China is one of the most popular study destinations for Pakistani students. But since the outbreak of COVID-19, the policies of China have not been very friendly for the students. Under the country’s zero-COVID-19 policy, the country sent the international students, which included thousands of Pakistani students, home. Although the policy was very helpful in controlling the cases and saving the lives of people from the deadly pandemic, it leaves the future of thousands of students at stake.
Even when China lifted the travel ban from some countries, Pakistan was not on the list. This leaves students further in confusion and uncertainty about their future. According to a report, there are almost twenty-eight thousand Pakistani students enrolled in Chinese universities. Many of them have taken it to social media and some are asking the government to talk to Chinese officials about their future. However, no progress can be seen thus far. Yasir Iqbal is one of those students who are worried yet not hopeless about the future of his studies in China.
He is enrolled in Tianjin University doing a Ph.D. in Information and Communication Engineering under Dr. Zhang. He is not only a full-time Ph.D. student, but his strong interest and knowledge in the field also won him one of the most prestigious Chinese awards, the fully funded CSC scholarship. Unfortunately, Iqbal has not been to university due to the travel restrictions yet. Where Iqbal is happy about being admitted to such a great program, he does not know what is going to happen in the future.
According to Yasir Iqbal, Tianjin University is supporting its students who are studying remotely in all possible aspects. The administration is very student-friendly and the teachers are cooperating to their best. They are also very considerate about the problems here in Pakistan. ‘They give us alternatives when we are unable to take online classes or exams due to internet issues or electricity’, says Iqbal. Comparing this to Pakistan, Iqbal showed his disapproval of the system and its facilities. He said, ‘I am disappointed with Pakistani officials. We do not have access to the latest labs so it is not possible for us to carry out clinical practice and experimental research.’ He added, ‘Our Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi or our Prime Minister Imran Khan have not taken this issue to the Chinese officials yet.’
Yasir Iqbal, despite no step taken by the government officials, is hopeful that the ban will be lifted in the fall of this year or the spring of next year. However, no such expected date has been given by the Chinese government. When asked about the backup plan, Yasir said, ‘I have nothing to do except to wait until the student visas being issued in China are resumed’.
This is what most of the students enrolled in Chinese universities have to do. Students have all the hopes with the government that has not seen it as a serious issue yet. When Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, was reached by a Pakistani student and asked, China has lifted its ban for most of the countries like Malaysia then why not Pakistan, this is what he had to say, ‘This is not my fault. Xi Jinping just doesn’t come out. He doesn’t go anywhere.’ Where this comment was seen as ‘foreign minister mocking Chinese president’, this was found not to be a constructive approach towards the matter.
Students are waiting to hear about the fate of their education and career but the government does not see this as its major concern. Well, there are not a few hundred of them. Tens of thousands of students are enrolled who are now waiting to be called back.
When Yasir Iqbal was asked about what should the students do in such a situation, he said that they should wait and apply for other opportunities. This according to him is not the best time to start an educational journey in China.