WORKING ON IT: Namibian ambassador to China, Elia Kaiyamo. 
Photo: Enzo Amuele
WORKING ON IT: Namibian ambassador to China, Elia Kaiyamo. Photo: Enzo Amuele

Nam students struggle to return to China

Covid leaves students stranded, desperate to finish degrees
Namibia's ambassador to China says his office is working around the clock to pave the way for Namibian students to return to China to complete their studies, amid strict Covid-19 regulations.
Enzo Amuele
Armas Shifotoka’s dream of becoming an engineer is fading by the day as strict Chinese Covid-19 regulations continue to prevent Namibian students from going back to complete their studies.

He was enrolled at the Jiangsu University in September 2021 for a bachelor of civil engineering course.

With local authorities not recognising online training for aspiring engineers, Shifotoka is exhausting, without luck, all avenues to return to China to complete his studies.

The 26-year-old and several other Namibian students registered at Chinese universities are currently stuck in Namibia, and this has affected their studies negatively as online classes are constantly cancelled due to poor network.

“I am studying with doubts, fearing that after four years, my degree will not be evaluated by Namibia Qualifications Authorities and the Engineering Council of Namibia as I will not meet all their required hours of being in class. Practical courses have been put on hold for an unknown time,” Shifotoka, who is on a Jiangsu scholarship, said.

He added: “The embassy said we can apply for visas, provided that we have the JW202 forms from the university, but when we contacted the university, they said they cannot offer them since they were not notified by the relevant authorities.”

Namibian Sun understands that at least 20 Namibian students who came home during the height of Covid-19 cannot return to China. This was confirmed by Namibia’s ambassador to China, Elia Kaiyamo.


Shifotoka’s story is similar to thousands of African students who were forced to abandon their studies in China during the height of the pandemic in 2020. In Namibia’s case, several students have remained stranded at home with no clear timelines on when they will return to China, if ever.

That country closed its universities in 2020 due to the pandemic, but even after some universities resumed last year, the Asian giant restricted inbound travel by suspending visa and residence permits from 27 March 2020. About 500 Namibian students were studying at Chinese universities before the pandemic.

The Namibian embassy could not provide the exact statistics regarding Namibian students studying in China, but promised to do so once the data is ready.

Kaiyamo, in an exclusive interview with Namibian Sun last week, said the embassy finds it hard to update its statistics because “students sometimes only report to us when they are in trouble or when they need new passports”.

He indicated that an unknown number of new students who were granted scholarships by the Chinese government for the 2019/2020 and 2021/2022 academic years are also still stuck in Namibia.

One of the challenges students who are stranded in Namibia will face is the price increase on flight tickets, he said.

Kaiyamo said the embassy has been engaged with other African Union member states to find a workable solution to return African students to China.

"The embassy of Namibia in China has been in contact with the authorities and institutions here to ensure that our students return to come to complete their studies, especially those perusing engineering and medicine.”

He added that one must also understand China’s strict zero-Covid policy, which is aimed at controlling the spread of the virus.

Process ongoing

"As of recent, our mission made a breakthrough in respect to the return of old Namibian students on condition that they first meet the set requirements," he said.

He added that most students have been informed about the procedures to obtain a student visa.

However, each university has also set its own returning requirements, and those who meet them will be issued student visas by the Chinese embassy in Windhoek.

"This process is ongoing and the mission continues to engage the Chinese authorities in this matter," he said.

Pleading for assistance

According to Grace Seponde, secretary-general of the Namibia Students Association in China, students are discouraged to continue their studies because they have less time with lecturers and fewer opportunities for student interaction.

On the other hand, self-funded students who landed jobs in China and then quit their jobs after receiving scholarships are now financially drained because their scholarships no longer cover their allowances since they've left China.

“Students continue to file their complaints and plead for assistance to facilitate their return to China to continue studying as it is a challenge.

"We will also continue to facilitate and forward the students’ complaints to the embassy for any form of assistance.”


Namibian Sun 2023-05-29

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