COVID-19 - Seychellois students abroad urged not to travel at this time |19 March 2020
“It is important for Seychellois students abroad not to travel at this time and follow the authorities’ guidelines for their own safety.”
This was the message that came out during a press conference yesterday organised by various parties to give some clarifications on Seychellois students currently studying abroad.
In attendance at the press meet were the Minister for Education and Human Resource Development, Jeanne Simeon; the chief executive of the Agency for National Human Resource Development, Nadia Lauricourt; Public Health Commissioner Dr Jude Gedeon and Jacques Belle from the department of Foreign Affairs.
Currently there are 484 Seychellois students studying abroad in 29 countries. The majority is in Malaysia with 159 students followed by the United Kingdom with 86 students. There have been ongoing concerns from parents about bringing the students back following the spread of COVID-19 in the world.
But the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development, together with the department of health, have declared that this is not advisable right now.
“Regarding the students who are abroad, they are either on scholarships from the government or bilateral agreements. Some students are already there for the last three years whereas others are there for the last year or two. We are receiving concerns from parents and students where there is currently a lock down. Their safety and their security become the prime concern of all. Even without the COVID-19, the ANHRD was always in touch with the students, but now we have increased our communications to reassure them. When we were dealing with the students from China, we always had guidance from the department of health and they know best what risks it brings along with. But the situation in the other countries right now is not the same and that’s why we still follow the guidance from the health department,” noted Minister Simeon.
“When there is an epidemic, our actions are guided by information we continue to receive and today we have much more information about the virus itself. The youth are less infected compared to old people and this gives us more tools to make the necessary decisions. All these students are either living in a residence by themselves or with a roommate. They have better capacity to isolate themselves, if ever there is closure of university; secondly at this stage risk of travelling by plane is very high and that is why countries are having lock-downs,” explained Dr Gedeon.
“As parents, we need to give proper advice to our children as they are becoming adults too. They just need to follow the instructions given by the health authorities and the government wherever they are. We have also seen that no African student who could not go back home, were infected,” added Dr Gedeon who also has a child studying abroad.
“Our six cases that we have in Seychelles are all imported cases and transmission is really high while in the plane. There are also many countries that are not reporting their cases truthfully and that is why it is important for the students not to travel at this time. All students are also covered by a medical insurance,” stressed Dr Gedeon.
Ms Lauricourt added that many universities are continuing with their programmes through online courses and it is easier for the students to follow the classes in the country itself as they have better internet access.
Regarding the allowances of the students, Ms Lauricourt noted that “right now the students are using their stipends for February, March and April and we are monitoring the situation closely. If we get new advice we will definitely look into the matter”.
The CEO of ANHRD also said that some of the universities are helping the students to buy the basic necessities and online shopping is available. ANHRD met a group of parents on Tuesday and Ms Lauricourt said that their office is open for queries everyday from 8.30am to noon and they are even available on WhatsApp.
Mr Belle noted that there are 105 consular and 11 embassies around the world that are ready to help the Seychellois students.
“As soon as we get travel advisories we send to all the consular and embassies. Foreign Affairs is working closely with its stakeholders to make sure that they receive the help,” reassured Mr Belle.
ANHRD has however confirmed that there are some students who have returned and more are returning also but at their own cost.
“Any student who wants to come back to Seychelles must do it at their own expense as Seychelles as a country has not given such guidance. We are encouraging the students to stay put and stay wherever they are for their own safety and security. In this trying time, we cannot add more cost on the government. We are monitoring the situation and we are consulting with the parents and if there is urgency for them to come back due to the pandemic, the government will make arrangements for that,” concluded Minister Simeon.