Student Visa Restrictions: Time to Wake Up
The imposition of visa restrictions to prospective students from Africa and other developing countries by the West in the recent past has not come as a surprise.
The United Kingdom and the United States have, in all respects, placed a calibrated “moratorium” on international student entry to their educational institutions.
The UK’s Borders and Immigration Office, for example, has in the post-9/11 period, and more so in the past five years, redefined its visa regime with a view to discouraging entry of African students to its colleges.
The measures include the imposition of visa requirements for erstwhile visa-free states (read South Africa), demand for exceptional academic performance, excruciating financial requirements, interrogating scholarships, and clamping down on “diploma mills”.
These stringent measures are informed by the fear that student visas have been abused by individuals who wish to emigrate to Europe and America in search of a “better life”, and who eventually disappear under the official radar.
It is also alleged that African students do not want to return home after their studies in the West and would rather seek employment and settle there. This bigoted position negates intellectual cross-fertilisation, and is, on the whole, a setback to globalisation.
This move comes notwithstanding the fact that the income raised through student visa applications and tuition plays a key role in the British economy, accounting for upwards of six billion sterling pounds annually, and generating thousands of jobs.
Both the UK and US are aware that the prohibitive entry requirements portend more damage than good. Besides the loss of revenue, the two leading destinations for international students will weaken their soft power.
To mitigate against these stringent visa dictates, Africa must invest in world-class higher educational institutions that will compete favourably with other institutions globally, especially in research. This move will attract local and international students as well as educators.
The growth of universities and other tertiary institutions in Kenya, for example, could not have come at a better time.
This effort, which is intended to bolster Kenya’s higher education by absorbing the growing number of students, is laudable because infrastructure development, teaching staff, research funding and autonomy are part of the package.
Nobody should doubt the intellectual capacity of African people. The ancient University of Timbuktu is a good example of pioneering African genius.
By the 12th Century, this educational centre was the hub of scholarly activities and intercourse and was as attractive as some Western universities today. Modern Africa, too, can establish world-class universities.
Further the Kemetic educational system is proof enough that Africa can do it. This ancient Egyptian education system played a seminal role in shaping pedagogical approaches in Europe and the Middle East, a fact that is sadly unacknowledged.
Kemetism was founded on a number of disciplines, among them geometry, logic, theology, physics, astronomy, art, grammar and arithmetic.
Some of the great minds that were influenced by this system include Socrates, Plato and the great mathematician, Pythagoras.
By Joseph Magutt. Mr Magutt teaches politics and international studies at Kenyatta University (email@example.com).
This article was originally published on The Daily Nation.
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