Nigerian students ‘make up 75%’ of Thornaby charity’s clients

Home Education Nigerian students ‘make up 75%’ of Thornaby charity’s clients
Nigerian students ‘make up 75%’ of Thornaby charity’s clients

Joanna Morris,Louise Hobson

BBC Debbie Fixter in front of Sprouts Community Food Charity's hubBBC

Debbie Fixter and the team at Sprouts Community Food Charity help their community by providing food, clothes, activities and other support for little or no cost

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 the course of recent months, the charity said its clientele had noticeably changed with the majority of those visiting being Nigerian masters 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.

‘Part of our community’

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 really 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.”

Boluwatife Elusakin

Boluwatife Elusakin said he has been worried about his friends

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.”

‘Maximum capacity’

Ms Fixter said her charity was currently at “maximum capacity” as a result of the situation and called on Teesside University to offer more support.

She said the university had so far been proactive and offered a welcome £500 donation of Sainsbury’s vouchers after being informed of the situation, but called it a “drop in the ocean” in terms of what was needed to support the influx of students at the charity.

The university said it worked closely with community organisations to signpost students back to its own support services and had provided vouchers and contributions to ensure the organisations could offer support to students.

“Teesside University remains a popular destination for students from across the world who choose to study here because of its global reputation for excellence in teaching and research,” a spokesman added.

“All international applicants need to provide evidence that they have sufficient funds to cover tuition fees and living costs as part of the visa application process.”

The university is offering “case by case” support to those affected by the situation in Nigeria.

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