Stranded Fijian students long to return home

Shivneel Chand (2nd from right) with fellow Fijian students at Arava International Centre for Agriculture Training (AICAT) in Israel. Picture: SUPPLIED

A group of Fijian students who have been stuck in Israel since the COVID-19 pandemic are longing to return to their families.

The nine students departed Fiji in August 2019 for an 11-month internship at the Arava International Centre for Agriculture Training (AICAT) in Southern Israel.

Shivneel Chand, 21, of Kavanagasau, Sigatoka, said the group was grateful for the opportunity to study and train in Israel but were hoping travel restrictions would be lifted soon so they could see their families.

“We were supposed to return in June 2020 so now we are just relying on the Fijian Government to provide the best way for us to come back,” Mr Chand said.

The students have been doing extra units while waiting for the borders to open and have also been working at the AICAT farm to pay for their accommodation.

“We work eight to 12 hours per day, five to seven days a week at the farm to pay for food and rent, which costs $700 per month.”

Mr Chand said the group was enjoying their extended stay because of the hospitality of the staff, the local farmers and their families as well as fellow students from around the world such as Vanuatu, East Timor, Vietnam, Kenya, Cambodia and Nepal to name a few.

“For accommodation, we have four to six students in one room and we get mixed up with students from other countries and we form new friendships and even learn their languages.”

Mr Chand is now hoping to return to Fiji soon to not only reunite with his family but also implement some of the training that he had learnt in Israel.

“Firstly I plan to complete my studies in Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at Fiji National University before I open my seedling nursery at our family farm in Kavanagasau.”

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