By Chika Abanobi
This is not the best of times for Nigerian students studying abroad, including Ukraine, because of the scarcity of dollars, which has made parents groan as banks delay foreign school fees payments. But Vine Chinazaekpere Mbachu, a Nigerian student who just rounded off her studies in medicine in Ukraine, said in an interaction with Daily Sun that despite the difficulties associated with remittance of her school fees, language barriers and racism, she enjoyed her stay there.
However, she was born and bred there. No. She had part of her education in Nigeria. Her primary education was at Alvan Ikoku Staff Primary School and secondary school education at Lighthouse Start Right High School, all in Owerri, Imo State, before she travelled to the Eastern Europe, about five years ago, for a bachelor’s degree in medicine at Lugansk State Medical University, Ukraine.
Asked why she chose to study overseas, instead of Nigeria, Mbachu who is planning to travel to Canada for further studies, said: “I have always wanted to study and work abroad and I thank my parents who also bought into my dream and kept pushing me. Because of that, I never bothered looking for admission in Nigeria. Immediately I finished my high school, I started processing my admission to study abroad.”
But she was quick to admit that there were other Nigerian students who opted to study abroad out of frustration with the university admission process in Nigeria.
“A lot of them,” she said. “Most of them were not given the courses they wanted to read. JAMB and post-UME made it difficult for them to get medicine and, you know how difficult it is to get into medical schools in Nigeria. The competition is too high.
“In my own case, I contacted an agent who helped me. I provided some documents, the front page of my international passport and WASSCE result and I was sent my admission letter to start my visa processing. To read medicine in Ukraine, you need eight credits. You also need to have good grades in all medicine-related school subjects like math, biology, chemistry, and physics.”
That was not the only area where the Ukrainian university education system seemed to be different from that of Nigeria, for sure. “In Nigeria, I would say that they don’t have outline topics but in Ukraine, we have outlined topics so that in each class students already know what topics or where to study. And, we usually do oral and computer questions and there is the availability of resources online, e-books and YouTube. They also provide us with textbooks in each semester or each academic session, which at the end of the session you return to the library.
“I would say that the academic climate of Ukraine is very good. We basically work on outlined topics, meaning, in each class, we have topics to discuss. We are informed before the next class so that we can come fully prepared to contribute meaningfully to the discussion. What I found interesting was the fact that, in Ukraine, no matter the university, you follow the same academic scheme of work. And it is the same in all the medical schools in Ukraine. We run five months for each semester and we have two semesters per academic session.
“Although I didn’t attend university in Nigeria, I would say that Nigerian university classes, from what I can see, are overpopulated. In Ukraine, we were divided into groups of 15, and, sometimes, 10 students. That way, the teachers or lecturers were able to monitor and supervise each student’s performance at close quarters. I think, if Nigerian university authorities emulate this, it would be fine.”
Even so, Nigerian students studying there, she said, were ahead of others. Almost always!
“I would say the Nigerian students, most times, did better than the Ukrainian students. This is because we could stand harsh moments when a course was difficult or when a teacher was. But Ukrainians couldn’t. There were times we were given thousands of objective questions to study and we would get to write them and get higher scores. Both the Ukrainian students and teachers would be asking us: how were you able to prepare and achieve this in one night?”
Despite these exhilarating experiences, she found the language barrier and racism that abound there a bit scary and dispiriting.
“The language barrier was a very big factor in not being able to understand each other,” she remarked. “When it came to lecturer-student relationship, it kind of made things a bit difficult. There was also the issue of racism. My scariest moments were when I would hear of students being attacked. I always prayed to God to see me through so that I could get my certificate and return home alive to my parents. Many students lost their lives in Ukraine. So, being able to get my certificate and returning home alive to give it to my parents was a big achievement.”