Ten students who had applied for overseas employment through Best Placement Agent (BPA) are running from pillar to post, in the hope of getting back their money from an overseas employment agent.

Desperate and frustrated, they approached a member of parliament, Dewathang Gomdar member, Ugyen Dorji of the opposition party who lent an ear to their grievances. He happened to be the only member in the office when the students came knocking.

The students said that they approached various agencies in the country and without any progress, they had appealed to the MP’s office. “Other than MP Ugyen Dorji, everyone was out of office. With some hope, we came to seek suggestion and share our problems,” they said.

The students alleged the firm of fraudulent practices in fund usage, visa processing and renewal and air tickets, among others. The students are waiting for the agent to pay back their money, ranging from Nu 200,000 to 400,000 depending on the university and courses they chose.

“We have to repay back loan and time is running out,” one of the students said. “We want our money back.” The collateral free education loan was availed through a memorandum of understanding between the agent and the bank with the labour ministry as the secondary guarantor.

The loan interest was fixed at 12.13 percent.

However, an official from the agent said the students withdrew from the programme after contracts were signed and payments were made to the universities in Malaysia. “What the students fail to consider is that in the refund policies of the universities on which they signed, the tuition fees are non refundable if a student wishes to withdraw from the programme.”

Despite repeatedly writing to SG academy in Malaysia, the BPA official said that she has failed to obtain refund whereas BMI University has agreed to refund for three out of four students registered with the university.

She also said that after requesting the bank to reconsider the interest rate, the loan interest for the students was reduced to 7.9 percent.

Two students alleged that while heading to Malaysia, BPA official who accompanied them gave the visas only in Bangkok. “But we realised that our visas already expired. Then we were told to apply for tourist visa, which was not viable for financial reasons. It would not allow us to earn and learn as was agreed.”      

Two students went to the university with tourist visas and then applied for withdrawal, which the agent did not allow since the contract was already signed between BPA and the university.

Eventually the students returned and asked for refund from the agent.

The BPA official said the students cited health concerns and inability to adapt in the new environment as reasons for withdrawal and they were not liable for a refund according to the contract.

Another two students who appealed to the MP wanted refund after their visas were cancelled. However, BPA said that visa of the two students were rejected by the immigration in Malaysia as they submitted fake documents.

Regarding fake tickets for which the students accused the agent, BPA blamed their former manager, who embezzled about Nu 600,000 from the agent.

“After we knew about the manager’s fraudulent practices, he was suspended and we filed a police case against him,” the BPA official said.

On May 21, a student lodged a complaint against BPA official to the labour ministry.  The Department of Labour (DoL) told the involved parties to resolve the dispute. After failing to come to an agreement, the department informed them to pursue the matter with the Royal Court of justice.

To this, BPA said that the office was unaware about the letter as the ministry used postal service to deliver the letter, which was outlandish. She questioned the involvement of DoL as the cases were dealt by the Department of Employment Services.

The assistant programme officer with the ministry, Tshering Dawsel, said that what matters is that the BPA had got the information on resolution of dispute between the student and the BPA official. “The ministry is firm and wants the agent to either send students to Malaysia or refund the money. The case is going to take some time.”

Meanwhile, MP Ugyen Dorji said that the case is severe and told students to file a court case.

The agreement between the agent and students stated that after a minimum period of 15 months of training and another nine months paid internship, the candidate would be offered a two-year employment.

BPA met with the students yesterday.

Till date, there are 97 students under learn and earn programme in Malaysia, sent through the agent.

Choki Wangmo