When will colleges open, is an issue vexing Indian medical students who have paid heavy fees to study abroad, however, due to the Covid-led pandemic or diplomatic tussle, they are stuck in the country. While most countries like Ukraine and Russia have reopened doors for foreign students, China and Kyrgyzstan are yet to do so. Besides increase in fees, students are also complaining about practical classes being conducted online.
Since the end of last year, medical students pursuing MBBS in China have been demanding to return to their universities. While the online classes are on, the traditional classes have begun only for domestic students. Despite appealing to the Indian and Chinese governments, there has been no decision so far in this regard.
Twenty-one-year-old Divyank Praeek is a third year student of Wuhan University in China. During the coronavirus outbreak, he along with other Indian students requested the Ministry of External Affairs to help them leave the country even though their faculty was against it. Since then, they are attending online classes.
“The university has opened gates for the domestic students since September but they have no updates on our return. When Chinese apps were banned in India, faculty switched to other apps for online classes. We have been juggling with the morning classes that begin at 5 am. Also, they are conducting lab classes online. I have paid around Rs 8 lakh so far not for online education,” said Praeek, who along with many students, is campaigning for their return.
Over 23,000 Indian students are studying in various programmes in Chinese universities, of which nearly 21,000 have enrolled for undergraduate medical courses.
In January, Beijing insisted that the international students should continue with online classes due to the second wave of the virus. The Indian Embassy, in a statement, informed that they have taken up the matter with Chinese authorities, however, there is no positive response.
“With reports of resurgence of COVID-19 cases in China, authorities have further reinforced epidemic controls and restrictions on travel and entry into China. The suspension of visas of Indian nationals issued before November 2, 2020 is an instance of these enhanced controls,” according to the statement. While the first, second and third-year MBBS students are attending virtual classes and may be given a chance to complete lab work, the final-year students are in the lurch as their internship can only be completed once they return.
Yamini Anupam, a 24-year-old student, was in her 10th semester when she left for India. “We were getting hands-on experience in the practical last year when we had to leave Wuhan. Since then, the faculty is just uploading theory and videos through a Chinese app. They tell us to watch it and ask doubts. What will we understand if we cannot experience live practical class? These videos have just doubled our work. Our semester and theory are over. By now we would have been doing our internship had we been staying in China. Most students from our batch have lost hope of returning to campus,” said she.
According to the rules, final-year MBBS students have to complete about 48-52 week physical internships in hospitals in order to get their degree. Yamini has now pinned her hopes on passing the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (screening test for overseas and Indian nationals) and subsequently gaining some experience in India.
Similarly, over 15,000 students from Kyrgyzstan – mostly medical aspirants – are unhappy with online classes and can’t wait to get back to their institutes. Even as colleges have started reopening for domestic residents, neither the college nor the Indian Embassy is providing any details on the return date.
Moreover, the increase in fees has baffled them. A student from the Kyrgyzstan state medical university Aman Singh (name changed) told indianexpress.com that despite online classes held for nearly a year, the fee has been increased. Foreign medical students pay $3000 per year.
“Our contract clearly states that there cannot be any increase in the fees, and we need to pay the same amount as mentioned in the paper. However, the dean is arguing that due to a change in dollar value in their country, foreign students need to shell out an additional $500,” said Singh.
Those who have not paid yet, will be marked absent and no classes will be held for them – the authority has allegedly told the students. When the students wrote to the Ministry of Education and Science of Kyrgyzstan, they shrugged off the responsibility. The ministry cited concern over the second wave of Covid-19 and informed that they have issued an order “approving the algorithm for organising the educational process in the mixed format (online and offline) for the spring semester of the 2020-2021 academic year”.
According to the letter, a complete traditional format is allowed for “graduate students/ last year students in all areas of training and specialities and for students of medical specialities”.