Even before official work hours commence at 9 a.m., people flood the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, police offices and embassies in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital. Young people stand in long queues to obtain the various documentations necessary to leave the country, like passports and character certificates.
At the Ministry of Education, security personnel regulate a long queue of students. They are there to obtain No Objection Certificates, another document required for Nepali students who want to study abroad.
“This place is always crowded with people wanting to go abroad,” says Kamala Thapa, a security guard at the ministry.
Standing in the line of students is Seema Parajuli, 25, from Bharatpur, a city about 150 kilometers from the capital. Holding her certificates and other documents, a cheerful and energetic Parajuli has come to the capital so she could gather the necessary materials to apply for an Australian visa. She wants to pursue an undergraduate degree in nursing there.
“We wouldn’t [go] abroad if there were opportunities and employment in the country,” Parajuli says.
Parajuli says she belongs to a middle-class family. She works as a lab technician at Bharatpur College of Medical Sciences and has never faced the brunt of being unemployed. In some ways, she is luckier than many Nepalis.
But she says that she has been thinking of going abroad for the past few years because her husband and most of her friends have left the country.
“I want to say goodbye to Nepal soon,” she says.
It’s been a year since Parajuli’s husband left for Australia to study and work. Parajuli says she wants to join him and settle there.
The number of Nepalis leaving the country to study and work is on the rise as students and professionals cite a lack of opportunities at home. Sociologists and government officials say a lack of stability and employment in Nepal is responsible for this growing number. Some Nepalis worry about the negative effect that this trend has on the country, pointing out the “brain drain,” money invested elsewhere and lack of care for aging family members. But others say that remittances received from abroad boost the economy and people have the right in a globalized world to live where they want. Government policies focus on developing the nation’s youth, but even government officials say they haven’t implemented them sufficiently enough to combat the growing brain drain.
Roughly 1,200 Nepalis leave the country every day in search of more opportunities abroad, according to the Department of Foreign Employment. The majority of the some 440,000 Nepalis leaving the country every year are young. Yubaraj Paudel, undersecretary of the youth program section at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, estimates that 300,000 youth leave Nepal every year to study and work abroad.
In 2011, students obtained certificates to go to 64 countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and Japan, says Laxman Kumar Khadka, undersecretary of the Department of Scholarship at the Ministry of Education. In the month of January 2012 alone, 815 students obtained their No Objection Certificates to study abroad.
“Every day the number of students wanting to go abroad keeps rising,” he says.
Many even stay abroad.
“Some of the students who take this NOC return, but most of them stay back,” Khadka says.