I’m afraid for my niece; very afraid.
She had been schooling in the United states for over a year when suddenly things went south for her parents; they couldn’t afford the fees, so they sent for her to come back home.
She is home now…has been in the last nine months, too.
Of course it’s not my business to put my nose where it isn’t wanted. I mean, I protested the first time my brother told me he and his wife were planning to send their daughter to study in America.
I asked him where he was going to get the money from considering he had three other children in quite expensive schools here in Lagos; add that to the cost of keeping a child in America on the salary he makes plus his wife’s business? I didn’t think it was a smart decision but what do I know?
His wife must have been the one pulling the strings for an American education for their daughter. She likes to copy everything I do and yet lifts up her nose at me. Yes, I sent my son to study in Canada. I could afford it, I mean, I worked my fingers to the bone to pay for that education. They should have come to ask me what it took; I sold a piece of land I have had for close to five years and I collapsed all my mutual funds.
Ask me, did all of these cover the cost for his four years in Alberta? No. It was barely enough for two years; the remaining two years were tough. I worked, I got loans, I sold off stuff…
So, when my brother said he wanted to send his daughter to America, it was the voice of his wife I heard and I told him candidly, you can’t afford it!
But of course, they ignored me, who am I but a widow; in her mind, my sister- in- law would have been thinking I did not wish her well. How can I not want what’s good for my own niece?
But hey, having your child in school abroad, be it Canada or US or even the UK which is like three times to five times what you pay in America is tough even for those you think can afford it.
I just told you I sold off land I had bought, collapsed all my savings and still, managed to cover just two years of my son’s education. The only reason I was able to do pay the four years was because he is an only child. If not, where would I get the money for his siblings?
Wouldn’t I eat? Wouldn’t I pay rent? But i was able to squeeze myself because though I had a good job, it was a tough time for me.
So, my brother lost his job at an oil servicing company; something to do with a deal gone wrong. He was on suspension for some time and later fired. His wife is into food business; she caters for large occasions. Well, people are still partying in Lagos and still need catering services but even if she caters everyday of the week for one month…which is impossible given the enormous caterers this town has, they still wouldn’t be able to pay tuition for their daughter. It would suffice for their other children here but the Americannah, nah!
Now you see why I told them not to send the girl abroad in the first place?
My concern was for the girl, my niece. Now she is back in Nigeria and acting funny. The other day I went to their house, she was locked up in her room throughout my visit, refusing to talk to anybody, to eat or leave the house.
Her mother said that’s what she does these days.
The poor kid is traumatised, that’s why! She is depressed, probably ashamed that she who had been to America to study now came back without ceremony…I can understand the child’s trauma!
‘So what are you doing about her education?’
She said they would apply to Jamb for direct entry in order to secure admission to second year. So far it hasn’t been successful… there’s something they are not telling me. I was almost in tears for the child and very angry with my brother and his wife.
‘Why did you ask her to come back? Why didn’t you let her work for some time then hopefully, in a year or two she would be able to go back to continue her studies?’
The mother said, they had hoped that she would continue here in Nigeria, instead of wasting her time there plus the fact that they didn’t have money to send for her upkeep.
My brother said, they also didn’t think she would be able to cope with work and living alone in the US; my niece is just 18 years.
So you see the hole they dropped my poor niece in?
The girl is not mixing with her former mates who’ve come calling, she doesn’t go out with the family for functions, which is why I was called by my brother to speak to her. She didn’t open the door for me, I had to speak through the door.
This is awful!
Now you see, it’s totally understandable for her not to want to see people, the poor child is traumatized! Being yanked from America and left like a fish out of water.
It’s even more traumatic because she has missed the school year that just began, meaning she has to wait till next year, doing what if I may ask?
I really gave it to my sister- in- law that day. I blamed her for everything.
I don’t know what plans they have for her, I just hope the girl doesn’t totally lose it!
( Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)