both Nigerians and non- Nigerians. I was deeply encouraged to keep on sharing my personal ideas on why Nigerians are in Thailand from a positive perspective. At this point, I have not got any contrary information that will make me change my position, namely, that many Nigerians are in Thailand for good reasons other than the negative positions of some writers via often anonymous internet postings. Hence this dialogue calls for enlightenment regarding the direction of the "good reasons" that explain why many Nigerians are in Thailand against some of the internet blogs that derive joy in condemning Nigerians residing in Thailand as criminals, scammers, and bunch of nuisance. I have observed that an average Nigerian student in Thailand enjoys the university environment here in Thailand. Many Nigerian lecturers and teachers also enjoy the fact that their salaries are promptly paid in full by Thai universities and schools. It is also unfortunate to note that a few Nigerians in Thailand also use their fellow Nigerians as bait for their business networks. It is therefore my view that all Nigerians in Thailand irrespective of the field have a part to play in repositioning the image of Nigeria and Nigerians so that we are not wrongly presented to the world by those who may be better described as 'enemies of Nigerians living in Thailand'.


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Limitations, intention and methods: This article is meant to debunk the various articles (websites) that wrongly generalize the activities of Nigerians in Thailand to be only drug businesses and scamming activities. I do not think that I am writing a purely academic paper. I am only presenting observations from lived experiences of a majority of Nigerians in Thailand. My sole intention is to encourage my fellow Nigerians who consider Thailand as country that will broaden their horizon and perspective in life to move on irrespective of the apparently bias, racially motivated web sites/blogs with wrong and potentially dangerous and misleading information about the activities of Nigerians in Thailand. I have always consulted many Nigerians in Thailand and have even had discussions with some websites that publish wrong information about Nigerians in Thailand. The various comments from my previous write-ups were also considered. It is not my intention to promote only Thailand and demote my beloved country Nigeria. The two countries are great countries indeed. It is my intention to let all websites that see the only bad aspect of Nigeria and Nigerians in Thailand to do please review their positions and see Nigeria and Nigerians as a country and people in the process of development like other countries. It is possible that I could be in errors in my position if proven otherwise but for now, let any human being with sound judgment and reasoning know that many Nigerians in Thailand are also responsible, good-looking, talented, extremely well educated and destined to contribute positively to the world as worthy global citizens.

Brief historical background: From my interviews with some agencies, I understand that ever before the establishment of the Thai embassy in Abuja, many Nigerians had experienced trouble in one form or another either being arrested for either traveling with a fake visa or passports that belong to other countries. There were many cases in which some Nigerians were caught when they went to renew their visa on another country's passport. (https://www.nigerdeltacongress.com/iarticles/in_the_land_of_money.htm). This point to the fact that few Nigerians had up to three passports and could not remember the information details of various passports. The results often led to an arrest and phone calls. It is all centered on the fact that, at that time, Thailand had no embassy in Nigeria which means that Nigerians had to go to London to get Thai visa. Those who tried to get a Thai visa through the embassy in London found it very hard. This resulted in many Nigerians and other agencies providing visas using methods other than the proper and normal channels. At this stage, I will recommend all to read the article written by Ikechukwu Enyiagu on Curbing Brutalities of Nigerian Travel/Foreign-School Agents (www.nigeriamasterweb.com).

The writer was indeed very helpful and has given me the needed support and encouragement. However, this my article intends to let all the readers know that many stories about Nigerians living in Thailand are either exaggerated or outdated thus there is need for more update of such negative articles of which I have preferred the positive/educational outlook. It is wrong to still maintain that many Nigerians in Thailand have fake passports or visas. As a matter of fact, the number of Nigerians entering Thailand of recent is mostly students, businessmen and women who follow the normal visa process in Abuja, Nigeria (https://www.mfa.go.th/web/2502.php?depid=285). I will personally share more ideas from the educational point of view on why Nigerian students are in Thailand for merely studies and not for drugs, 419 or other fraudulent activities. This is not an attempt to argue that all Nigerian students in Thailand are saints or perfect human beings.

Nigerian Educational System: I am not in any difficulty to note that in some ways, the history of pedagogy in Nigeria was initially an apparent success story. It was on record that in the seventies and eighties, the records of educational policies in Nigeria were seemingly satisfying. Formal education in Nigeria attained its highest point when schools were being managed by voluntary agencies such as the missionaries. In those days, religious education was taught and practiced in schools. The morality of the teachers and students were not questionable. The missionaries equipped and maintained these schools. There were strong education policies and principles. The memories of Universal Primary Education (UPE) which later changed to Universal Free Primary Education (UFPE) were encouraging enough. Sequel to that, the abrogation of tuition fees and the reduction of boarding and lodging fees were all aimed at maximization of educational gains. With the introduction of UPE and the reduction in cost of education at all levels, thousands thronged to educational pursuits. The 6-3-3-4 educational system was a welcomed development, but the present state of things shows that it is no longer functional. The policy was introduced to give students technical skills and help them acquire both scientific and literary knowledge among other things as earlier mentioned (https://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/1110/Nigeria.html).

But then the past educational feats were not without their own problems. The clamor for more educational institutions came up because each State wanted its own University or Tertiary institutions. Those who did not get any felt cheated and of course, they cried of being marginalized. This was the proverbial last straw that broke the camel's back. The government of Nigeria took over the management of school in order to fund the sector directly because of the value placed on education. The takeover was also to harmonize the system and foster national unity. But then this funding turned out to be the bane of educational institutions to date. Due to the negative attitudes which people have shown towards government work, the funds budgeted for education have all been embezzled and misappropriated (https://www.afbis.com/analysis/education10204234737.htm). Teachers were owed salaries for months which subsequently resulted in incessant strikes, their moral became low and their input reduced drastically. It is good to note that because of the poor standard of living which the teachers were forced into, they lost their respect among students who openly abuse and attack them at will. The parents on the other hand, took the advantage of the teachers' poor situation to insult the teachers when the parents feel that their children have been punished. Morality, discipline and honesty were thrown over-board. The dark perennial clouds that hovered over those years continued to cover our bearing coupled with the present chaos and face-off in our institutions. All the crimes committed in Secondary and Tertiary institutions are due to lack of discipline. When Religious education was de-emphasized, morality began to suffer. The subsequent lack of morality resulted in riots, unrest, lack of discipline, examination malpractices and manipulation of results. No single session passes in our campuses without student unrest of one kind or another. Also the lack of educational facilities and teaching aids is another problem that has crippled educational growth. The grievances of the lecturers and students also had all the time lacked adequate attention.

From my own point of view, all these problems, called for a change with a more pragmatic and participatory learning style. Since the change is nowhere to be found, some parents, students and concerned Nigerians have taken the decision on their own to search for a better place where the education of their children, family members and friends is not tampered with. Some of these Nigerians, who cannot afford to study in the United States, United Kingdom, or other European countries, then find Thai universities more attractive because of the affordability and stability of their educational system; no signs of strike actions irrespective of the political problems presently experienced in Thailand.

Therefore, many Nigerians who come to Thailand to study are purely doing so for educational purposes and not for drug, scamming or any form of illegal business. Many of these Nigerians in Thai universities are just trying to make do with what is available in order to avoid the frustrating situation some of them may have embraced at home either in a form of long years of waiting for WAEC or JAMB results (https://www.waecdirect.org). In other words, some Nigerian students are studying in Thailand for good reasons and not for bad reasons. I consider it as a commendable positive approach to life instead of doing nothing. Many Nigerian students in Thailand understand that the importance of education lies in its ability to make man better and more fulfilled. Without good governance, development in its true meaning will continue to be a mirage. It is only an ignorant man that feels comfortable when public funds that belong to all citizens are amassed by the public office holders (https://www.gamji.com/article6000/NEWS7987.htm). Education frees people from mental slavery and empowers people economically, socially, and politically. As Bertrand Russell says, education is to rear up the new man of excellence (Russell B, 1961, pp. 4-18). I will therefore argue that well-meaning Nigerians in Thailand should not be intimidated with the generalization of all Nigerians in Thailand as criminals. I do not think that Nigerians in Thailand should be singled out for malicious reasons and cheap publicity that is devoid of necessary international journalism.

Why some Nigerians enjoy Thai educational environment: To every critical and even uncritical but perceiving mind that is abreast with our existential situation, it is quite clear that education in Nigeria is in a very pitiable state and needs revival. The issue of WAEC, NECO, GCE and JAMB may have alienated many Nigerian students directly or indirectly and have succeeded in discouraging many students from furthering their education. There is seemingly a very low standard of education; hence we have become victims of the culture of mediocrity (allAfrica.com: Nigeria: WAEC and Exam Leakages) Many factors are obviously responsible for this namely:

Teachers' Salaries and Conditions: The first thing that vitiates the progress of education in Nigeria is that teachers at all levels feel that they are not handsomely paid. This encourages teachers to be less dedicated, to seek other avenues of making money to make ends meet, brain drain and incessant strike actions (https://www.informationnigeria.org/tag/asuu-strike). How do we imagine the outcome of an educational system where universities are closed down for more than seven months in a year? What do we expect from students during this period? It is said that "an idle mind is a devil's workshop" or "the devil makes work for idle hands". It is indeed lamentable. I have not met any Nigerian student in Thailand that is worried of a strike action irrespective of Thailand un-ending political uncertainty. The common feeling is that most Nigerian students are very comfortable studying in Thailand and some are now inviting their cousins, brothers, sisters and friends to do so. I do hope that the issue of teachers' salary should be settled amicably so that Nigerian teachers can be motivated to do what they are trained for. An average Nigerian teacher in Thailand receives about $1000. Again, an average Nigerian teacher in Thailand gets this money and manages it very well without fear of armed robbers or any form of insecurity. This further explains why many Nigerians are in Thailand not necessarily for drug business.

Unauthorized groups: The infiltration of 'secret societies' into our schools today is another debilitating factor with regards to education in Nigeria. In fact, 'secret societies' now have their headquarters on campuses. Students prefer to attend the meetings of these societies than to do their class work. Through these odd societies, they commit a lot of crime and cause a lot of harm in the universities ranging from murder, rape, harassing of workers, lecturers and fellow students (https://www.gamji.com/article4000/NEWS4512.htm). Although Thailand had a similar situation in some of their universities but it appears that it is well-handled as the Thai policemen and women are in control of the situation. They allow the laws to take effect (https://www.thaiphotoblogs.com/index.php?blog=5&title=fighting_thai_students&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1). Based on this, Nigerian students in Thailand are feeling relaxed as they face only racial issues which are preferable to many of them than the threat of the "secret societies" in Nigerian universities (https://www.tribune.com.ng/index.php/letters/8827-about-cultism-in-nigerian-schools).

Poor infrastructures: The next is poor infrastructure which is a common problem in all educational institutions in Nigeria. Many of the Primary schools which are the base of education are still operating scandalously below normal. Hence it was once quoted "About sixty percent (60%) of pupils in our Primary schools do not have furniture, seats and desks to write upon. In fact, at all levels the problem persists. Decaying infrastructures have turned Nigerian Universities from Centers of academic excellence to ivory towers of shame" (Ugwu E. and Fola A, March 23, 1999, p.18). Research facilities have broken down and are too obsolete to produce any meaningful and tangible results. The collapse of most laboratories on campus has led to practical courses being taught theoretically (Ugwu et al, March 23, 1999, p.19). As a consequence, the universities turn out dry biologists, dry doctors from laboratories that have no water, no chemicals and equipment. This has exacerbated the problem to such an extent that many students graduate from schools full of words but as vessels empty of intellectual discipline. Today's report if given cannot give a positive answer since there is no remarkable development since then. The education sector, which is the key to the development of any nation, has not fared too well either in Nigeria.

A recent ranking of the world's top universities did not locate any Nigerian University among the top 500, despite a reported 500 percent increase in school fees and the establishment of private universities (https://www.arwu.org). Yet in the past Nigerian universities and their products were competing with the best from other societies in the world. As of last year, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was still embroiled in a strike over better welfare and improved working conditions, which has resulted in millions of under-graduates staying at home, and susceptible to criminal activities. Even the fact that upon reception of office new Ministry of Education changes what his or her predecessor has done raises a serious and troubling question. This simply demonstrated that the Nigerian government is continually struggling to provide herself with a befitting educational system that will benefit all and sundry but then the road to such has not been easy hence some Nigerians who cannot afford to pay for the USA, EU, UK education have decided to study in Thailand irrespective of the fact that Thailand would not have been the desired option by some of the students. Can we then agree with some of the writers hovering around Thailand that Nigerians are in Thailand for scamming? My direct answer is NO! I pray together with the respected Nigerian erudite scholar Mr Olugu Ukpai on "Nigerians Parents Fear for Students Studying Abroad" He prays, "My dear God, has it now become a crime to be a Nigerian" (student in Thailand)?

How Nigerians have failed their fellow Nigerians in Thailand

Parental responsibilities: My common sense tells me that being a parent can be joyous, at the same time a tough job. I have not come across a parent who is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. All parents sometimes get frustrated. Some parents are aware that children take a lot of time and energy. In my own opinion, parenting is a very difficult task especially when a parent has problems in his or her own life. From my own opinion, some Nigerian parents have failed their children by sending them to Thailand to primarily make quick money irrespective of the means of getting the money. Thus, most Nigerians in Thailand are actually under the pressure of their parents to send "something" home. Granted that some parents do not know the dangers involved in making 'quick money' but I personally think that all responsible parents should investigate the activities of their children. Therefore, parents should have some share of responsibility for the "odd activities" of their children in Thailand. I also think that parents, wards, guardians, dependents et cetera should all join hand in making sure that their loved ones in Thailand do not come to Thailand to do anything contrary to the law of the land.

Visa and passport: Many Nigerians in Thailand are doing well and are very good people but then we can still recall that some Nigerians were jailed for visa related offences because their fellow Nigerian lured them into the 'fake visa clique'. In the past, entering Thailand by a Nigerian citizen was indeed very difficult as those who intend to enter Thailand must do so through London as many Nigerians could not meet up with the demand, many agencies came up. Innocent Nigerians got themselves in trouble for entering Thailand with a questionable visa. As a matter of fact, it looked as if there was a visa company apart from the authorized government visa issuer. Hence, the order of the day was the 'Kamp Visa' and 'Dam Visa' issued by 'Mr. Fake Stamp Consular'. Interestingly, many Nigerians benefited from this evil deed but many were not as lucky as their colleagues because they were caught, questioned and jailed. I still feel that this 'old generation' of Nigerians who may have committed these evils to their fellow Nigerians should apologize and ask for forgiveness and repent. Unfortunately, some of these perpetrators might have recruited new set of people into the game. They may still be doing such jobs but luckily enough Nigeria has now got a Thai embassy in Abuja, for those Nigerians who would prefer to follow the rightful visa process ([email protected]).

I believe that any responsible Nigerian who needs visa should do so legally. Surprisingly, in 2009 'Madam fake visa stamp' came up again and had in fact succeeded in imprisoning some "presumably innocent Nigerians" before she was spotted. I understand that she is still on the run for issuing one year fake visa stamps in Nigerian E-passports. Interestingly she is a Nigerian woman. Of recent, I have also heard of another group coming up with fake visas for their fellow Nigerians. I had an interview on 28th September 2010 with a Nigerian whose E-passport was stamped "Visa on Arrival" by a fellow Nigerian after paying about $1600 for 'Mr fake visa on arrival'. I do hope that this will stop if most of us (Nigerians) in Thailand stand up to say NO!!! What does it benefit a Nigerian to hang his fellow Nigerian in a foreign land? I have travelled to Laos, Malaysia, Cambodia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. I intend to tour all the South East Asia. My understanding is that many Nigerians are stranded in Asian countries simply because their fellow Nigerian has taken their money and provided them with either the wrong traveling documents or visa that is not properly obtained. At this juncture, the question that comes to my mind is: Who is really the enemies of Nigerians living in Thailand?

Duping/human trafficking: Another unfortunate situation is the idea of luring fellow Nigerians to come to Thailand with promise of a good job. I wish to state very clearly that getting job in Thailand as a black guy is not easy. It takes about a year or two or even three before one gets an available job in Thailand which is mostly a teaching job (www.ajarn.com). You need a work permit and a teacher's license. If any person gets caught working illegally it's usually a fine, detention and deportation. Normally, the school concerned should arrange for the necessary documents required. Basically a Non-Immigrant visa is required to start the process not the student visa (www.thaivisa.com). Therefore, it is not a good development to collect money from a fellow Nigerian on a very wrong notice with an evil agenda and intention. Those who wish to work in any job that requires a teacher's license will need an academic degree to teach in Thailand. All government schools require teachers to have a teacher's license. Getting a work permit is difficult for those without a degree, and it is becoming more difficult each year. There are individuals who do get jobs without a college degree, but these are often illegal and without a work permit. The penalties for working in Thailand without a work permit are potentially very serious (www.ajarn.com). I hereby call the attention of my fellow Nigerians who care to know to be aware that it is not true that teaching job is easily available in Thailand.

Informant: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, an informant could be defined as "someone who offers to provide privileged information concerning another person or organization to an agency, usually law enforcement". Informants provide information, sometimes with or without the knowledge of the person or group of persons concerned. Hence, for some Nigerians in Thailand, Thai authorities may have historically hired fellow Nigerians or other Africans to monitor or control activities of other Nigerians (Nigerians in Thailand at the mercy of Mr. Henry Offor: a rejoinder, 2009). It is believed that such individuals may not have been properly trained as professionals but were recruited from the streets of Bangkok. Some of these Nigerians may have been willing accomplices, or may be tricked into informing on their fellow Nigerians' odd activities in Thailand in order to obtain lenient treatment for themselves. Some made themselves informant over an extended period of time, in return for money or for police to overlook their own criminal activities. Some of them will become an informant when they were arrested.

I believe that any person who helps an investigation by providing useful information to the police is by definition an informant. I personally believe that there is nothing wrong in giving accurate information when there is need and when it follows international standards but my problem comes when it is done with the sole intention to get money at the expense of fellow Nigerians. It is my understanding that any Nigerian giving information about another Nigerian unprofessionally is an enemy of Nigeria and Nigerians in Thailand such a Nigerian should be regarded as a traitor. I think that the time some Nigerians in Thailand spend in becoming an informant on their fellow Nigerians should be spent in sensitizing, conscientizing, and training their fellow Nigerians in Thailand in order to help them become law abiding citizens who will not only obey and follow the Thai laws but international laws in general. I hereby humbly pray that the information given by some Nigerians against their fellow Nigerians in Thailand should follow the required international standards and not for personal interest and money incentives. I personally feel that Nigerians in Thailand should come together and help stop the bad image some of us have created collectively. Another unfortunate situation comes when a group of Nigerians in Thailand come together to accuse an innocent Nigerian of being an informant (Nigerians in Thailand at the mercy of Mr. Henry Offor, 2009). In all, "we have all sinned and run short of the glory of God". We all need to repent and plan the best way we should all rebrand and reposition the bad image of our beloved country here in Thailand.

Suggestions and conclusion: Nigeria is blessed with abundant human and natural resources and this is reflected in some of the commendable policies that are being formulated on education. In all, it is very clear that the road has not been smooth and is still cloudy in the Nigerian educational system. It is clear that the present attitude of many Nigerians towards education is not only uncalled for and unwarranted but suicidal. Now is the time to extricate education from any overture to which it has been lured into. As such, we must all rethink and change for the better by making education one of our priorities both as individuals and as a nation or state. Nigeria today is in a pool of confusion due to various problems ranging from economic, social, political, religious et cetera. And the first step to get over these problems is by giving education its proper place. This is why we must do something positive about education in our country now. It is not as if the country has had no educational policy. Nigerians have conceived and developed great policies already, but they have been only peripherally implemented, with an inconsistency that suggests that we are merely sampling every conceivable policy without a clear goal in view. This has led to short term commitments to policy implementation with the obvious result of achieving nothing. What we need now is 'pick and polish' policies and curriculums that would accomplish the goals of literacy and development. The government should confine itself mainly to regulatory function in the nation's education system by setting standards, encouraging compliance, providing supervision, giving incentives and scholarships, promoting infrastructural development, fighting corruption and misappropriation of the funds that cripple any working policy. These are directly needed to investigate and revamp the decaying structures and standards that affect the Nigerian educational system.

What the public read and see in the internet blogs about Nigerians in Thailand as presented by some writers were mere blame game that indeed employed dirty tricks to hide their callous acts in Thailand such as murder cases, pedophiles cases, sex with minor cases, fraudulent cases and many other related cases. Some of them have lost a sense of morality and ethics (https://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/07/05/thailand.pedophiles/index.html). Some of the writers were often victims of their own carnal desires. Interestingly, they have good and responsible ambassadors that come to their aid. I do not see any sign of intellectual maturity or morality among the self-serving writers whose aim is to the cheap publicity rather than for the public and for Thailand's interest. I see some of their hasty generalizations as a compensation for their lack of credibility and severe image problem by mounting strong internet attacks against Nigeria and Nigerians in Thailand, trying to drive a wedge between the Thai government and the Nigerian government and thereby creating an atmosphere of distrust. I consider their approach as another form of Neo-colonialist interference which Thailand based on its lovely and friendly nature could not allow (The Nation, June 1, 2010). Some of the writers that attack Nigerians in Thailand come in many forms sometimes covered with "a fig leaf of humanitarian concern". I see some of their positions as distortions, half-truths or outright lies. Some of them, tend to use approach that is blatantly uncivilized, barbaric, crude and not fashionable in this 21st century. I personally feel that the idea of these writers is to intimidate and harass innocent Nigerians. It is simply a misplaced gesture of blind trust most Nigerians have for the writers.

In all, just as the Internet gives even an unqualified man or woman a chance to express his or her own opinion and make himself or herself heard, I believe that if enough Nigerians in Thailand should speak up, we will make an impact towards rebranding and repositioning our tainted image by both Nigerians and acclaimed 'enemies of Nigerians'. There is no doubt that many Nigerians in Thailand are imbued with the highest level of integrity, impartiality, good-looks, talent and are extremely well-educated and patriotic.

Finally, the Nigerian government should have appropriate curriculum and suitable teaching and learning equipment for each educational program; to build academic networks with other countries; provide teaching methods that enable students to become efficient citizens within the African community and the world at large. With this in effect, the Nigerian students will be happy and relaxed studying in Nigeria thereby avoiding the unnecessary insult and assault we receive from both Nigerians and the non-Nigerians when studying abroad. I personally agree with the ongoing efforts of the Federal Government championed by the Minister of Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili which has it that 'Good People' will definitely create 'Great Nation'. The project is indeed a commendable one which has been launched in three geo-political zones in Nigeria. It seeks to rebrand the image of Nigeria and its people in foreign land. I understand that the goal is to change the negative perception of Nigeria and Nigerians in order to project Nigeria and its citizens as lovely and friendly people. But daily reports of criminal activities of few Nigerians have remained a problem in this re-branding project.

I hereby call on all Nigerians, particularly Nigerian students in Thailand to join us in this rebranding and repositioning project irrespective of all odds and incorrect reports about Nigerians in Thailand. We shall achieve this when we live within the ambit of the law and devoid of all forms of illegalities. I agree that the inability to show genuine gratitude and say thank you to the Nigerians and non-Nigerians that help find the Nigerians that destroy Nigeria's good name is indeed a weakness. I also agree that the inability of Nigerians who commit various crimes to apologize for the time, money and efforts of others they selfishly and arrogantly burn is something that we all Nigerians in Thailand should be concerned about. However, I do strongly believe that education is the highest honor and the highest responsibility anyone could have. Thus, many Nigerian students in Thailand understand that nothing is more powerful and liberating than getting into school. Therefore many of them are not for drug business, scam or 419 as wrongly presented by some writers. This is a global village and we all live together.

Continued from Part 1

Emmanuel Nweke Okafor is a PhD Student in Graduate School of Philosophy/Religion, Assumption University Thailand. He is presently a lecturer and the Supervisor in English Language Laboratory Center, Siam University Thailand.

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