Coronavirus no impact on scholarships – Ministry

The outbreak of the coronavirus in China has had no impact on the number of Samoan nationals expressing interest to pursue studies at Chinese universities.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (M.F.A.T.) told the Samoa Observer that the outbreak of the virus has had minimal impact and the number of applications received from Samoans continues to increase.

"Samoa currently has 90 scholarship students studying at tertiary level in China. For the 2020/2021 intake, the Government of China has offered 26 new scholarship awards tenable in China under its bilateral scholarship scheme, for both undergraduate and postgraduate studies," she said. 

"The coronavirus outbreak and subsequent and substantial media coverage has had no effect on the number of Samoan nationals, who have indicated an interest to pursue studies at Chinese Universities abroad. Every year the number of applicants grows substantially and this year has been the same.”

According to the spokesperson, a large number of applications were received for the scholarship awards, and interviews were done and the awards finalised in the second and third week of this month. 

“It is anticipated that the successful applicants will depart for China in late August or early September 2020. As the awardees will depart later in the year, it is expected that the travel bans in place due to the coronavirus outbreak will have been lifted by then and there will be no disruption to travel.”

The spokesperson said the Samoa Government – through its Embassy in Beijing – continues to monitor and report on the situation in China. 

A pre-departure briefing will be held for all successful scholarship applicants and their parents prior to their departure for China, added the spokesperson.

The assurance by the M.F.A.T. coincides with concerns by a Samoan student, who prior to the outbreak of the virus in China, thought about applying for a scholarship and was supported by his parents.

But the outbreak of the virus with 76,000 confirmed cases and a death toll exceeding 2,000 has compelled the student, who did not want to be identified, to reconsider.

"My parents first convinced me to apply for the scholarship but they too started to have second thoughts too when the virus situation worsened. I had a talk with them and decided that if a vaccine for the coronavirus is found by the end of the year then I would apply next year,” he said in an interview. 

“But if there is no vaccine at all then I have no plans to go to China. This virus will affect the future of the Chinese-funded scholarships, knowing that Wuhan is one of the cities where most students are allocated to study the Chinese Language in the first year of the scholarship program.”

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