Of the five the consultancy sent to Lithuania, only one stayed back 

Education: Students, who left in September last year to study in Lithuania through a local education consultancy firm, have returned home after a semester, unable to sustain themselves.

They said that they could not find part time work and staying there was expensive.  They returned last month.

Kuensel met with three of the four returnees.  They said that they felt deceived and cheated.  Of the five, the consultancy sent in its first batch to Europe, only one has remained behind.

“We’re charged Nu 93,000 as visa fees, which later we found was free, and high interest rates for the bank balance that the consultancy helped to obtain,” a student said.

Students said that they didn’t have to show any mortgage to avail a loan of Nu 500,000 each from Tashi Bank for the bank balance to apply for visa.

One of them had left behind his job, wife and child to go to Europe. “I’d even borrowed Nu 300,000 from a friend, mortgaging the only ancestral family land,” a student said. On returning, he paid off the loan with another loan from BDBL. He had spent about Nu 800,000 so far.

According to the students, the immigration officials told them that they could not work at all for a year after starting their study. The firm in Delhi  (Europe Study Centre) told them they could work after 15 days.

“That was a major setback, because I thought I could study as well as earn some income to support study and my family,” the 28-year old from Saling, Trashigang said. “They should have been honest and we’d have considered the options carefully.”

The students said that they were told that they would be charged only Nu 15,000 as consultancy fee. “But later after the visa interview, we paid USD 1,000 to the Indian consultancy, and another USD 500 to our consultancy,” a student said.

An official from the Samdrup Penor Education Consultancy and Placement Firm that sent the students said those terms were explained to them in Delhi during the four-day preparation for the interview.

The firm refunded Nu 153,250 to each of the three returnees on April 7, besides the USD 500.

“We tried to resolve the issue and refund as much as possible,” a family member of the consultancy firm owner, Sonam Dorji, said. “I asked them for some time to study the matter, and then decided to refund since they have returned,” Sonam Dorji said.

He said the firm’s job was to send them to Lithuania. “We had nothing do with part time jobs, it’s between the Europe Study Centre in New Delhi and them,” he said.

The firm had sent the students to Lithuania through the New Delhi firm that was linked with the universities.

“They also asked for refund of what they paid to Europe Study Centre, but the documents clearly say that it’s non-refundable and they were informed beforehand,” Sonam Dorji said.  A guardian had even given in writing to say the matter was settled after receiving the refund.

He said that the guardian returned yesterday evening after they met the students to resolve the issue. “He even asked us to just pay him the consultancy fee paid to the Indian firm and he’d keep quiet,” Sonam Dorji said.

The guardian Dendup Tshering, said that was a trick to see if the firm would pay.

“If they pay me then they’ll have to pay the others too,” he said. He was not satisfied because the firm had cheated them.

“I hope this doesn’t happen to other students,” he said.

By Tshering Palden