Plight of overseas students in lockdown

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By Queenie Lee P. Tanjay

ROTORUA – Coming here to New Zealand, the last thing students envision for themselves is to be seated in between the discomforts brought about by a country lockdown.

After the Level 4 escalation in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic the government temporarily closed schools and non-essential service businesses to limit physical community contact. This decision proceeds readily to adjustments in school and work frameworks affecting students.

University and Polytech tutors, since then, have taken the creative lead of carrying out classes through video sharing platforms.

Instructor, Darlyn Chutuape, shared insights about this new experience. “I am definitely not an expert of on-line teaching, but we must accept the change and be flexible. It is in every teacher’s mind to create a pleasant learning experience for everyone, at the end of the day,” she said.

From the students’ side, online meetings become efficient ways to convene in their free time to still comply with the requirements. Students often make use of Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

In support of this crusade, schools like Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology are emphasizing further not only the continuous presence of learning support but also services supplementing well-being and mental health.

Through updated information drives it relays its empathy. “We understand the anxiety during these unprecedented times, exacerbated by being far from home … Everyone is encouraged to contact the team for concerns ranging from health advice, counseling and accommodation, to student visas …”

This statement mirrors international students’ plight during the lockdown. Shut down services mean no work and no pay for some – at a time when it’s hard enough to make ends meet with accrued accommodation and food consumption costs.

While some still try to get their applications to employers, the restrictions make it very difficult. “The limitation of work these days is worsened by the restriction of public transportation that can take us to potential work opportunities,” Aarati Mahato, an international student, aired. “It is rather best to stay healthy during these times and then work chances will follow when everything’s stable,” she continued.

In other accounts, sentiments and fears for their families back home loom over their heads. Social distancing and strict quarantine appear to be inconvenient, incurring effects on daily errands and work structures. Constant communication, hence, remains vital these days to show support from one another.

In support, the New Zealand government has designed immediate efforts to reduce the impact on international students. One of the substantial ones is the wage subsidy scheme. The government compensates the part-time wages of affected businesses within the lockdown period.

Moreover, local communities have mobilized drives to help also. The Multicultural Rotorua Council, in cooperation with the Regional Council, numerous private establishments and volunteers, have managed to distribute food parcels to migrants and international students in the proximity.

The team makes sure to incorporate basic food necessities, fruit and vegetables in packages and to issue appropriate training for volunteers during distribution. As of today the group has already delivered numerous batches of supplies.

In hindsight, if there’s one good thing that comes from this, it is the resilience that we gain. These trying times allow us to devise new ways to cope and move forward together as a community.
The Bayanihan spirit, therefore, is paramount in looking out for our whanau.