A recent protocol under the title of a “Student Friendly Island” was agreed upon and signed by TRNC authorities. The protocol promises a new system that includes cards to be given to all new students registered for the 2020-2021 academic year. The card will be used as a fully functional bank card and will contain 500 TL already uploaded in it from the government; the card can also be used to gain discounts while shopping.
VOIS Cyprus welcomes this much needed initiative. Such systems are already in use in many other places in the world and this new protocol will offer students much needed assistance when it is released, especially after the Coronavirus epidemic left many students in poor conditions. We hope that this protocol is implemented successfully without any delays or problems and that it helps increase the quality of life of students in the TRNC.
However, there are few constructive concerns that we wish to highlight, in form of keen reservations and comments regarding this new project.
Beyond the face value of this protocol, and following further reflections regarding the news of this protocol, we could not help but ponder about the underlying message of this project, as a band-aid being placed over many systemic issues that should be solved from the roots instead. Such issues which have plagued past students, current students, and will plague prospective students.
For clear empahsis, the thought of given palliatives of 500 TL to new students, might seem like a quick fix, but why not work on decreasing the price of the residency permit application procedures, that more than tripled in price (in the past year) and is likely going to increase again next year, for instance?
The Coronavirus pandemic has significantly affected many students in the TRNC, and has also, unfortunately, revealed many problems in the local system. When the lockdown first happened and many students were struggling to make ends meet, VOIS Cyprus launched its aid program and tried to cooperate with many governmental and university stakeholders. Our efforts were met with nonchalance and rejection on several fronts, and a large portion of students were left without any aid packages reaching them. Hence, we wonder why more effort was not put into ensuring that those aid packages were adequately distributed rather than on this new protocol.
During the same period and even until now, many landlords were also evicting students who were short on rent payment, unjustly refusing to give back deposits to renters, and several universities were still taking late payment fees from students who were not able to pay tuition on time. Again, we wonder why more efforts were not geared towards solving these pressing issues, rather than this plans to give out 500 TL to new students.
A number of systemic issues still plague the international student community in the TRNC: expensive and unethical housing prices and practices, the plague of fraudulent agents, poor working conditions for students, undignified and unethical deportation practices, lack of equality between locals and international students, scamming practices from some dormitories in some universities, misrepresentation of international students on the island, and so much more. We cannot help but wonder when the much needed and necessary steps will be taken to start erasing and repairing these deep issues, instead of simply slapping on a band-aid and proclaiming a “student friendly island”.
We do not wish to be pessimistic, nor do we want to appear to have an issue with every act by the TRNC government. As we said earlier, we welcome this new protocol and hope that it is a first step towards more and more changes. However, these are words that need to be said, and as a remainder to the relevant authorities, to ensure that the TRNC progresses and truly become more friendly for students. Imagine what an island full of even happier international students, telling their families and friends about studying on the island, and about the positive conditions, based on their experiences, could mean for the island! Imagine the possibilities!s
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