China ache for Indian medical students
Thousands of Indians studying medicine in China came home early last year for their winter break and have remained stranded since, unable to return as Covid tightened its grip and now getting more anxious as the months roll by with no clarity on when Beijing will lift travel restrictions.
While online classes have been continuing, the lack of access to hands-on practical classes puts a big question mark on their education and future as medical doctors, said several students.
“I have attended classes online, but we are completely missing out on practicals. I have completed two years of my course but I still haven’t done an anatomy dissection,” said a second-year MBBS student at Xi’an Jiaotong University who lives in Delhi.
With most Chinese applications banned in India, she said many students, including her, had been forced to install virtual private networks (VPN) to access their classes.
According to 2019 data, over 21,000 Indian students had enrolled to study MBBS in China.
According to Shamik Majumdar of Omkar Medicom, a consultancy for Indian students wanting to pursue MBBS abroad, China is allowing international students to return gradually but the second wave of Covid-19 in India has slowed down the process for Indian students.
Nearly 3,000 students came together recently to form a group, Indian Students in China, on Telegram to brainstorm on how to draw the attention of the governments of India and China.
A Twitter campaign with the hashtag “takeusbacktochina” has been started.
They also reached out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month to request the government’s intervention.
“We are 25,000 Indian students studying in Chinese universities who have been forced to participate in online classes for the past 17 months because of travel and visa restrictions. Our medical study requires a lot of practical and group work, but our entry to China and our respective universities has been banned for the past year-and-a-half and we are suffering every day,” the letter said.
A fourth-year student at the Nantong Medical University said: “We reached out to the Indian embassy in China about four-five months back.… We were told that the Chinese authorities have said that they were working on calling the students back. But we haven’t heard anything from them yet.”
Officials at the Indian embassy in Beijing said they had taken up the issue with the Chinese government at the level of the foreign and education ministries several times.
The students said they were paying their course fees and, in some cases, hostel charges as well. A student of Hubei University said he had to shell out lakhs of rupees every few months.
“Every time it’s time to pay our fees, we are told that our practicals would be taken care of once we return, but I don’t think that will happen,” the 21-year-old said.
Internships are another problem with many doors in Indian establishments closed to them.
The National Medical Commission in October reportedly said online classes for MBBS would be valid for the pandemic only, and would have to be supplemented by practicals when colleges reopened. Some students also claim that several state governments in India have refused internships to those with “online degrees”.
Li Bin, China’s vice-minister of the National Health Commission, on Thursday said Beijing “cannot relax pandemic controls” due to local clusters erupting every now and then because of “imported cases”.