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Kenyan students, scholars rattled by Trump directive

Saturday July 11 2020
Greencardproblem

The Trump administration is using the decisions of colleges and universities to switch to online classes as a basis to deny foreign students visa. FILE PHOTO

By RUTH MBULA

An order by US President Donald Trump (right) requiring foreign students to leave the country in two months as universities across America switch to online courses has sparked anxiety among Kenyan learners.

Prof Kefa Otiso, a Kenyan lecturer at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, said Mr Trump’s directive is punitive.

 “There is no justification in suddenly disrupting the lives of Kenyans in America,” he said.

The don added that the policies against foreigners by the Trump administration require attention and asked the Kenyan ambassador in Washington to send a protest note to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Kenya Scholars and Studies Association president Jerono Rotich said more than 4,000 Kenyan students were in American universities and colleges in the 2019/20 academic year.

Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and several other universities have moved to the federal court to block the implementation of the order.

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The universities say there is the risk of foreign students being detained or deported should they be deemed to have disobeyed the directive.

“That may bar their return to the United States for many years,” the universities say. 

The Harvard-MIT lawsuit also argues that if the students are compelled to leave the US, they could, in theory, participate in online programmes from their countries but their research and learning would be inhibited by time zone variations, unavailable, unreliable, or state-managed Internet connections, and other barriers.

In some countries, online learning can be interrupted by unscheduled government suspension of internet access.

Ethiopia, for instance, is in the middle of such an internet suspension that began June 30.

Because of these challenges, many international students could abandon their studies, the universities argue.

They add that  many US universities depend on international master’s and PhD students to teach their introductory and laboratory courses and conducting high value research.

“None of these activities can be done from overseas,” the suit papers say.

Meanwhile, Kenyan students stuck in India could be compelled to pay more visa fees in order to legalise their stay.

Foreign students were this week told they may pay visa extension fee if they have to sit exams, whose scheduling was hampered by Covid-19 restrictions.

The government of PM Narendra Modi in May directed that visas granted to foreigners, diplomatic, official, UN international organisations, employment and project categories would remain suspended until the restrictions are lifted.

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