‘Abroad Study’ has entered the Nepali lexicon. Student out-migration now rivals the medical education industry, overseas contract work, and tourism as the fastest growing sector of Nepal’s economy.
Labour migration to India, West Asia and the Gulf, and the remittance Nepali workers send home from there gets most public attention, but the number of Nepalis going to Australia, Japan and Europe to study is growing every year.
As Western countries tighten immigration policies, student visas have become the preferred method for young Nepalis to emigrate. Some host countries have left that door deliberately ajar as a way to control and calibrate the import of cheap labour for menial jobs their own nationals do not want to work in.
Most young Nepalis who line up at ‘educational consultancies’ in Kathmandu these days are waiting for a one-way ticket out of Nepal. In a Nepali Times survey this month, most of those leaving on student visas freely admitted that their intention is to emigrate. Last year, Australia was the top destination, followed by Japan, European countries and the US (see map).
Suresh Khadka from Dhangadi is applying to go to Australia because his brother who went there three years ago, has convinced him studying in Australia will help him become more independent, mature and skilled.
Suraj Sinjali is leaving to study culinary arts in Australia, and says he wants better education and experience: “I explored some institutions in Nepal, but found Australia much more attractive.”
Pujyata Karmacharya is studying economics in Australia, and says facilities and level of instruction are much better there. Having studied migration herself, she adds that the main attraction for most Nepalis is that students are allowed to work 20 hours a week, and stay on with post-study work permits to gain experience.
Kajol Rai is in Japan, and says most Nepal students there work more and study less. “They come here mostly to earn money,” she wrote in an email interview.
Dil B Lama’s parents in Hetauda sold family property to pay an educational consultancy in Kathmandu Rs1.5 million to fix him a student visa. Lama, 20, says it is an investment in his future. He hopes to work part-time to pay the fees at a little-known accountancy college in Sydney.
“I don’t think I am coming back,” Lama tells us frankly, “the student visa is the only way to leave Nepal.”