There are no recent reliable statistics of the number of Arab students in India, but some students say there are more than 10,000 of them. Most of them are in various stages of obtaining master’s and doctoral degrees, according to government scholarship programs. In 2019, there were 8,000 students from Arab countries, including 1,900 from Sudan and 1,500 from Yemen, according to an Indian newspaper. The Iraqi embassy in India says there are about 3,000 Iraqi students, most of them studying at their own expense.
Since the pandemic began, India has recorded more than 22 million cases of Covid-19, along with daily infection rates that hit more than 400,000 cases in early May, and more than 250,000 people have died of the coronavirus. Health experts believe that the actual numbers are much higher than the official figures.
University Decisions Criticized
Anwar, the Sudanese student, blames university regulations as a factor contributing to this surge in infections. “The system stipulates that a student infected with coronavirus is considered absent from the exam and must repeat it next year,” he said. “This has driven many ill students to hide their infection and thus increase the spread of the epidemic on campuses.”
While some universities have approved e-learning, many of them still require students to attend practical lessons, especially in scientific disciplines.
“So far, many students have been infected and some have died in this wave,” said Ali Salem, an Iraqi medical biochemistry Ph.D. student at Shivaji University, in Kolhapur, a city in western India. “We are committed to quarantine measures inside the university housing, but the Indian people who work are not committed to the procedures, leaving us in a state of panic, besides the fact that the city is under complete lockdown.”
Students complain about their universities’ poor communication with them, and their governments’ neglect of their demands for support and evacuation.
“We launched a campaign to demand that the Sudanese government quickly evacuate students stranded in India, as most countries did,” said Anwar. He noted that travel was previously made via the United Arab Emirates, but the Emirates suspended flights from India.
“We ask our government to provide direct flights even if we bear the cost,” he added, “but we have not received a response yet.”