Columnists

Count cost of overseas studies on youth

EMELDA Musonda.

Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA
THE story that 40 Zambian students are stranded in various parts of India for various reasons made very sad reading.
According to Zambia’s High Commissioner to India Judith Kapijimpanga, most students are stranded because of their parents’ failure to sustain payment of school fees, while some have committed offences such as drug abuse and a number have failed examinations but are scared of informing their parents.
Mrs Kapijimpanga says the students cannot leave the airports because it is a requirement in India that their schools issue them with NO Objection Travel Certificates which indicate that they complied with Indian laws, forcing many to start engaging in negative vices for them to survive.
One of the affected students, 21-year-old Greatrest Mengo, has appealed to her father, Christopher Mengo Siame, a businessman of Mbala district, to help her get out of India.
The medical laboratory technology student at Maharish Makandeshwar University (MMU) in India says she owes US$7,000 in form of accommodation and tuition, forcing her to be on the street for three years now.
While it is appreciated that studying abroad comes with its own benefits and a prestigious connotation, parents should learn to count the cost of such ventures before taking a plunge.
The Bible in Luke 14:28 states , “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”
Certainly it is expected of every wise person to sit down and count the cost before making a decision to take up any venture.
Similarly, before any parent can consider taking a child abroad for studies, they have an obligation to critically interrogate their present and future financial sustainability.
If a parent sends a child on self-sponsorship, there are so many needs to consider apart from tuition fees, which are also usually exorbitant.
For instance, a parent will need to plan how they are going to provide for air fares to and from the destination of study, accommodation, medical insurance, transport costs for local travel in the foreign country and many other incidentals.
In doing so, one cannot wholly depend on their current job or business boom. There should be an alternative plan in an event that one loses a job or business fortunes plummet.
Parents should also be able to plan for the worst eventualities such as death. If the worst happened, could they afford to transport the body back home?
It is unfortunate that people make decisions based on their current financial position without considering other eventualities. For instance, a parent with a hefty salary may base a decision to send a child to study abroad based on their current financial position. However, the question they often forget to ask themselves is, should they lose that source of income when their child is midway in the degree programme, are they able to find other means of sustenance until completion?
Failure by any parent who sends a child abroad for school to answer these questions is putting their child at risk as evidenced by the case of the stranded students.
Girls will usually turn to prostitution to sustain their lives, while boys find refuge in crime and drugs.
I do not believe any parent who sends children abroad for studies would be happy to receive back moral junks or society misfits after years of study because they had to learn how to survive the wrong way.
Parents therefore have an obligation to ensure the safety and sustenance of their children while abroad.
In instances where one knows that their source of income is unpredictable and not entirely unto them, it is safer to find a good college or university locally.
Recently we have seen a number of good private universities coming on the scene.
Unless one is entirely sure that they can sustain their children’s studies and stay abroad no matter the circumstances, it is wise to find a good university locally within one’s means.
Similarly, those with children on full scholarships may also need to plan for eventualities such as their child failing some courses which could result in loss of funding.
Most importantly, parents should desist from being egoistic and not be blinded by the prestige that comes with having a child studying abroad.
It is indisputable that for many parents it is a sense of pride to have children studying abroad and will always find ways of bragging at any slightest opportunity. But should this be at the expense of the child’s life? Certainly no.
Parents must come back to reality and live within their means instead of torturing and humiliating their children in such a manner. It is cruelty of the highest kind.
The stranded students are certainly not the first ones. There have been many such cases here and in other countries.
Parents should draw lessons from the case in India and ensure that they are not blinded by the prestige of sending children abroad when they do not understand the cost.
For the stranded students, it is hoped that Government will move in to help them come back home.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.

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