For 23-year-old Oluwapelumi Adegoke, there is one thing standing between her and graduation; paying off her tuition at Mohawk College. The international student from Nigeria has been in Canada since 2019 and enrolled in the child and youth care program. She has dreams of eventually working with underprivileged children.
“I have been really, really worried a lot … and have anxiety,” said Adegoke.
Those fears center on whether she will be able to pay off her student debt in time so she can apply for permanent residency or a different permit that would allow her to work in Canada.
“If I don’t pay my tuition fee I won’t be able to graduate, and if I don’t graduate that’s really going to affect my work permit and my PR permanent residence,” said Adegoke.
Adegoke is the eldest of five children, and her parents run a hotel and event business in Nigeria. The pandemic has been bad for their bottom line. She said money is very tight, given that her brother is also studying abroad.
“They’ve been trying to work hard to pay our tuition fee,” Adegoke said. “But there’s been lockdown in Nigeria so things have been closed. Right now there’s no lockdown anymore but due to COVID-19 people are not really going out.”
Adegoke has been working as a personal support worker to help cover her living costs. However, she can only do so much given the work restrictions for international students, which only allow her to work up to 20 hours a week. She says her study permit expires in June and tuition is due at the end of March.
“I’m the eldest child so I feel like I need to do good for myself to take care of my younger siblings and my parents too,” said Adegoke.
To help bridge the financial gap, she decided to start a GoFundMe campaign. In the last week, thousands of dollars have been donated. When Adegoke talks about the campaign, a huge smile comes across her face.
“I read the comments on the GoFundMe and it was like, ‘Don’t worry we’ve got your back’ and it makes me feel like I’m wanted and people really do care.”
Adegoke said the support is a dream come true. She said she hopes to find work within Canada, and that she can in turn make enough money so she can give back to her family.
“Probably in the future I could reach enough for a house or a car,” Adegoke said. “Just to show appreciation of what they’ve been doing for me ever since I was a little girl.”