Students facing difficult circumstances due to the pandemic can pay for classes with coconuts and other plants that end up in products the Venus One Tourism Academy sells to raise funds.

By Jelisa Castrodale
November 02, 2020
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On Friday, 165 face shield-wearing, temperature-checked college students graduated from the Venus One Tourism Academy in Tegalalang, Bali. This is the Academy's third graduating class, and the school's officials say that they're now equipped to pursue careers in the hospitality industry. 

"Our hope is that the graduates will be successful in the world of tourism and we would like to thank the parents of students who have entrusted their children to study at the Venus One Tourism Academy campus," the head of the graduation committee said

Credit: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

It hasn't been the easiest year to be a student—at any level—for obvious reasons. But the Venus One Tourism Academy has been pretty chill about tuition fees, and has started accepting payment in coconuts. Yes, coconuts. 

"Initially, the tuition payment scheme was paid in installments three times, with the first installment at 50% [of the total], the second 20%, and the third 30%," the Academy's director, Wayan Pasek Adi Putra, told Bali Puspa, a local news outlet.  "Because of this Covid pandemic, we have adapted a flexible policy. We produce virgin coconut oil, so students can pay their tuition by bringing coconuts."

He added that the school also accepts moringa leaves, as well as the leaves from gotu kola, a culinary and medicinal plant. The coconut oil and assorted leaves will be combined into "herbal soap products," that can be sold on-campus to raise money for the academy. 

"We have to educate them to optimize the natural resources in their surroundings," Wayan Pasek continued. "When the pandemic is over, they will enter the world of hospitality with different skills. They may find new customers later when they become resellers [of the coconut products]." 

That doesn't mean that the pandemic hasn't affected some of the Academy's students; those who come from areas that have had higher numbers of coronavirus cases are not allowed to attend lectures, even if they haven't tested positive themselves. The rest of the student body has been divided into three groups who take their classes in shifts, and other now-normal sounding protocols (temperature checks, mask-wearing, and extra sanitation) have also been implemented. 

Outside the school itself, mask-wearing is now mandatory in Bali and violators can face fines of up to 100,000 rupiah (around $7 U.S. dollars). Local markets are also required to close at 11 p.m. In August, the Balinese government decided to close the island to non-Indonesian visitors for at least the rest of this year. "The situation in Indonesia is not conducive to allow international tourists to visit the country, including Bali," Wayan Koster, the governor of the island, said at the time, adding that the decision on when and how to reopen would require "prudency" from the authorities. 

And when travelers can start going back, they might be welcomed by some newly-minted Tourism Academy graduates.