There’s nothing like divine intervention, even for a visa hunt, reports Suneetha Balakrishnan from Hyderabad. And that’s what’s happening at the Chilkur Balaji Temple (above) in Hyderabad, say visa aspirants from south India, including student visa applicants, mostly for the US. Friday to Sunday sees peak traffic at the Visa Venkateshwara Swamy temple; the week’s numbers going up to 75,000 devotees.
And there is a system to prayer – the devotee walks around the inner shrine eleven times, making a wish. Once the wish is fulfilled, the devotee returns to make 108 circuits of the inner shrine. The crowd swells in May and June as H1B visa allocations (temporary worker in specialist occupations) are cleared by the US consulate.
Mr R. and Ms P. are students on their first visits; both have made wishes and are looking forward to going abroad for their higher (postgraduate) studies on student visas. Mr R. is especially impressed about how the temple manages without a collecting box, entrance ticket fee, or ‘VIP queue’ – all quite common features in other Indian shrines.
Mr G. and Mr T., both software engineers, are not first-time visitors here; they have already been blessed with US visas. But for Mr M., a techie with a top Indian company who heard about the temple from his friends, it’s a return visit – his visa to the US has just been approved.
Kannaiah Swamy, the priest of this small temple, says it’s 500 years old and known for its benevolent deity, but it is only within the last twenty years that huge numbers of visa aspirants have been flocking in. ‘Please, no pics inside,’ he says.
UK regulator the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in October confirmed to the Gazette that it would from 2016 start to test applicants from other EU member states registering with them to practise as nurses if they couldn’t produce evidence of their English proficiency. The NMC will require an Ielts score of 7.0 to register as a nurse – a much higher score than in other English-speaking countries.
Restrictions on visas for nurses from outside the EU meant that UK hospitals held fairs in EU member states Spain and Portugal throughout 2014 to recruit nurses from these countries – some apparently with poor English.
At around the same time, UK home secretary Theresa May announced in October the ‘immediate relaxation’ of immigration controls on nurses coming to the UK from outside the EU on work visas. Some faced being ‘sent home’ after April 2016 if they weren’t earning over £35,000 a year, but in an apparent U-turn May requested that the Migration Advisory Committee place nursing professionals on the ‘shortage occupation list’ for visas.
A convicted sex offender working as an English language teacher was arrested in Cambodia in October, Andrea Perez writes. Paul Prestidge, 35, from Devon, England, was given a three-year suspended sentence in 2007 for taking and owning indecent photos of children, the Plymouth Herald reported.
In 2010 the former primary school teacher and scout leader informed police – as required under a Sex Offender Order – that he was going to visit Spain with his family. After failing to return he was put on the Crimestoppers ‘most wanted’ list. A post on online forum for expatriates in Cambodia Khmer440.com claimed that Prestidge had, during his stay in Spain, worked as an English teacher in an international school.
In 2014 Prestidge went from Spain to Cambodia, where he taught maths and English at Hope International School, the Phnom Penh Post reported. Prestidge was arrested after the British embassy alerted Cambodian police to his presence in September, making him the fourth foreign teacher arrested as part of a child abuse investigation in Cambodia in 2015. The Cambodia Daily confirmed that Prestidge was deported to the UK on 28 October.
Both Spain and Cambodia are making progress in child protection. In February 2016 a new law comes into force in Spain requiring all those applying for work with children to disclose their criminal records, El Mundo reports. In Cambodia, where such checks aren’t mandatory, children’s rights groups complain of an increase in offenders convicted of sex offences in their native countries who then travel to South East Asia, where child protection rules are weaker. Following the Prestidge affair, some Phnom Penh schools plan to take ‘protective measures’.
Attempts by at least sixteen primary school teachers in Asaba in Nigeria’s Delta State to render the English verb ‘to hit’ in its past, present perfect and continuous forms during inspections led to derision from state ministry inspectors and students.
The English language Nigerian newspaper Leadership reported that the unnamed teachers, in their enthusiasm to please inspectors, came up with ‘hit, hitting, hitten’. Officials and commissioners of the Delta State Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, carrying out an unannounced spot check, joined primary school students in ‘uproarious laughter’ at the teachers’ ‘inadequacies’.
Non-standard verb forms in English language classes are by no means restricted to non-native speakers. The Gazette’s news editor recalls taking over a class in 1980s Turkey where his proficient, experienced and popular predecessor had taught his students the simple past tense form ‘I done’ – not standard English but in everyday usage in the dialect of his native Norfolk in the east of England.