What happens to international students?
I am a concerned international student and I am writing this email with regards to the protests taking place. Firstly I would like to express that I acknowledge the need for freedom of expression, and I also understand the angle from which people who are protesting are coming. I also acknowledge the effort UCT is putting into solving the situation and I appreciate it. But a group of us international students have other concerns which we feel are not being addressed:
- The suspension/delay of classes or possibility of shutdown will lead to extra costs that we have not planned for, eg transport back to our home countries, especially flying. We cannot afford to go back and forth based on the possible closing and reopening of campus if people are sent home. Also, staying in Cape Town for longer means more rent and living expenses, especially to those who live off campus. The majority of us can’t even access Wi-Fi and labs, hence we are in the dark in terms of what’s going on.
- The permit issue: a number of international students couldn’t register this year because of permit issues. I don’t think people understand the work, effort and money that goes into getting a study permit. So if campus shuts down, will we all be allowed to register next year without permits? This would involve the ministry of home affairs. UCT/IAPO/SRC telling us it’s not within their power is not a good enough explanation. We need solutions!
- Extended degrees: if campus is shut down then everyone’s degree is extended, hence potential graduates can’t work and thus UCT has to accommodate more people for the following years ... thus bringing back the accommodation issue once again. This would mean more protests and more delays while parents are breaking their backs to pay the additional international fees. Or will these fees be cancelled for next year?
- Safety: some of us international students don’t feel safe anymore. Firstly we are all in a foreign country and thus feel pressured to take sides – even if we don’t agree with some of the issues. Although there haven’t been any police issues, there is a tension amongst students, especially for those who don’t agree with the protests. I feel there aren’t as many people involved this time around and the majority of us want to go back to school so we at least finish the academic year. However, we need to do so in a safe manner. The longer the delay, the harder it will be.
I really want to know what considerations have been made for us international students. Should a poll be held to find out how many people want to go back to school? I really didn’t know who to direct this email to, so I have sent it to as many departments as I can, hoping that someone might carry on these issues to higher authorities. Please consider us in your decision-making process; at this point we feel neglected in this process.