An official petition to Australian lawmakers urging them to exempt international students from border closures has received nearly 3,000 signatures, citing “bad quality” online lessons and lack of schooling for some.
The petition, which is backed by social media campaign #bringusbacktoaus on Twitter, needs 12,000 signatures from Australian residents or citizens before Feb. 10 for it to be tabled before lawmakers for a discussion.
“These are students from all over Asia, all over the world,” said Phil Honeywood, Chief Executive, International Education Association of Australia.
“Those who are not citizens have families here. The Indian and the Chinese communities, for example, have cousins or friends who are signing on their behalf.”
Australia, which recorded a second straight day of zero coronavirus cases on Friday, has adopted a heavy-handed approach to curb the pandemic, shutting state and international borders, forcing hotel quarantine for returning Australians and making masks mandatory in regions facing a virus resurgence.
The country’s A$37 billion ($29 billion) education sector has been bleeding since early 2020 when coronavirus-induced border closures were announced.
The sector, Australia’s leading export earner, contributes significantly to the nation’s A$1.9 trillion economy via housing demand, retail sales and employment growth.
“We do not pay our family’s saving for video lessons or rent for house which we cannot even live in,” the petition on Australia’s parliamentary website read.
“We appeal exemptions for international students not only for students’ future and human right but also for the recovery of the Australia economy.”
Australia has been considering bringing back students since last year though plans stalled following fresh coronavirus waves in Victoria and New South Wales.
With infections now under control in both the states, local media have reported states could revive their pilot schemes to bring back the students.
“We are hopeful,” Honeywood said. “All states have got plans but the politics of this is just incredibly frustrating.”
($1 = 1.2877 Australian dollars)