Gender is my Agenda by Charity Moonga –
“I always worked hard at school because I really wanted to study abroad and I cant believe that despite attaining that dream, I have found myself crying day and night not knowing what the future holds for me,” Carol Mwenya (not real name) sobs while narrating her ordeal.
Carol is not alone as thousands of foreign students continue to be stranded overseas where they went to study and have now been caught up with the Covid-19 pandemic which has led to the closure of borders and introduced travel restrictions world over.
Hundreds of thousands of students at the country’s universities are stranded with no safety net in the middle of a pandemic
It is sad to see how so many lives of college and university students all over the world have been shuttered as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
As countries around the world have moved swiftly to close borders in efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, students studying abroad have suffered the unintended consequences.
Many of these students have no idea where to live or whether they would ever be able to return to class as many of them have been learning online.
Many of the students who managed to return home after the Covid -19 outbreak had to spend three or four nights at the airport to be able to catch a flight.
Many of these students have been having problems returning home because borders are closed and all international travel has been suspended due to corona virus.
As a result of this situation, many international students have not been able to leave and are now squatting with friends or in hotels.
“Itis one thing to be in a foreign country studying abroad but the problem comes in when you realizethat you cannot get out of that country. You are thousands of kilometers away from home, and there seems to be no hope for getting out of the foreign country anytime soon,” one student told the international media.
Many students are stranded overseas without any hope of returning to their homes anytime soon.
Many parents and schools are frustrated because students have not been able to return to their families.
Those who rushed to fly home before international borders closed are not sure if they will be able to come back.
“It has been a very difficult time for me because I literally have nowhere to go because school is now closed but I have no flight to my country,”one other student said.
She explained that she has nowhere to go as many campuses have closed due to Covid -19.
Despite the many hardships that many students studying abroad are currently facing, they are reluctant to share their issues with their families to avoid stressing them.
Some of these students had made plans to stay with their friends in the various countries that they are pursuing their education but were warned against doing so by their other colleagues who stated that such an arrangement could become uncomfortable if it went on for too long.
“Before I left the University, I had to make sure that I let my professors know that she was going to be seven hours ahead and that my internet access will be inconsistent because of frequent black-outs. For me this whole Covid-19 issue confused me so much and I was so disappointed by everything,” one student said.
Other students are worried that if Corona Virus problem is not sorted out in good time in their countries, they would not be able to renew their visas and return to school.
The legal status of all international students has also become less certain because of the coronavirus pandemic because normally, their visas require them to take classes in person, rather than online but now this is what is happening.
Many of these international students have run out of finances and are either skipping or limiting the amount of meals they eat in order to save money.
“I lost my job, the school does not support us with meals or to discount or freeze our fees and the other bills are still coming in,” one student told the international media.
As already stated above, many of these students cannot afford to buy food or other essentials, or to pay the bills they are incurring while studying abroad in the midst of the COVID -19 pandemic in which there are no flights to return to their various homes.
Some other students are facing repeated and public incidents of racism linked to Covid-19 which are leaving them shaken and in disbelief.
“I feel so inhuman in the way some of the people in the countries where we are studying as international students are treating us. When I was on the train and I was wearing a mask for protection, a man shouted at me telling me that I am an idiot and stupid and because I am from a country that brought the virus into their country. He said he wanted to hit me. I felt so hopeless, I just bowed my head and got off the train,” one other student told the international media.
Many governments have also shifted their focus from foreigners in their countries to their indigenous citizens.
As already stated, for many international students, going home is not possible due to the Covid -19 border closures and travel restrictions.
“They find themselves now stranded in a foreign country, without the social capital of citizenship, or its legal protections. They are without the fall-back of family, or the assistance of a lifetime of networks and friendships built up.In many cases, they are entirely alone,”the international media explains.
A councillor on the university’s postgraduate council in one of the countries explains that his phone now rings constantly about 15 to 20 calls a day from international students worried about their courses or capacity to survive and stay in school.
Many students are worried and concerned about being forced to pay full-rate student and course fees, when courses are now running online instead of being delivered in person, and worried they could get caught in breach of their visa conditions by travel restrictions.
The councilor explained that the future for many international students is blurred and it is another great stress on top of the stress that everyone is already feeling during this Covid-19 crisis.
At the end of the day, as the world continues to grapple with the Covid -19 pandemic, it is necessary to consider the plight of international students who have been adversely affected by the out-break of the disease and feel abandoned.