Border closures around the world are affecting more than just international trade and travel plans. The sudden closure of Singapore-Malaysia border has also impacted study arrangements and graduation plans, particularly of Singaporeans pursuing Islamic studies in tertiary institutions in Malaysia.
Our Singaporean Undergraduates in the Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM), Negeri Sembilan, were frantic when the government of Malaysia first announced of the Movement Control Order (MCO) and closure of border taking place only one day after the announcement. Due to the short notice, they only had enough time to book the limited seats on flight and express bus to return home. Any later than that, they will not be allowed to travel without having to serve the Quarantine Orders or Stay Home Notice upon their arrival in Singapore.
The most affected among the 41 Singaporeans in USIM are the third and fourth year students as they are renting apartments outside of the campus. Their abrupt departure forced them to leave most of their belongings behind because there was simply no time to pack and arrange any mover to bring the items back to Singapore.
From the day the MCO announcement was made until today, these students, who are mostly in the Faculty of Quranic and Sunnah Studies and Faculty of Syariah and Law, are still paying $730 of rental fee per month just to keep their belongings safe and intact. Their appeal for rental waiver and discounts ended in disappointment and rejection.
To make matters worse, some of their parents and family members are also financially affected by the pandemic; having their salary reduced and some of them even lost their jobs.
This situation is not an isolated case. Other Singaporean students in other universities in Malaysia are also paying for their rental apartment or dormitory fees despite being in Singapore and continuing their classes online.
Adding on to their stress of not being able to return to Malaysia, they also have to keep up with their studies remotely despite the limited access and resources. Some of the modules require practical assessment and facilities that are not easily available here. Therefore, the students had to quickly adapt to the changes and unfamiliarity of shifting the usual practical assessment to theoretical with short assessments.
Part of Pergas’ roles are to take care of the welfare of asatizah including future asatizah as well as to develop a generation of asatizah who are experts in guiding the community, it is crucial for Pergas to step forward and assist all segments of our asatizah community in this challenging time.
Expressing their gratitude, a representative of USIM SG; an association of Singaporean students in USIM said, “We are all very thankful and grateful that Pergas is supporting us spiritually, emotionally and financially. As most of us are experiencing economic instability during this pandemic, it really helps a lot in many ways. With this, we from USIMSG would like to thank Pergas and our larger Singaporean Muslim community, for your generosity and kind contribution. We truly appreciate it.”.