OVER 500 Zambian students are stranded in China for failure to pay full school fees while five others are in detention for flouting immigration rules.
Zambia’s Ambassador to China Winnie Chibesakunda said the number of expulsions, arrests and deportations of Zambian students in China has been on the upswing since 2014 and is now approaching crisis level.
Ms Chibesakunda said in an interview before departure for China that the mission has been dealing with an increasing number of cases of self-sponsored students in distress since 2014.
Official estimates from the Chinese Government indicate that there are about 1,800 Zambian students in China.
Ms Chibesakunda said 161 of the 1,800 Zambian students are on Chinese Government scholarship administered by the Bursaries Committee of Zambia while a few others are on other forms of scholarships agreed directly between Zambian and Chinese universities and ministries.
She said the mission in Beijing has, since the commencement of the 2015/2016 academic year in September 2015, received various requests for assistance from some Zambian families.
Ms Chibesakunda said the requests were from families whose children or dependants were on the verge of expulsion or were denied visa renewals on account of outstanding university tuition and accommodation fees.
“Some of these students have since returned to Zambia either under deportation or after their families subsequently raised money for their tickets and the mission intervened to assist them to obtain exit visas and avoid arrest,” said Ms Chibesakunda.
She said the mission is currently addressing eight urgent issues of privately-sponsored students in distress.
“While Zambian families have been sending students to China for some time now, the numbers have grown exponentially over the past three years. This is partly due to the aggressive marketing drives of some Chinese universities as they seek to enhance their international ratings by enrolling foreign students.
“This has created an opportunity for the mushrooming of student recruitment agencies in Zambia, which are paid by Chinese universities. The promotional activities of the agencies, which include promises of scholarships coupled with the general perception in Zambia that studying in China is very cheap, has led to a steep rise in numbers of Zambians studying in China in recent years,” she explained.
Ms Chibesakunda cautioned parents and youths in Zambia against falling prey to the aggressive marketing strategies by recruitment agencies advertising Chinese universities with scholarships.