With Australia still closed, Nepali students find themselves in tough spotInterest is racking up on the loans their parents had taken out to send them to colleges in Australia, but they are still stuck in Nepal due to travel restrictions.
Acina Thapa was thrilled when she got a study visa for Australia last March. But her happiness was short-lived. Just a day after Thapa got her visa, Australia closed its borders to foreign travellers due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The country is yet to open for foreign visitors.
“I got the visa to study nursing in Southern Queensland University last year. I don’t know when I will be able to go to Australia,” 19-year-old Thapa told the Post.
Thapa's university fee for nursing is $16,300 AUD per semester.
“Before applying for the visa, I thought I would work part-time jobs to ease the financial burden on my parents. The border closure has put me at my wits’ end,” said Thapa.
Unable to travel, Thapa decided to defer her classes which were being conducted online. She didn’t want to pay a huge sum of money for online learning.
But in 2021, her second deferral request was not accepted by her college. She was told that the English language criteria had changed and that she needed to achieve a seven-band score in each module of IELTS (International English Language Testing System).
“Scoring seven band each in IELTS is very difficult,” said Thapa. She is worried how her parents are going to pay her tuition for next semester if Australia continues to close its border for foreign visitors.
Like Thapa, there are hundreds of Nepali students currently stuck in Nepal despite getting the study visas.
According to 9news, the international borders will remain closed for at least another three months till June 17, 2021.
“The latest extension means Australia's borders will now be closed to the world for almost 15 months,” states the same report.
For Nepali students, the decision means financial burden on their parents. To educate their children in Australia or in any other foreign countries, most parents have to take out loans.
“My parents had taken a loan of Rs 1.5 million for my college fees. They have to pay more than Rs 16,000 per month as interest and I’m still here in Nepal taking online classes, ” said Thapa.
Another student Anil Dotel has also been taking online classes while waiting for Australia to open its borders for foreigners.
“My annual tuition is 14,ooo AUD. Paying the fees has become very difficult for my parents,” said the 20-year-old who got his visa last March.
Dotel’s parents had taken out a bank loan of Rs 3.5 million to pay for the first few years of their son’s college tuition. They were hoping their son would work part-time jobs to pay for the rest of the years in college. But the pandemic upended their plan.
“We thought our son would get a good education in Australia. This is why we fulfilled his wish to go study abroad knowing it was going to be expensive,” Dotel's mother told the post. “We have no idea how we are going to pay his next year’s college fees if Australia’s borders remain closed throughout 2021.”
Australia is one of the most preferred education destinations for Nepali students.
Data from the Abroad Study Permission Section at the Ministry of Education show that a total of 17,218 students applied for No Objection Certificate (NOC) for abroad studies—3,015 for Australia— in the last six months of the current fiscal year despite the pandemic.
Santosh Pyakurel, president of National Educational Consultancies’ Association, said Australia is popular among Nepali students because of better part-time job opportunities and strong diaspora presence of Nepalis there.
“It's uncertain when Australia will open for international students. So until things are back to normal, I advise Nepali students to apply for study visas only if they have got a good scholarship to avoid financial troubles,” Pyakurel told the Post.
Some students blame the educational consultancies for their current financial woes. Kashyap Adhikari is one of them.
He and some of his friends were reportedly lured by their educational consultancies into applying to expensive colleges in Australia at the time of the pandemic.
“The consultancies led us into believing that our visa success rates would be stronger if we pick expensive colleges,” Adhikari said. “Now we don’t know what to do. Some of my friends have been told to join the online classes or else their confirmation of enrolment could get cancelled.”