The finish line is in sight for Oluwapelumi Debbie Adegoke, an international student from Nigeria studying child and youth care at Mohawk College.
“This is actually my last year, and my last semester in the program,” the 23-year-old student said. “My goal is to apply for a work permit and apply for jobs in my field and start working, start making money.”
But one thing stands in Adegoke’s way: a bill for $11,350 that she can’t pay.
Her parents’ business, a hotel and event centre in Nigeria, has been “greatly impacted” by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
Adegoke works 20 hours a week — the maximum for international students — as an in-home personal support worker (PSW) to pay her rent, groceries and phone bill, but it’s not enough to cover her tuition.
So, the Mohawk student has turned to GoFundMe to fundraise the rest of her tuition — a $3,000 debt from last semester, plus $8,350 for winter 2021 — which she has until the end of March to pay. Domestic tuition for Adegoke’s program is significantly less, at roughly $2,050 per semester.
“I need to finish this year,” she said.
Adegoke’s study permit — which, in Canada, is typically valid for the length of a student’s program plus an additional 90 days — is set to expire in June. She is worried a gap in her studies could affect her eligibility for permanent residency or a work permit in Canada, which she planned to apply for upon graduation.
“I prefer to be in Canada, but it doesn’t matter where exactly in Canada,” she said. She said she hopes to stay in Ontario, but will go wherever she is able to find a job.
Adegoke, the eldest of four siblings, said she has a “passion” for children and youth, and would like to work in a school setting or with young offenders.
“I just love kids,” she said. “That’s why I go for my program.”
Amid stay-at-home orders, work placements offering hands-on experience were postponed this semester — yet another challenge posed by the pandemic. And then there’s the social aspect of college.
“Everything is online right now,” she said. “I miss school, I miss seeing my friends, I miss my lectures.”
Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator