Thursday, 11 December 2008

Malaysia's Foreign Students

It is distressing to read that four students from Botswana died in Malaysia this year, two from car accidents and two from suicide. What led them to commit suicide? It has even prompted a visit from Botswana's Education Minister to meet with his students to find out more.

According to a recent news report, there are about 850 Botswana students studying in the Lim Kok Wing Institute, and that is a huge number, while there are around 7000 African students studying in the various institutions in the country.

Some students who were interviewed said that they were being treated unfairly and some even had to put up with racial slurs on a daily basis.

Malaysians are known for their hospitality and these revelations seem to go against the grain. However, there are occasional reports on fights that broke out between the locals and African students. The trouble is Malaysians lump all students from the African continent as Africans, even though Africa is ethnically diverse.

We live in a condominium which used to be popular with African students studying in various institutions in the vicinity, and residents have often complained about how rowdy and noisy they were particularly late at night. But as I said, it is hard to distinguish which part of Africa they come from. Whatever, it is, these suicide cases have dented the image of our country as an education hub.

Moreover, the nonsensical suggestion by the Director General of the Malaysian Immigration Department that foreign students should be segregated in a special area has not helped the country in its drive to promote its attractiveness to foreign students. An invaluable experience in studying abroad is the wealth of cultural experience that foreign students are exposed to, and to suggest that they be 'quarantined' because they "possess clashing cultures with that of the locals" is ludicrous to say the least.

More should be done by the Ministry of Higher Education to ensure that not only African students, but other foreign students as well, are made to feel at home in Malaysia. Private institutions that have the licence to enrol foreign students should ensure that they adapt to the local conditions, particularly the neighbourhood which they reside in as soon as possible so that the locals do not view them as a 'threat'.

Students from Botswana

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