Covid-19 shatters dreams of Bangladeshis studying abroad
Many fear that their academic careers abroad are coming to an end
Sumon Ahsan (not real name), who left Bangladesh a year ago to pursue higher education in Australia, is now a student of Edith Cowan University.
He started working at a restaurant seven months after arriving in Australia, but unfortunately, he lost his job around three months ago due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sumon, who is from a middle-income family, does not have the financial capacity to continue his studies. It is becoming tough for him to survive in Australia.
A student must spend on average 40,000 to 50,000 Australian dollars per year. Of the money, 30,000 to 35,000 Australian dollars are spent on tuition and other fees, and the rest is for food and accommodation.
Most of the Bangladeshi students studying at different universities in Australia have been working at different hotels and other business centres. Almost all of them have lost their jobs due to the novel coronavirus and are fighting for their survival.
Many also fear that their academic careers in Australia are coming to an end.
The scenario in Australia is not an isolated incident, as Bangladeshi students in many countries – including the United Kingdom and Malaysia – are facing the same conundrum.
The latest data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics shows that 60,390 Bangladeshis were pursuing higher education abroad in 55 countries in 2017.
"I am unable to pay the upcoming semester fee. Bangladeshi community leaders have helped me by providing food but I am barely surviving. I do not know what my fate will be," said Sumon.
Dr Md Moazzem Hossain, associate professor of Murdoch University, told The Business Standard that the situation of Bangladeshi students, who worked at hotels and other shops, is not good. They are now under both financial and mental strain.
Giving further details, Dr Moazzem said, "The majority of students work for their financial self- reliance and this is now they pay their universities' fees. However, the novel coronavirus has halted everything, causing the Bangladeshi students to lose their jobs.
"Online classes are continuing and the current semester will end in a month. The next semester will begin immediately. Bangladeshi students have no capacity to pay the semester fees."
He continued, "Basically, two types of Bangladeshi students will not face any problem. Those who have the financial support of their families, and those who are doing registered jobs. However, the new students who do not belong to registered jobs are passing through a crucial moment."
"I helped some students but this is not sufficient for their daily needs," he added.
The registered job holders are listed with the government and pay taxes.
Shumon Zihady, a Bangladeshi student of Exeter University in the United Kingdom, said the coronavirus will shatter the dreams of many students as they can no longer afford their tuition fees and daily expenditures.
Many students are preparing to leave the UK if the novel coronavirus situation persists," he said, adding, "Part-time jobs are the main source of income for the students, but now the jobs are closed. So, it will be difficult for many students to survive in the UK."
Forhad Hossain Ruhi, a student of the University of Malaya, said, "I cannot say enough about the miserable situation of Bangladeshi Students in Malaysia. Some of the students do not even have enough money to get three square meals per day.
"We do not know how long the virus will exist. Many students will have to go home empty- handed if the pandemic does not end soon." Ruhi further said, "There are more than 35,000 Bangladeshi students in Malaysia. Many students went to our Bangladeshi embassy in Malaysia, but did not get any help from it."
Noor Dastagir, a student of the School of Engineering at Edith Cowan University, said the Australian government has asked the students to leave the country if they cannot afford their expenses.
"The government will not help the Bangladeshi students who have no registered job. So, there is no way they can continue their study in Australia. I could not hold back tears after seeing the devastating condition of a good number of students," Noor said.
He added that no embassy officials are helping them and the officials do not even contact them.
Responding to queries, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said, "Usually, Bangladeshi students going abroad are from the affluent classes. So we do not need to help them. I talked with the Australian government and asked them why they are not helping the Bangladeshi students. "But, they did not say anything in this regard."
The minister added, "We will give those students the opportunity to return to Bangladesh if they want to. But they will have to pay for their journeys."