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Distress call from Mauritius

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
Nepalis students stranded in Mauritius

Thirty-four Nepali students stranded in Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius, have appealed for help via Youtube.

The students went to Mauritius for college  in June through an agent in Kathmandu after they were promised British certificates and a lucrative job in the hospitality industry at the end of their degree. They blame their college Dimensions International Educational Group of cheating them.

In the video, Diwas Neupane of Kathmandu says students like him who came to Mauritius in June 2013 for further studies were “duped and swindled” by their consultants, Britain International Academy. Neupane adds there are plenty of other students who have been tricked into coming to Mauritius for studies.

But Bhadra Bahadur Rai of the BIA has a different version of the events. Talking to Nepali Times, Rai said the students broke the terms of contract by seeking jobs before finishing their studies. According to Rai, students are required to study for six months before they apply for an internship.

Trouble for Neupane and other Nepalis began in July when a group of 45 Nepali and Indian students organised a protest against DIEG. Two Indian nationals were then arrested by police. Based on the students’ complaints, police also arrested two directors of DIEG for alleged fraud. Then, on 12 August DIEG charged Samir Bhandari of Kavresthali, Kathmandu, of misconduct, threatening staff, inciting fellow students, and defaming directors in the media.

Amit Bista, another student who is stranded alongside Neupane, says they have nowhere to turn for help. “We’re sleeping in public places and not all of us have this luxury,” says Bista. “The locals here have helped us a lot.”

With no source of income, the students are quickly running out of cash and are dependent upon a local called Mukesh Jhummun for food and shelter. Jhummun has been on hunger strike for 13 days and is urging the Mauritanian government to arrange for the students’ air tickets back to Nepal and help them recover some part of the money they paid upfront to the college.

A meeting between DIEG and the affected students on 4 September ended without any agreement after the students could not get a Mauritius Qualification Authority to attend on their behalf. DIEG said it was willing to provide 10 per cent of their total tuition fees and added it had no legal obligations towards the students because they had broken rules by skipping class. In effect, DIEG argue, Neupane, Bista and others have even stopped being DIEG’s students.

The situation aggravated after DIEG claimed to receive an anonymous bomb threat from “we Nepalese”. But local Mauritian press reports Nepalis have denied they have anything to do with it.

The letter reads as follows:

“We Nepalese Students, we want to inform DIEG Group that we want full refund of our Money. If our demand is not taken in to consideration, we shall be going for strike. We are foreigners and we are familiar with bomb making and will explode the school to kill directors and staffs of d.i.e.g. we are giving an ultimate 24 hours.”

In July, the Hindu reported Indian and Nepali students staged a similar protest against Oceania International Business School after the college changed their syllabus citing “technical visa processing reasons”. Some of the students then had paid up to $7,000 upfront before heading to Mauritius and only one of them has made it back to India so far.

Sunir Pandey

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