International students have been unable to return to their studies in China for 557 days now due to measures taken by authorities to curb the spread of Covid-19. There is so far no announcement from China’s Ministry of Education or any other authority on when students will be able to enter China again.
With China’s economic and technological rise, numbers of international students had been steadily rising in the pre-pandemic years. Figures from the Chinese government indicate that in 2018 there were a total of 492,185 international students from 196 countries/areas pursuing their studies in 1,004 higher education institutions in China’s 31 provinces/autonomous regions/provincial-level municipalities.
As China became the first in the world in 2020 to go into mass lockdowns and anti-Covid measures, educational activities for many thousands of such students were affected. Currently, only students from South Korea are permitted visas to resume studies in China, after the two countries reached a reciprocal agreement earlier this year.
Currently, only students from South Korea are permitted visas to resume studies in China, after the two countries reached a reciprocal agreement earlier this year
Speaking to Erudera College News, an Aeronautical Engineering student from Malawi, East Africa, studying at Beihang University, who preferred to stay anonymous, described the impact of the Covid situation on his education:
“I began my studies in September 2019. I have lacked exposure to practical content that is much needed in my major to provide maximum safety for aircraft passengers when designing planes and the engineering that surrounds it.”
Coming from a third-world nation where prices of data are very high compared to the rest of the world, he said it was very difficult to raise money for the data alone. He also pointed out that while in China, he was expected to study with a full scholarship, at home, his parents can now barely afford to for the data that he uses on a daily basis to attend classes and exams.
“We pay great attention to the welfare of students, we will monitor the trends of the pandemic and make the best considerations for them,” the Chinese authorities have responded.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told the media that China “has no choice but to take a lot of prevention and control measures” after Indian students demonstrated in Delhi to be allowed to resume their studies in China.
Pakistani students hoping to resume their studies in China have also been raising attention to their plight. According to the last data available, students from Pakistan in China represent the third-largest group of foreign students after those from South Korea and Thailand. In fact, in 2018, some 28,023 Pakistani students were recorded as studying in China.
Many Pakistani students were receiving fully-funded scholarships from the Chinese government, a standard amount being a monthly stipend of 70,000 to 90,000 Pakistani rupees. With such funding also suspended during the current Covid crisis, these students and their families are facing new hardships.
Students have been using the hashtag #TakeUsBackToChina to raise attention to their situation, hoping to be allowed to resume their studies soon.