Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Queensland, Australia-based MEL Educational Services and international agent for universities in Australia, New Zealand and other countries. Mrs. Olufolake Adeniyi, in this interview with AKPOR ABADE, avowed that apart from the fact that Nigeria’s educational system lacked adequate technical orientation, the lingering industrial actions by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was forcing most Nigerian students to seek alternative education abroad.
An experienced teacher, trainer and member of the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), Adeniyi, who is also a registered teacher and education consultant in Brisbane, Australia, x-rays the challenges facing the Nigerian educational system and suggests success tips for Nigerian students wishing to study abroad, especially in Australia.
What was your background like before you left Nigeria to Australia in search of greener pastures?
My name is Mrs. Olufolake Adeniyi and I have four siblings. I am a registered teacher with the board of teacher registration in Queensland, Australia and I have the opportunity of teaching Mathematics, Science and Physics.
Currently, I am an education consultant and founder of Mel Educational Services, which started 11 years ago. I was born in Lagos, Nigeria and had my primary education at Tunwase Primary School, Ikeja. I had my secondary education at Government College, Agege and thereafter studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) from where I graduated in 1990.
Being an Electrical Engineer in the 1990s, were there a lot of female engineers and what was your experience like?
As an Electrical Engineer in my class of 1990, there were only 24 students and I was the only female in that class.
After I graduated, I had the opportunity of being posted for my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to WAPCO Cement and I had the privilege of working with the WAPCO Factory and instead I had to educate the Human Resources manager because she didn’t know much about the Portland electrical repairs, which is a subsidiary of WAPCO and I had the opportunity of working there as the only female engineering staff.
I worked in a while at Portland electrical repairs, which was into rewinding of electric motors and transformers. After my NYSC programme, I got a job as Sales Representative with a one-man business. When I left the company, I got another job with John Holt Plc as Sales Engineer.
And it was at that point that I realised that it will be difficult for me to get a job as a qualified engineer, because all the job offers I was getting, being a female engineer had to do with sales of electrical equipment. So, I resigned from John Holt after getting married and I decided to do something on my own.
Five years later, I wanted to go back to the workforce, so I got a job with Avery Nigeria Limited. At that time, the company just got a franchise with Videojet and they were into date coding machine that is an inkjet printer that writes the expiry date on most products.
So, it had a contract with all the coca cola factories in Nigeria and my job entailed installation of equipment, servicing, maintenance, repairs and training. It was at that point I realised that I had a lot of interest in training, so I worked there for a while.
The pay wasn’t too good, because at that time I was earning N4,200 monthly. At that point, I decided that as an engineer married with two kids earning N4,200, I had to resign from the job. Thereafter, I started applying for other jobs after which I secured a job with ETCO Nigeria limited and it was a good thing I resigned because my salary with ETCO was N44,000 monthly.
So, I moved from N4,200 to N44,000 per month. And it was from ETCO Nigeria Limited that I applied for skilled migration and thereafter I travelled to Australia with my family.
In 15 years you have experienced some career changes and you stayed longest as an education consultant, what motivated you?
To start with, I will say it was the passion, because as I said earlier, I realised that when I was working with Avery I had the passion to teach and train people and when my family and I migrated to Australia, I studied education and I realised that I enjoy working with young people plus all those skills I have had in engineering in all the places I have worked as a personal assistant.
I also realised that I could bring all the skills together to help myself as an education consultant and I decided to start my own business.
And it just didn’t happen like that, I never thought of starting a business, but it was when people came to me and were asking me questions about how to study in Australia, I now realised there was an opportunity for me to turn the enquiry and my passion into a business and that has always been the driving force, the passion, the interest and the skills I have.
Although, even with that I had to take some courses to be a qualified counselor, to be ISES certified and I had to take other courses just to become a certified agent in Australia and New Zealand.
You are the founder of Mel Educational Services, how and when did it all start?
Mel Educational Services actually started in 2008, because then I was still teaching in Australia and in one of the colleges I was teaching, being an international college, I wanted to use the opportunity to recruit African students for them.
So, when I travelled to Nigeria in 2008, I organised an information session at the Airport Hotel, Ikeja and quite a number of people attended because people were interested in studying in Australia and that is how we started.
So, when I went back to Australia at the end of the holidays in 2008, I decided to apply to some Australian universities so I could assist them with recruitment of students from Nigeria and ever since then I have been organising information sessions in recruiting students for universities, colleges and schools.
Since you started Mel Education Services, how many visas have you processed for Nigerians and other Africans?
I would say we have processed over 100 visas. However, what is really important is not the number of visas, but the visa rating and the number of visa refusals we have not had.
It is not the number of visas we get, because if you apply for 100 visas and you get 10, that is just 10 per cent rating. What I can say at the moment is that in the last five years we have had 100 per cent rating, which means that in the last five years we have not had any visa refusal.
Do you have a branch or affiliate in any country where students can continue their education?
No, we don’t but we are looking at working out affiliation with some colleges soon. We already have in place a number of partners where students can study.
In comparison with other country’s tertiary education system, what can you say about Nigeria?
First and foremost, the incessant and prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have been very challenging and making Nigerian students to seek alternatives overseas.
All things being considered, the tertiary institutions abroad provide opportunities for students to have real world experience, because they experience what it is like working outside the classrooms. It is not just all theoretical studies but a lot of hands-on experience and they have a lot of resources that can facilitate the learning of the students.
Compared to Nigeria, although I graduated from a tertiary institution in 1990 (it’s been a while now), but even with what I had seen in Nigeria, I noticed that a lot of people and even institutions don’t have enough resources to allow students to get real world experience.
There is a lot of theoretical stuff they are learning and sometimes they don’t have the opportunity to have companies where they can do internships and learn on the job. And I think that would have been a great thing. In summary, I would say there is a need for students to experience on the job internships.
A number of Nigerians are not granted visas to Australia or New Zealand due to fraudulent documents, a number of times people use fake work documents and falsified bank statements. They may have character issues maybe if they declare correctly or if they don’t get a police character report.
However, to those seeking admission, I advise them to do a lot of planning, sign up with an authorised agent that works with a number of universities in this destination. The next thing will be to plan for at least six months in advance wherever you want to study, have their bank statements ready, take the English test and get all documents ready, because normally the visa application may take between four and eight weeks and that will give them enough time.
When they get the services of their migration agents, they can then access their documents, certify them and prepare the application for them. Applicants should also have a number of opportunities to make two or three applications in case the first one doesn’t work out and ensure that all their documents are legitimate.