Nepali students abroad seek help from their government amid coronavirus crisisThey want authorities to talk to their host governments and raise the ceiling on the amount their parents can send them.
As the crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic deepens across the world, Nepali students abroad are seeking their government’s help in deferring payment of tuition fees and rent and raising the ceiling on the amount their parents can send them.
Various Nepali missions abroad have started surveying students regarding problems they are facing due to the crisis. A large number of students, who have filled up the Emergency Relief Form, said they have lost their jobs and therefore, the Nepal government should talk to the host governments to make provisions for interim relief.
For instance, according to the Ministry of Education, some 800 of the 1,200 students in Australia who filled up the form by Tuesday, have sought relief. Ram Sharan Sapkota, joint-secretary at the ministry said, the embassies are taking necessary steps to support the students based on the suggestions. “The major concerns of our students are related to payment of tuition fees and rent,” he told the Post. “We have come to know that the respective governments are considering deferrals for those payments.”
The ministry has formed an informal task force comprising the government authorities, officials from Nepali missions abroad and representatives from education consultancies. The group updates the students regularly.
Santosh Pyakurel, chairperson of the Nepal Education Consultancies Association and a member of the taskforce, said students, who are enrolled abroad without the government-issued “no objection certificate” want authorities to raise the ceiling on the amount their parents can send them.
Only the parents of students with the certificates can send money to their children abroad to pay for their tuition fees and other living costs. However, many students visit Australia and other European countries on tourist visas and later convert to student visas.
On April 1, the government permitted families to send students $500 to help them during the pandemic. Students have said that this amount is too small and have requested that the limit be raised to $1,000, said Pyakurel.
Bam Bahadur Mishra, chief of the Foreign Exchange Division at the Nepal Rastra Bank, however, said they are not in a position to raise the limit. “We need to have a bigger foreign exchange reserve to increase the limit,” he told the Post. He said those with the no objection certificate, however, can get money based on the amount they have to pay to their universities and the living cost they need to bear.
Nepali students studying in the different countries said they are worried about their future if the lockdown continues longer. Bikram Basnet, a master’s student at Liverpool John Moores University, said they just have enough to sustain for a couple of months.
“We are using savings from the work we did earlier. We are worried about sustenance if the lockdown is extended for two months or more,” he told the Post over phone. Not many parents in Nepal can send enough money to their children studying abroad, he said.
On Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked foreign students to go home if they were unable to support themselves in the face of the coronavirus crisis. This has added to the worries of Nepali students.
The Council of International Students Australia has made 10 recommendations to the government requesting for welfare packages, reduction of fees and mortgage and provision for free visa extension.
Bijay Sapkota, former president of the council, said some universities in Australia have initiated work to provide relief packages to students while the Nepali communities too are supporting needy students.