Covid-19 lockdown affects Nepali students planning to go abroadWhile some students plan to wait things out, others have given up on their plans due to the epidemic.
After receiving an admission offer from McNeese State University, in the US, 19-year-old Amir Adhikari was on cloud nine. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions associated with it, he has no option but to wait.
“I received a good scholarship offer from the university and was planning to go to the US this fall. But due to the lockdown, I couldn't get the visa interview done,” said Adhikari, who wants to study computer science. “So, now I am planning to defer my intake by a semester.”
Every year thousands of students such as Adhikari file their application to pursue their higher studies abroad. Data from the Abroad Study Permission Section at the Ministry of Education 58,758 students applied for no objection certificates to study abroad in 2017/18. Between mid- July, 2o18, and the end of 2019, the ministry issued 85,758 certificates, which are mandatory for students who wish to pursue higher education abroad.
But due to the Covid-19 pandemic this year, many students’ plans to study abroad have been shattered due to travel restrictions, and suspension of visa services.
"Planning to study abroad takes a lot of time and investment,” Adhikari told the Post, adding that now that he received an offer from a university, he will not give up his dream because of the pandemic.
But not everyone is as persistent as Adhikari. Some students have shelved their plans to go abroad due to the pandemic.
Jiya Khadka, 18, from Butwal wanted to go to Australia, but the lockdown made her change her mind. “I was preparing for my IELTS exam, but I changed my plans due to the current circumstances,” said Khadka. “After the lockdown is lifted, I now plan to go to Kathmandu to study.”
“Although the NOC data does not reveal the actual number of students who went abroad for higher studies, it does show a trend,” said Dibya Dawadi, deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Education.
On March 3, the government decided to stop issuing the no-objection certificates due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in various countries “We are discussing how to resume the distribution of NOC. However, no decision has been taken till now,” said Dawadi. “It is risky for students to travel to other countries at this time. But as we can’t suspend the service for a long time, we are coming up with fresh plans.”
With the suspension of the NOC distribution and language tests, the lockdown has made it difficult for students to complete their paperwork.
Education consultants however, believe that despite the pandemic many will go ahead to pursue their study abroad. “Students may postpone their plan by a semester or by a year, but they will apply as many have already prepared their documents,” said Santosh Pyakurel, coordinator of the National Educational Consultancies Association, one of five umbrella bodies of education consultancies in the country.
According to Pyakurel, almost 4,000 students who had applied to universities abroad have been affected by the lockdown. “Many couldn’t travel even after getting their visa,” he said.
In Nepal, the government has suspended all domestic and international commercial passenger flights at least until July 5.
“Some students have already paid their fees to their universities by taking bank loans,” Pyakurel told the post.
Sudip Timilsina, 19, from Chitwan, who applied to Ozford College, Melbourne four months ago has not received his visa till now despite paying his annual tuition fees. “I filed my visa application four months ago but still haven’t received it,” Timilsina told the post. “I have already paid over 14,000 AUD to the college and my family had to take a bank loan of Rs 4 million to comply with bank balance requirements.”
“We have to pay Rs 50,000 per month as interest. Though the bank has not charged us the amount yet, it will do so after the lockdown,” he said. “I am very confused now. I don’t know if I should wait for my visa or ask for a refund.”
More than 9 million cases of infection, including 480,401 deaths, have been reported across the world so far since the virus first emerged in China in December, 2019. In Nepal, the number of COVID-19 deaths have reached 24 with over 10,000 cases reported so far.
Meanwhile, Adhikari is glued to news updates on the pandemic to get an indication of when things will return to normal. “I want to be updated so that I can plan accordingly.”