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Nigerian students overwhelmed to return to Canada to continue studies

REGINA - Two Nigerian students say they are overwhelmed to be back studying in Canada after being deported for violating visa rules by taking jobs at Walmart.

Victoria Ordu and Favour Amadi have been readmitted to the University of Regina and both of their scholarships at the school have been reinstated.

"I'm still in shock that I'm here today," Ordu said Monday on the university campus.

"I'm still in shock that I can see the faces I saw a few years ago. I'm still in shock that I will be going back to classes, because I was on the verge of losing three years of education and I felt all hope was lost."

Amadi, who is taking international studies, said getting an education is empowering, especially for women.

"It's really important to me because when I go back to Nigeria, I would love to (impart) what I've learned here down to my country," said Amadi.

"I would love to serve as a role model to other people, other women and other people in general, who are going through similar situations and be of help to them whichever way I can."

Ordu and Amadi were told in June 2012 that they had to leave Canada because they took summer jobs off campus at Walmart without proper student work permits. They only had social insurance cards that allowed them to work on campus and said they didn't realize the mistake.

The Canada Border Services Agency said at the time that the responsibility to understand the limitations of working in Canada lies with international students.

The women took refuge in a Regina church for nearly 500 days before they agreed to leave Canada last fall.

University of Regina president Vianne Timmons said there was "relentless pushing behind the scenes" to get the students back.

"You know the saying, 'It takes a village to raise a child?' It took a village to get these young women back in Canada," said Timmons.

"There were advocates in the federal government. The provincial government was a huge advocate. The NDP were advocates. All behind the scenes there was a lot of pressure that continued on, and I think that pressure helped make sure that this came quickly.

"And eight months may not be seen as quickly, but these young women may not have got a study permit to get back to Canada if we hadn't kept the pressure on."

Timmons said kicking the girls out of Canada was too severe a consequence.

The rules changed in January and what the girls did is no longer illegal.

"The fact that they persevered and advocated so hard, I think that was instrumental in changing federal laws. For these young women, I hope that they recognize that fight and that battle and that time they put in has changed it for other young people from other countries."

The young women also said that getting an education is important, especially in light of the kidnapping of hundreds of girls in Nigeria.

Boko Haram militants shocked the world and caused outrage in April when they abducted more than 300 school girls in the town of Chibok. Some girls escaped by themselves, but an estimated 272 remain captive.

"It could have been me. I could have been studying in classes and that situation could have happened to me," said Amadi.

"I feel really, really, really bad for what has happened to them and I'm really hoping that something good comes out of it at the end of the day."

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