Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main / Photo: Goethe University

Germany: How Covid-19 causes African students untold hardship

Yemi Babalola, a Media and Communication student of Technische Universität Ilmenau, reports on the situation of African students in Germany as a result of the new coronavirus pandemic.

News about the new coronavirus started getting prominence in the earlier part of the year, but March saw a lot of countries begin to enforce lockdown measures. Germany enforced the lockdown in all federal states on 22 March, leading to the shutdown of restaurants, bars, factories and similar places. Events ranging from music concerts to conferences to fairs were also cancelled. This led to many workers being furloughed and for many others, it meant working from home.

However, for students, most especially international students who support their studies financially with student jobs, it was the beginning of serious financial anxieties as most places where they render their services complied with the lockdown rules and closed business. Only 20 percent of foreign students receive scholarships, while 80 percent rely on jobs to be able to finance their livelihood in Germany.

Students who had savings have been dependent on their cash reserve while those on scholarship have a source of sustenance. But for those who survive by the income from these student jobs, it has been a very difficult time; many have borrowed from friends and families and some have even become stranded.

In some states the student affairs administration (Studentwerk) of their institutions provided funds on a loan arrangement to help students cover their rents and ensure they do not default.

This was a good move as it guaranteed the international students where to sleep but then the other challenge of how to feed still proves to be a major challenge for most since they are not able to work to support themselves due to the Covid-19 crisis.

The federal government announced in May its intention to offer interest-free loans to students including foreign ones. The loans are supposed to be available to international students from 1 June 2020. The loans will help most of the international students to find their financial balance.

Although the lockdown is being eased in the country, most businesses are yet to return to full operations and unemployment among international students is still on. Every other forms of help would be welcomed from the federal and state governments, as most of the students are already stressed mentally from the effects of the pandemic.
Germany is an immensely popular destination for international students. About 282,000 foreign students were enrolled in Germany in the winter semester of 2017/2018.

Ms Yemi Babalola is currently on internship at the African Courier Media

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