Collateral Damages?

The suspension of education loans has hit young Bhutanese aspiring to go to Australia and others

The suspension of visa education loans by Bhutan’s two private banks have left certain sections of the people, especially those who had decided to go to Australia and thus left all opportunities that knocked at their doors.

Dechen, 21, is one, who shared that studying abroad “is a dream for most people, including herself.” “It was a long-time dream of mine since childhood,” the graduate from Sherubtse College said. Dechen added that she did not even attempt to sit for the Royal Civil Servant Examinations (RCSE) and that she has been preparing for the IELT test since graduating and moving to Thimphu.

She had spent nearly a month preparing for the exam. “I didn’t even get time to help my parents back home and had to rush as early as possible,” she added.

“Getting in is difficult; you must excel academically and score in the required band to pursue higher education.”

Dechen shared that the next most crucial thing is about the fees. “We are required to pay a fee,” she said, adding that some universities charge fees in advance, while some ask for only a quarter or half of the fee.

Similarly, like Dechen, there are many people who are now in a dilemma.

“It is really disheartening; people who want to pursue further education or upgrade themselves are hampered as none of us would be able to afford this type of amount in a go,” said Karma, who is also preparing her documents to pursue her masters in Australia.

“Being from a low-income family, I was taken aback when news of the loan suspension spread quickly on social media,” she said.

According to Karma, following the news, she approached various sources mainly to borrow money or in a hope of getting someone to lend her the amount, but not everyone was willing to give the amount she needed.

“Even if I find someone to lend me that much amount, the interest rates are exorbitant, however, I don’t have any choice other than that as I am almost done with the documentation and just waiting for my visa,” she shared.

Pema Yuden also has the same story. “I work in one of the private firms, which pays me around Nu 13,000 per month but with this amount, I can barely meet the ends,” she said, adding that going to Australia to upgrade her education and working there was the only way alternative, which she says has been snatched . Meanwhile, suspension of the education loan has also hampered businesses.

According to an employee of Chhundhu Enterprise Education Consultancy Placement Firm (ECPF), there has been a decline in the number of people registering with the firm for the coaching classes.

He also shared that the number of people enrolling for tests and applying for visas has also decreased.

Similarly, Jurmey Thinley, Director of Yarab Global Education Consultancy, also shared that, their enterprise also faced a significant impact.

“There are some clients who have been causing disturbance and inconvenience as they have already paid the fees of the university but haven’t availed the education loan,” Jurmey said. However, he shared that they are waiting for a positive decision from the government.

Amongst those affected are also freelance self employed people who make their living by writing Statements of Purpose (SOP) for those going to Australia. “I charge anywhere between Nu 5,000 to 10,000 for one SOP and have been doing it for long,” one said. According to him, he has written more than 100 SOPs. “It is my bread and butter. I am also concerned about my future,” he said.

Meanwhile, people are banking on assurances given by the ministers of labour and human resources and ministry of foreign affairs. In a meeting with more than 50 consultancy firms, the ministers had said that the government will explore all possible means to help Bhutanese work or study in Australia.

Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu