Not helping international students is differential treatment of different groups of students, which is difficult to justify.
By: Amine Fquihi, Fahad Said, Trym Nikolas Rimmen
English translation of Khrono's article that ISU Norway's National President, Amine Fquihi, co-wrote. To read the original Norwegian version of the article see: "Internasjonale studenter står barføtt i møtet med koronakrisen".
It is very positive that the government provides assistance to students. Due to the Covid-19 virus, international students in Norway face major financial challenges.
Several international students have asked for answers from the Ministry of Education as to whether the crisis packages that are made for students apply to them as well, or whether they apply only to a selection of students. No information has yet come about this, and we require that international students know what applies to them and how the current situation will affect them, instead of wondering what future they have in this country.
“It is difficult to defend this differential treatment of different student groups. The despair that international students in Norway feel today is strong enough to be almost tangible.”
Norwegian students have been granted a certain guarantee, with an extended deadline for applying for scholarships and loans with the loan fund (Lånekassen) until April 15. This was because students were not included in the crisis package adopted by parliament last week.
This cannot be said of international students. They are without protection, regardless of whether they belong to an EEA country or not. Solutions for this group are also needed.
One cannot agree with the statement to the Minister of Research and Higher Education, Henrik Asheim, that students outside the EEA should basically have enough money to support themselves. We need these people to be covered by a crisis package as soon as possible.
Like most of their fellow Norwegian students, many international students are dependent on a job alongside their studies. With all the layoffs we see due to the virus, many students will not be able to show an amount in their bank account that is the size of a one-year student loan when the next semester starts. This amount is vital for students outside the EU / EEA to have, as it determines whether or not they will receive a student visa. Many are afraid they will have to cancel their studies and go home due to the Covid-19 virus.
The student union (Studentsamskipnaden) also wants to have a guarantee of rent from international students, and with no money in their account it is difficult to find a place to live. Students these days receive reminders to pay rent, electricity and the like. This situation leads to a high level of stress among international students, as they are uncertain about whether they will be able to support all this, and at the same time concentrate on studies, which in many ways are amputated when studies are now taking place at home due to closed schools.
International students pay the same tuition fee as all other students and should therefore receive the same follow-up and assistance as other students. But even though international students have also worked and paid taxes in Norway, today they do not seem to be entitled to the same help as others.
It is difficult to defend this differential treatment of different student groups. The despair that international students in Norway today is strong enough to be almost tangible. The mental strain that this entails means that students can become depressed, and may lose focus and willingness to concentrate on the future.
To say that one cannot expect help for international students staying in Norway, simply because Norwegian students abroad do not receive assistance in the country in which they are staying, is simply unjustifiable. This is a group that is in a vulnerable situation.
As the prime minister mentioned when the corona crisis began, it is important that we take care of each other. International students who have part-time jobs pay taxes to the state and contribute to society in the same way as Norwegian students, and thus must also be taken care of.
Stretch out a hand during these difficult times. How will you be remembered by those who have chosen to leave their families to study here, Asheim?