I saw ‘Umrika’ aka ‘America,’ at the recently held New Zealand Film Festival.
In fact, I was keen on making a similar movie set in our country, calling it ‘Zealand.’
It would have ended with a person boarding a flight with his passport and a food parcel, instead of being a stowaway in a cramped container of a cargo ship. In ‘Umrika’ the young boy paid 200,000 ‘Lark’ for the privilege of this passage, while my chap would have paid much more for the privilege of studying in New Zealand, the country of honey and money.
They would both share the ‘bhoot’ or the ghostly dream of an imagined reality of opulence. No price was high enough because at whatever the cost that dream was to be achieved. The reality, which awaited them, was a potential slaughterhouse.
‘Umrika’ left a cold chill down the spine; it was too close to home, their reality arising from an unshakeable dream that could not have been better portrayed. The rejoicing of those left behind, their envy evident in the intense interest of the happenings and achievements in the foreign land shared by family with the village.
It was fictitious but nevertheless lit fire in others, encouraging them to dream and pursue it, only to find that it was just fantasy.
That script writer and I were kindred spirits, both understanding the persistent influence of British India on some sections of the population. For them, the West is still a destination for settlement. It is, in effect, an attempt to escape to a perceived future of opportunities, oblivious of the cost involved and unknown consequences.
This is the mindset created by some of the education agents who ‘market New Zealand’ to potential international students in India. They present a rosy picture of this country and lure the young students and their parents with the carrot of Permanent Residence as a pathway.
Therefore, an increase of 10% in student numbers from India is hardly unpredictable, particularly when the English requirement for student entry has been relaxed.
This increase is being rejoiced as our government’s target of $5 billion is on route.
The target now is South India, because, as someone told me, “There is greater potential in that part of India and we have somewhat exhausted our marketing efforts in the North.”
I failed to understand as to what difference this shift in focus make – the issues faced by international students from India will not change.
Those marketing New Zealand as the education destination should present the realities to potential international students, making them to understand that their main purpose is to obtain one of more qualifications and return home. There are no promises of Work Visas or Permanent Residence but those who wish to seek these may do so at their own ‘risk.’ Their success would depend on a number of factors, the most important of which would be their ability to convince Immigration New Zealand (INZ) that they would contribute to the growth and progress of this country.
I often ask, “What is being sold here- New Zealand qualifications or a dream?”
Over the past eight years or so, there has been a substantial increase in the number of student population. What have we done to manage the huge inflow? Have we cared for the welfare of the students? Is there proper pastoral care? Should we address these are should we remain indifferent because it is not our problem?
When you kill someone’s dream, it goes to the very core of their being. When this is coupled with youth years robbed, with the reality of returning home with nothing but a low level qualification, we have a serious situation at hand.
The resultant stress, mental agony, financial strain, leading to depression and suicidal tendencies are now becoming issues of importance. Everyone is now getting involved – INZ, Education New Zealand, the health sector and the Police. There is considerable drain of our resources, which are not factored.
There is an urgent need to revisit our policies.
Kamil Lakshman is a Lawyer & Principal of Wellington based law firm Idesi Legal Limited. She can be contacted on (04) 4616018 or 021-1598803. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; The opinions expressed in her article above are her own and not that of Idesi Legal Limited or the New Zealand Law Society, or its Wellington Branch, or its affiliated bodies and committees or Indian Newslink. Readers can send their comments (names can be withheld) to email@example.com