Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Korean Ebola Fears Delay Scholarships For West African Students

Approximately 800 Korean Government Scholarship Program (KGSP) recipients from around the world are traveling to South Korea this month to begin master's degree and doctoral programs at universities across the country. A small minority, however, have been instructed to not enter Korea for at least six months due to concerns over the Ebola virus.

One student, who wishes to remain anonymous (and will be referred to from this point on as 'Jack'), told SeoulItUp.com that the National Institute For International Education, (NIIED) has informed him and three other students from West African nations their scholarships have been delayed. Jack says all four students were sent etickets on August 8th for travel from their home nation to Korea. However, those travel plans were then cancelled when Korean Air flights to Kenya were suspended due to Ebola concerns. NIIED, the organization in charge of the scholarship, sent new itineraries to approximately 800 other students, but he and three others were told to stay home.

“NIIED and the Korean government had various discussions about the issue and concluded that grantees from Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will arrive in Korea in February. They said we should note that our scholarships were not cancelled but only postponed for 6 months due to an unwanted situation.” Jack says he was informed of the decision via email on August 21st. “Actually, I wasn't happy when I read about the postponement. But what can I do? Nothing. Their country, their policy.”

Some KGSP students recently posted questions to a Facebook group for incoming program participants to inquire if rumors they heard about West African scholarship cancelations were true. One student wrote she was “glad” the scholarships had not been cancelled, but that she believes the forced postponement unfortunately shows South Korea's “general policy towards Ebola.”

Unable to begin his postgraduate studies in Korea, Jack says he plans to visit a larger city in his country to enroll in a Korean language class at a cultural center. He hopes the current Ebola outbreak will end by February noting that “the waiting continues and praying for Ebola to end.”