The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t doused the spirit of candidates aspiring for higher education abroad, say figures from the Gujarat Unreserved Educational and Economical Development Corporation (GUEEDC), which received 1,182 online applications within a month after it opened on July 25, even as the total loans allocated for the current financial year was 1,900.
The applicants include those who wish to study in Canada, Australia and the United States.
Vivek Ginoya (28), who graduated from GK Bharad Institute of Engineering Kasturbadham, Tramba in Rajkot in 2015 and working as a consultant engineer at a private construction firm in Rajkot, has applied for masters course in project management in Perth, Australia.
Vivek is waiting for GUEEDC to clear his loan, which is required to pay his course fee of around Rs 10 lakh in November. He also plans to take his wife, who is working at a private chartered accountant firm, along to Australia.
The GUEEDC, set up by the Gujarat government in October 2017 in the wake of the quota stir by Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, has eight financial assistance schemes for the unreserved and economically-weaker sections.
Mitul Malani (22) from Surat has also applied for a two-year masters course in applied computer science from Halifax, Canada. An engineer who graduated in computer science from Swami Atmanand College in Surat in 2019 is already working in an IT company in Vesu. Malani has also applied for a loan at GUEEDC as the course is expected to cost him over Rs 20 lakh.
The corporation provides loans for education, training for competitive exams, foreign education, food bill, coaching assistance, self employment and interest help scheme for those from the unreserved classes with an annual family income of Rs 4.5 to Rs 6 lakh. The GUEEDC gives out loans up to Rs 15 lakh per beneficiary.
“Among the 1,182 applications received last month, 519 are from Surat, followed by Ahmedabad 206,” said B H Ghodasara, chairman of GUEEDC.
The GUEEDC has revised its conditions from this year. “Loans will be sanctioned only for graduation, postgraduation or masters and MBBS course for aspirants with minimum 60 per cent marks in Class 12. The loan assistance upto Rs 15 lakh at 4 per cent annual interest rate is for family with up to Rs 6 lakh annual income,” Ghodasara added.
In March-August 2019, 495 loans for foreign education were sanctioned with an amount of Rs 72.12 crore. During the same period this year, 693 loan applications were approved amounting to Rs 100.84 crore. In the first 15 days of September this year, another 50 applications were approved and Rs 95 lakh was disbursed to aspirants from across the state.
Anxious about his loan application status, Vivek said, “The Australian university confirmed my admission in June. I have to pay Rs 9-10 lakh to the university, after which I would be given a DOE… As a civil engineer, I have better growth prospects in Australia… here every second student is an engineer and they force us to work at low wages.”
His father runs a small footwear business in Rajkot and he has a younger brother who is also pursuing his engineering, while his sister is married. “I am following the Covid situation in Australia, which is not as bad as here,” he added.
Covid might not have affected students’ aspirations but it certainly has dented their family’s financial holdings.
“We run an aluminium business and with the construction business almost to a halt for months, our financial holdings are shaken,” said Pravinbhai Malani, Mitul’s father.
“It has been my dream to study abroad… how can I let Covid affect it… The situation there is better than here,” said Mitul.
None from both their families had gone abroad to study or work.
Before applying for masters in biotechnology from a Canadian university, Richa Bhatt (23) completed her bachelors in pharmacy in 2019. Having paid the university fee in July, she cannot withdraw her seat at this point, she said.
“The initial expense was around Rs 10 lakh that increased due to an addition of health insurance due to Covid. If I withdraw at this time, I will not get entire refund of my fee,” Richa said.
Also exploring the option of permanent residency, she said, “Canada is economical than Europe or USA and has better chances for PR.”
Aakash Borad is in the third year of MBBS from Belarus and among the dozen students who has applied for the GUEEDC loan midway of the course. His father Kishorbhai who runs a textile business in Surat has run into financial losses because of Covid.
“He did not apply for the loan earlier because we did not have monetary issues. Only after Covid, our financial condition has gone bad,” Kishorbhai said.
Former minister of state for education Nanubhai Vanani who spearheads Samast Patidar Samaaj Surat Sarkari Yojana Margdarshak Kendra too declined that Covid has had any impact on students’ foreign education aspirations.
“Certainly Covid is there but when a student has decided to go abroad he would not change his mind despite his parents stopping him amid health safety concerns,” Vanani told The Indian Express.
One of the seven members of the GUEEDC, Jagdish Bhavsar who is also the Pro Vice Chancellor of Gujarat University added, “Better opportunities, financial prospects and need to support the family are above Covid scare and health concerns.”
Mili Javia (23), who will be paying Rs 50 lakh annually for a two-year masters course in technology management starting in January 2021, is hoping to get an assistance of at least Rs 15 lakh from GUEEDC. Having planned to go in August, she deferred the plan by six months amid the pandemic.
“Covid had a huge impact on my business resulting in deep recession. We have applied for a loan as some help is better than none,” said her father, Sunilbhai, who has a construction business.
Mili sees a better future abroad and dreams of earning well, with better living standards. “Many engineers and doctors must be earning Rs 25,000 per month here. Why not aim for a better future and salary abroad even if we have to spend some amount initially,” she said.
“This year is a case study for us too. Despite the pandemic, the scheme has generated good response,” Ghodasara said.
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