For some years now, many Africans have been sending their children to the UK, Canada, The United States and other western countries for education. The reasons for doing this vary for families, good education since most of the Educational infrastructure in developing countries are riddled with mediocrity, corruption and security challenges to name a few. For others the opportunity to show off, prestige, others an opportunity for a better life and chain migration for the rest of the family.
We will spotlight the United States for the purposes of this article
There are an increasing number of cases of African students having mental health challenges. Some have killed their parents, attempted suicide, gone into drug abuse and even crime. This is slowly turning into a crisis.
Many of these cases stem from the fact that for a lot of these students this is their first time leaving the comfort and security of their loved ones, parents don’t do their due diligence, and this leads to some of these challenges:
1. Financial pressures-
Many parents struggle to pay for their wards first year of school and boarding and are unable to pay for the coming years. This puts these students under unprecedented pressures that can lead to depression and in some cases suicide when they are expelled from school. For those who choose to stay and tough it out, many have never worked a day in their lives, they are used to getting whatever resources they needed, be it money or luxury transportation. Now, they must do menial jobs under the table to survive and have to endure the same crappy treatment most undocumented workers experience.
Most of these students have never experienced racism. In Africa most of those who can afford to school abroad are from the upper or upper middle class. They went to the best schools locally and had private tutors, were chauffer driven around town and had servants at their beck and call. Now in America they don’t know how to handle being treated as second class citizens and this sometimes is difficult to adjust to without the right orientation, this leads to low self-esteem, confidence and for some mental health challenges.
3. Unprecedented freedom-
Many of these students have never experienced the kind of freedom they have when they travel abroad. All their lives, they have been pampered and protected by dotting parents. When they arrive in America, they have access to drugs, sex and all manners of deviant behaviors. Only the mature, strong willed and disciplined ones can say no to these vices at a young age.
many experience immigrations issues. Some do not have student visas, they come in with visitors’ visas, overstay and their parents basically abandon them in a relative or friends home believing that “all would be well”. When these students get to a stage where they need to prove their status they are stuck and are in a lot of trouble financially and emotionally. In a number of situations to remedy their status, they get themselves in further trouble that could lead to jail time or deportation.
The issues raised are just the tip of the iceberg. Many African parents look at these issues as strictly spiritual issues. They say their wards need some type of spiritual deliverance; others focus only on the child’s academic results at the detriment of their mental health. Some are more concerned about being able to brag to their friends that their children are at an IVY league school.
This write up is to raise the awareness of African parents with children abroad to do their research, be observant, spend more time with your wards and listen to them. Ensure that they have a trusted mentor, family who can check on them regularly. Ground these young adults in the fundamentals of life, religion and give them confidence to know who they are before they travel. Ensure that you set up the right financial infrastructure for them before you send them abroad and of course pray for them.