Following the tragic earthquake of 25th April 2015 the city of Kathmandu is in ruins. It may take years to recover economically, if ever.
There are many Nepalese students studying in Australia whose future was destroyed with the earthquake. There are no longer jobs to return to. There is no hope of future success in Nepal. Parents and other family members are living in tents and sleeping in cars.
At the University of Wollongong there are 100 Nepalese students. They are all contributing to the local economy, working in hospitality, sales and in offices throughout the city. They are known to be excellent workers with a natural ability to get along well with others.
Most of these students are going to be in financial difficulty as their parents no longer have jobs. Their hopes of successful lives are shattered and lie in the rubble of Kathmandu.
It is hoped that uow and other universities throughout Australia will suspend fees indefinitely for these students. Students from Nepal are very reluctant to ask for help or admit to difficulties with fees due to their cultural background. Uow recently sent a survey to Nepalese students in order to identify areas of need but many would have felt uncomfortable responding to it.
The Commonwealth Government could extend fee help to Nepalese students as an alternative to deferring fees.
In the wake of the Tiananmen Square tragedy the Australian Government allowed 42,000 Chinese students to stay in Australia. In 1993 the government created three classes of permanent visas, allowing Chinese students in Australia in June 1989 to become citizens, and also students who had arranged visas to study in Australia before March 1992. The third category covered postgraduate students.
4,000 more places were offered to parents willing to pay $35,000 as a medicare charge to join their children in Australia.
There are only three thousand Nepalese students currently in Australia so it would hardly be a burden for the Federal Government to extend this kind of opportunity to them. Australia has already given $5,000,000 in aid to Nepal as a first response, but a more practical way of assisting would be to allow the students to finish their degrees and stay in Australia where they can work to support their families at home.
UPDATE: The University of Wollongong has conducted one-on-one interviews with affected Nepalese students who completed a survey identifying areas of need. They have been told they may defer their degree by six months without penalty and without losing scholarships. During this time, the Department of Immigration will issue special visas allowing the students to work full time. This is a sensible decision which will allow the students time off to save for fees which their parents can no longer pay and send money home to their destitute families.