REVEALED: How 16 Ugandan students were forced to work in central Taiwan factories

Chungchou University of Science and Technology (CCUT)

Ugandan students enrolled at Chungchou University of Science and Technology (PHOTO/CCUT)

TAIPEI— The Taiwan  Ministry of Education has barred the country’s leading university Chungchou University of Science and Technology (CCUT) from recruiting foreign students after one of its 16 Ugandan students reported that they had been forced into factory work for long hours as “interns” and were not provided scholarships or instruction in English as promised.

On Monday, The Reporter released an account of the conditions at CCUT by Collines Mugisha, a 21-year-old former student of the university from Uganda.

According to the exposé, when CCUT recruited the students, it promised that it would provide them with scholarships and that their courses would be taught in English.

However, the scholarships failed to materialize and the students quickly ran up large debts, compelling them to agree to work for low wages at factories far from the school. Mugisha claims that the courses were taught entirely in Chinese, and he had a very difficult time understanding anything.

During a press conference on Wednesday (Jan. 12), Mugisha said that over the course of two years at CCUT, he was “tortured both physically and psychologically.” He said that he had to work over 10 hours a day, and at some point, he spent three nights without sleep and was paid only NT$40 per day in food stipends, which he used to buy pork ribs with rice. He also “attended classes that I would barely understand anything.”

Despite the long hours, Mugisha said that he only received NT$21,000 per month but was charged nearly NT$100,000 per semester for tuition, room and board, and other expenses. He alleged that the university’s office designated for handling international student affairs does not exist to look after the welfare of students but rather “to demand money from international students.”

Mugisha later transferred to Providence University in Taichung’s Shalu District. He has been granted a full scholarship there and is pleased with the courses provided.

Taiwan Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Fan Yun (范雲), who joined Mugisha at the press conference, called on the MOE to thoroughly investigate the case and provide aid to the 15 Ugandan students still enrolled at CCUT. A fan pointed out that there have been similar incidents in recent years, such as 40 Sri Lankan students being duped into working in a slaughterhouse, and said the ministry needs to improve its oversight of international student programs at universities.

In response to Mugisha’s accusations, the director of CCUT’s International Exchange Center, Li Shu-ling (李淑玲), was cited by FTV News as saying, “The tuition fees are also directly included in their tuition and miscellaneous fees, and they are directly deducted. As for making arrangements for international students, we actually (teach bilingual) Chinese and English courses, and the part-time job part is up to them to choose whether to do it or not. There were some differences in perception.”

The MOE on Monday (Jan. 10) stated in a press release that it has received complaints from Ugandan students at CCUT and found that the school did indeed fail to issue scholarships as promised, that the students worked overtime, and that English instruction had not been provided. After conducting an investigation, the MOE stated that the university has been involved in major violations.

The ministry stated that in addition to ordering the school to improve within a set time limit, it has been placed on a watch list. In addition, its right to recruit international students has been revoked, and punitive measures such as a reduction of relevant subsidies have been proposed.

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