Fifty-three students from Seychelles who had been expecting to pursue studies abroad in 2020 have been deferred to next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and budgetary constraints, said a top official.
The Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development is helping those students work with their schools and universities to defer their placements for one year.
Minister Jeanne Simeon told a news conference Friday that "students who are already studying abroad can continue their studies at the various universities abroad."
New students who qualified to study at the University of Seychelles and at the Guy Morel Institute can take up studies at the two institutions including those studying online as long as there is no international travel as a component.
The Minister said that there are currently 484 students on overseas training among which 343 are still continuing their studies while 44 have completed their respective courses, and are waiting to be repatriated to Seychelles.
"The students' return to the country depends on the availability of flights, and this is a decision which is being taken jointly by the Public Health Authority (PHA), foreign affairs department and ANHRD. For the time being, they are meeting to do all the necessary and see how to arrange, as surely, they cannot all travel back on the same flight," she said.
According to statistics provided by the Agency for National Human Resource Development (ANHRD), the 131 students are in Malaysia, 78 in the United Kingdom and 20 in Slovakia, while others are studying in other countries.
For those still studying, the chief executive of the ANHRD, Nadia Lauricourt, said they have to think carefully about coming back especially those who restart in September.
"What they need to ask themselves is will there be flights available for them to go back in time for September," she said.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, agencies in Seychelles have advised Seychellois students abroad to contact consulates and embassies in their areas.
"Foreign affairs through its embassies are providing consular assistance to the students. In fact, all Seychellois who are stranded, including students covered by ANHRD and those who are self-financed, and those who are destitute, medical patients, all categories in fact," said Jacques Belle, director general for protocol, consular and maritime affairs.
He added that Seychelles has several embassies and consulates around the world and that "it is important to inform all others who have not come forward and made themselves known to approach the respective embassy."
Currently, flights to bring home stranded Seychellois citizens are being organised by the national carrier, Air
Seychelles. These will include special flights to Mauritius, the details of which will be provided at a later date while flights to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will commence once the borders of these countries reopen.
Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, is free of COVID-19 and has reopened its international airport to commercial flights starting with private jets and chartered flights since June 1.