From fee hike to hostel allotment and representation in the Senate to girls’ security, this year student parties have similar aspirations, more or less. But there is one area that remains ignored. Though Panjab University has seen a steep rise in the enrolment of international students over the past two years, their concerns remain unaddressed.
About 500 foreign students get enrolled in the university (including the affiliated colleges) every year. Currently, there about 150 in PU and another 200 in other city colleges. Almost 60% of these students are from Afghanistan, followed by Nepal, Iran, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
NOT EVEN ON THE AGENDA
While students have their own set of concerns, they unanimously shared how these issues were never on student parties’ agendas.
“Most candidates claim they will take up our problems but they forget about it later. They fail to even answer our calls,” said Jaber, an Afghan student from PU’S economics department.
His friend Mahmood Mehraban, pursuing MA economics, agreed, “The larger issues are ignored at the cost of materialistic gains during the elections.”
The two feel that the PU student elections are politically motivated rather than laying emphasis on ideology or focusing on real time student’s welfare.
NEED REPRESENTATION, HOSTEL FACILITIES LACKING
An Iranian student Hossein, pursuing his PhD in law, said the need of the hour was to have a body representing international students at PU.
“The thing is, we need someone to stand up for us. We would like to take up our issues with the V-C, provided some association or NGO is willing to support us. Relying on student parties or faculty is not a solution,” he added.
He also said the international hostel in Sector 25 was too costly and beyond the budget of most foreign students.
“A room for one person costs Rs 8,500 which means two people end up paying almost Rs 18,000 despite sharing a room and we don’t even get enough facilities,” said the law student.
Another Iranian student Nazilla Boleimanioun, pursuing a PhD in physics, said, “There are various other expenditures to look into as well,” adding that most parties were functioning to fulfil selfish gains without paying heed to important issues on campus. “We don’t matter,” she said.
Peyman Baghaei, another Iranian, chose to stay in a rented accommodation with his wife and baby.
He said, “I wouldn’t have been able to manage with the facilities the international hostel provides given I have a family.”
Four students from Myanmar strongly recommended the need to cut down hostel prices. One of them, Ashin Kosalli, a philosophy student, said, “We don’t even understand how to approach the authorities at times. Open communication is important.”
‘DON’T REMEMBER A MEMORABLE EVENT’
Iranian student Rojan Hosseinzadde, said, “The only good thing that happened when the previous party (SOI) was in power was when singer Neha Kakkar performed at a cultural evening. I don’t remember any other memorable event where everyone got together.”
Each foreign student had the same thing to say – a common platform for cross-cultural interaction should be an initiative for student parties.
Everything aside, these international students are impressed with the scale of the elections. While some find it fascinating, others consider it too loud. “Campaigning outside the library should be forbidden because I could not study the other day due to the noise,” said Hosseinzadde.
WILL HOLD ORIENTATION SOON: DIS
Dean international students Deepti Gupta, however, has a point to make. Gupta said the scenario has changed only recently.
“Earlier, the same international students were reluctant to mingle with others. However, having noticed a change, we have been thinking of coming up with an initiative to make them feel more involved,” she said, adding that the newly enrolled foreigners took a while to settle down and could not expect to feel as much a part of the elections as the others.
“We will need one representative from every nationality for a balance. So we have been holding meetings with students and will have an orientation soon,” she said.