Today, a delegation from VOIS Cyprus met the TRNC Minister of National Education and Culture, Mr. Olgun Amcaoğlu, and the Head of the Department of Higher Education and Foreign Affairs, Mr Ziya Öztürkler, to discuss several important matters concerning the international student community. Following deliberations, we have been made aware of the following:
🔊 CURRENT QUARANTINE SITUATION A: Students from all regions and countries, who can show before boarding and upon entry that they have an address in the TRNC, are exempt from central quarantine and can enter the country and home quarantine. They will however pay the home quarantine fees (750TL). B: There is a system being built that will be announced next week regarding new students who do not have addresses in the TRNC. New students will have to register in the system and be placed in specific dorms for their 14 day quarantine (with free food). These dorms will be chosen and inspected by the Ministry of Health. C: Otherwise, students can choose to reserve and stay in their own private dorms or hotels and quarantine there on their own expense (that is, the home quarantine fees + dormitory/hotel costs). This system has not yet been announced as it is still being worked on. An announcement will be made next week, as such, we advise new students not to travel until this announcement is out. The Ministry is saying that there will also be brochures available online to guide new students on how to register to this system as well as guidelines for entry into the country. For those students who have entered since the 15 August and paid the 5400TL fee for central quarantine (So far, our survey indicated 27 of such student, although in reality the number is higher), the Ministry has requested from us a list of these students so that they can be refunded. Hence, we ask those who have entered from that date till today and have paid for central quarantine, but have not filled our survey to please fill do so immediately. Link to survey: https://bit.ly/3D8atBi
🔊 FACE TO FACE EDUCATION On the issue of face to face education, the Ministry informed us that education for the coming semester is going to be face-to-face, and that precautions and planning is underway to this effect. This planning includes, preparing the classrooms for face to face education, vaccination campaigns, PCR and antigen tests as well as general public safety. We were promised that this plan will be made available online soon. It is important that we highlight that VOIS Cyprus has strong reservations regarding this. We are especially concerned about the worries many students have brought to us about being forced to travel during a global pandemic and the risks associated with this, along with the financial constraints placed upon families by this pandemic. The global situation calls for a hybrid system, given that so far we have not been unable to see concrete measures put in place to mitigate for the risks involved. Risks which involve outbreaks which may occur on crowded campuses, financial problems students may face while staying here, an overcrowded health care system as has been severally announced by the Doctors’ Union and medical professionals and so on and so forth. Thus, we believe that the best mode of education at this current time is a hybrid one. The level of supervision and quality control in the country is unfortunately lacking, and even if plans are being made, we are not sure how much of these plans will be strictly followed, especially among the smaller universities in the TRNC that do not have the necessary capacity or resources to apply and supervise these rules. Not to mention that the situation globally has left many families financially desperate, as well as that there are many international students here who also have chronic diseases and weakened immune systems. Forcing such students to come back to the TRNC for face-to-face education at this point in time, is not right. At this time even as we understand the value of face to face education, we have to prioritize health care and in this instance, the health care of international students which has often been neglected by the government. Given the insistence of the government to carry on with face to face education, we have informed them today that we place direct responsibility of the safety of international students in the hands of the Ministry of Education and other responsible bodies. We will be following up with this as days go by. If students are being forced to return and another wave spreads, where students’ health is put in danger or many students struggle financially, the government and the universities must be willing to assume this responsibility. We have also argued that if the government insists to carry on with face to face education, the fee for freezing the upcoming semester should be canceled for those unable to be in physical attendance (i.e. those who cannot make the journey back to the TRNC, because of personal safety and varying concerns). So far, we have been told that this matter will be looked into. We hope for a response as soon as possible so that students are able to plan better. The Ministry of Education informed us that students in their final semester will not be able to have their diplomas accredited unless they attend classes in person for the upcoming person semester. That is, face to face education. We are emphatically against this, considering that the current situation poses challenges that have made it unlikely for many students to return due to finances and health concerns. It is unfair for students to be left with the choice of either being forced to return or to freeze their semester at abhorrent exorbitant fees. VOIS Cyprus is currently deliberating along with Presidents of student societies on steps to take to ensure that this is not the case, put pressure for the coming semester to be a hybrid mode of education, as well as the cancellation of semester freezing fees. Overall, we do not agree with penalizing students for being unable or fearful about traveling during a global pandemic. We hope that the Ministry follows through with its promise of looking into this issue with the Universities.
🔊 VACCINATION Additionally, we were assured that vaccines are not going to be mandatory for international students, although many incentives will be offered for those who take them. We also hope to work on a campaign together with the Ministry to promote the safety of vaccines and encourage international students to take them. VOIS also emphasized to the Ministry about the importance of transparent and communication in English as well as awareness campaigns by them and the Universities targeting international students. We were promised that the website of AdaPass will be translated to English, and that efforts will be made to have more announcements and more resources available in English, and in better wording.
🔊 JOINT FUTURE ACTION Finally, we have agreed for joint future actions involving the Ministry of Education, representatives from the universities and student representatives to tackle general issues concerning to international students not only related to the pandemic. These are linked to important issues that have been facing students prior and during the pandemic. As VOIS Cyprus in collaboration with student societies, we will continuously hold those responsible, accountable where they fail to uphold their responsibilities. More importantly, we hope to work with stakeholders to improve the overall conditions of international students as well as the local community at large.
Stay safe by staying home #COVID19 #EvdeKal #StayHome