Denmark State Education Support called Statens Uddannelsesstøtte (SU) is a education grant for home and EU students studying in Danish educational institutions. EU students can be eligible for SU if they show equal status to Danish citizens under the EU laws. They can show equal status by working 10 hours per week while they are studying in Denmark. One of the conditions is that they have to work 10 hours per week for a continuous period of 10 weeks. In case they could not show continuous 10 weeks work, they will be told to return back all the SU money.
Boglarka Makari, an EU student has been receiving SU after she started working in January, 2020. Boglarka came to Denmark in August 2019 when she got acceptance in Service, Hospitality and Tourism Management program at UCN Aalborg. She brought all her savings so that she could focus on her studies while looking for a part time job. It was difficult to find a job and I consumed all my savings and I have to call my family back in Hungary for help during the last months of 2019 say Boglarka.
After five months of trying, Boglarka found a job in a restaurant in Aalborg in January. I was so relieved that I finally got a job and I didn’t have to worry whether I would have money for the next month rent or not said Boglarka. She was then eligible for SU under the EU law as she started a job. She was fulfilling the number of hours requirement and got SU for the first time for February 2020 at the end of January and similarly she got SU for March.
At the beginning of February, Corona virus crisis started hitting economies around the world and at the end of February Denmark also saw economic downfall. Hotels and Restaurants were first to suffer the most and many restaurants started firing employees. I was called less for work even in February but I managed to work for the required number of hours for February says Boglarka. After the Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced the lockdown, I received a message from my employer that I am not required any more. As a part time foreign worker and my employer circumstances, I could not avail the Govt Corona Help Package nor I am allowed to take any other sort of benefits says Boglarka.
Boglarka received a letter from Styrelsen for Institutioner og Uddannelsesstøtte along a bill of DKK 16,424 at the end of March. Boglarka was told to return all the SU amount she received for February, March and April. The reason mentioned in the letter is that she could not fulfil the 10 hours per week rule for a continuous period of 10 weeks. My life went up side down when I received the letter that I need to return all the SU amount i.e. DKK 16.424. Though the updates on SU official website did state that there will be special consideration regarding the SU amid COVID-19 but Borlarka says she has been treated otherwise. Borlarka have filed an appeal but she says that many others students appeal has been rejected so she is afraid that she will also be not entertained.
A bill of DKK 16,424 that Boglarka, an EU student is told to pay back after she could not continue her work amid Corona crisis.
Empathy and Understanding required
After the lockdown, Denmark went to a standstill position where business were shutdown and people were told to stay home. In these circumstances, it is obvious that no body would work and neither can anyone show any number of hours of work. These EU students have to stay home without work. It will be irrational and unfair to demand number of hours of work or income from these studnets.
If Danish government understand the situation and show some empathy, solution might be quite simple. As government has announced to pause 225 hours of work per year rule for Danish national getting cash help from March to June, and suspended the handshake requirement for new citizens during the corona crisis, similarly 10 hours work rule for EU students can also be suspended during this crisis.
In these times of uncertainty, all I’m asking for is understanding and empathy towards these students. We should be socially distant, but still together in heart” says Boglarka. She believes it will only be fair if Govt freeze the 10 hours per week work rule for the period from March to June. This will give EU students the chance to start their work again and focus on studies without worrying of paying back the SU amount.