Thursday, December 25, 2008

Botswanan students have it hard?

Maybe I was jumping the gun in saying that Malaysia is a good place for international students to come to especially those who are from Muslim majority countries. The Star reported that the Education and Skills Development Minister of Botswana, Jacob Nkate, said that they would be cutting down the number of students sent to Malaysia because they were not acclimatising well to life in Malaysia.

The Minister's decision was influenced partly because of the social issues some of the Botswanan students have encountered while studying in Malaysia. Two of them died after falling from their apartment balconies and another was killed in a road accident. It was reported that the students blamed the hostile environment they encountered in Malaysia that forced many of them to turn to alcoholism and other anti-social behaviour.

This is not the first time I've heard of the challenges faced by foreign students in Malaysia. The ugly head of racism usually rears its head partly because we don't have a long history having foreign students in our universities, especially our private universities and colleges. I'm also guessing that many of these foreign students especially those from Africa also have to deal with racism on the part of shopkeepers, taxi drivers and the like.

This is not to say that Malaysian students going abroad don't face these kinds of challenges. I myself had one or two racist comments thrown at me while I was doing my Masters in Cambridge. But most Malaysians are used to the idea of going overseas to study and many of us have good support systems when we go abroad. Also, a majority of us end up in universities where foreigners comprise a significant proportion of the student population. Many of the professors and lecturers and administrators in these universities are also more used to dealing with foreigners. All these factors help us adjust more easily to life abroad.

My sense is that the onus should fall firstly on the administrative and management staff of our private colleges and universities, where most of the foreign and I'm guessing Botswanan students end up. If they haven't already, they need to set up structures and support systems which can identify and help foreign students who are having problems adjusting to life in Malaysia. In addition, they should 'recruit' their own local students to help these foreign students adjust to academic life in Malaysia. I'm sure that many of these universities and colleges are already doing these things already. But this is a good reminder that these efforts should continue or be stepped up. After all, the management staff are the ones with a more direct incentive to make sure that agencies such as the Botswanan government keeps on sending their students to our private colleges and universities.

Ideally, MOHE might do some coordinating activities to ensure that some of the best practices in terms of dealing with different foreign students can be transferred between the different colleges and universities, both private and public.

Of course, there are limits to how much the university administrators can do. (Remember the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech?) But try they must.

P.S. I know that Botswana is not a Muslim majority country. But the points made here should be applicable to other foreign students who are from Muslims majority countries. Just because they come to a Muslim majority country like Malaysia does not mean that they will not encounter challenges like racism as well as the many temptations to 'let loose', so to speak.


Shawn Tan said...

I shall relate my experience at being a student facilitator at one of our local universities. Whenever we had foreign students, we were told not to handle them and to leave them to the staff. We were only supposed to handle the local students.

So, all the activities that we had were structured around the local students and the foreign students had the freedom of either joining us as they wished, or to do their own thing. Most of the time, they stuck to themselves and did their own thing.

The staff would just give them the introductions and necessities. Most of the time, you actually need a student facilitator to get you adjusted to student life - such as pointing out the good places for food and the local student hang outs. These things, the local students got from us.

Just my 2 sen.

PS: I think that there may be a danger here in assuming either (1) all international students have the same needs and can be handled the same way; or (2) all students from a specific culture or country have the same needs and can be dealt with in the same way.

Anonymous said...

My concern: Botswana is the 2nd African nation with 24.1% of its adults population infected with HIV/Aids (2005 statistics)

Do these students pass medical tests prior entering to Malaysia?

Apart from that, racism is real in Malaysia even for a Malay, Chinese or Indian. Why kid ourselves that we can behave otherwise towards the Africans?

Anonymous said...


Citizens of Botswana are Batswana (singular: Motswana)

Anonymous said...

i met many african students mainly from metroplitan college & sunway university. i can safely assume the majority of them are quite nice & friendly really.

the point is we just have to give these foreign students a chance to mingle with us locals. but sadly africans are often prejudiced here as potential rapists, violent hooligans, etc simply because they are black.

but when we encountered foreigners like the orang putih we often regard them as cultured, educated & civilized just because their skin is white. hey c'mon what is this why are we still always tend to judge a book by it's cover??? we are m'sians man!!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (27DEC08) strikes right at the heart of the issue - anti-black/african racism is pervasive in Malaysia. Calling for the instutitions to provide support for these foreign students will be for nought if they face daily racist insults everyday from the average person from the smoky and dirty Malaysian street.

Fikri said...

Motswana? I totally didn't see that one coming. :)

Anonymous said...

May be the problem stamps from the fact that Malaysians are generally race-conscientious and race-stereotyping, thanks to our political & education systems.

Anonymous said...

to all Malaysians who can by chance read this article:
the behaviour and the hatred you show among other people measures ur intellectual this era racism is the thing of the past,which is currently worshiped by ediots who in life will never end anywhere. i hate it to be descrimnated by the dirtist, poorest, ugliest person in the dirty shanty places of Boleh. i regret ever coming to this hell of a place.

Batswana are better off knowing the statistics of the HIV/AIDS affected people, and placing the battle against it. What do u think those skinny, shrinking dead walking Malays suffer from?? HIV/AIDS kills.

But thanx to the good respectful and other loving Malaysians.

Anonymous said...

Boleh is full of racists bt as foreign students we knw better nd do not take their ignorance at heart...Dilo tse dia sotega seriusly nd those who have the power to change Malaysians' perceptions towards racial issues have thrown a deaf ear nd some have taken matters into their own hands as a number of Africans were assaulted by locals.

Anonymous said...

well, as a foreign student (not from bostwana) I do too fell the racial problem here
It comes from the local students

So far, we forign students from different country have no problem to join (although we come from different country). But it's hard to make a friend with local students. Bcoz they all talking with their OWN LANGUAGE

Anonymous said...

yeah do you think there is no HIV/AIDS in Malaysia,hey you white pigs or dogs,you are nothing on earth,but a fucking stupid racist.....we Batswana maybe we are bettr than u somehow,we are not racist.

Anonymous said...

With due respect to u 4 being white and 100% AIDS free nation,we outclass u guys in evrything,talk bout Sport,Education e.t.c,u might have dat privilege of being White but black is stil ok 4 us.

Anonymous said...

whn talkin abt HIV/AIDS my Malaysian counterparts should not say anything abt it, sayin dat Botswana has a 24.1% of adults living with AIDS. its a good thing that Batswana knows their status nd do not hide the statistics as compared to those who do not knw anything at all, or who knws but hiding it. how will ur people get help if u are hiding the statistics.

if it happens that we test all the Malaysians i hav a feelin tht a lot of them more than that 24.1% of Botswana will be found to hav AIDS. u think there is no AIDS in Malaysia think again ths is only bcos u dont take it seriously tht u dont evn bother the tym u realize its there the whole population would be dead.

the only reason y the statistics show a little number of ppl with AIDS in ASIA is that not many ppl test. that is not the real number. Let them test u will get the real number

Georg Schulte to Brinke said...

My comment has nothing to say about HIV statisics in Botswana. I rather have to comment about the situation in Malaysia. Looking at this country, they have great inferstucture and all but the people are racist and not only to africans or arabs but also to amongst other malaysians dividing themselves by the origin nof their families. I think this is an appualing way of dividing a nation and to some extent I am disgusted by it. I think Malaysia should slow down their intact of foriegn students until they sort out their social issues (atleast amongst each other). With a better environment, obviously people would not do all the things they are so infamously known for

Anonymous said...

Botswana's population is about 1.8 Million. So what you need to do now is take your calculator, phone or whatever and type 1800000 by 0.24, The answer shall be 432000. Malaysian population is about 25 Million, so do you guys want to tell me that in about 25 Million people you wont have more than 432000 people affected with HIV/AIDS? People be serious this number is even less than half a million and you have 25 Million people living. I read about Botswana first when i heard of this AIDS statistic and i finally realized that people there live a totally different life to most of us, they care much about there health and that is the most important thing because they have a very small population. I found that in Botswana every couple is advised to test for HIV and before tying a knot the bride and groom must test for HIV to avoid misunderstandings on their merriege,every pregnant woman should test for HIV and when i say every i mean every, Telelelo Pele leaders lead by examples, the president himself tested for HIV as an inspiration and everyone is given a chance to test, sick and ill people are tested as part of the examinations to find out their illness, every health personal should test since they serve the community. A lot of activities that are performed to encourage people to test so they could accept themselves to enable them to live longer. So i don't know much about Malaysia because i haven't researched much about it but i guess before end of this year i will have something because i just came to Malaysia the beginning of this year.

Anonymous said...

I wonder where the commenter that was analyzing the statistics of HIV in Botswana got his/her passion from. I am not from Botswana but the issue at hand is the fact that Malaysia seems to be a hostile environment for international students, that I am a proof because I school here. We should discuss further on lowering the guns and mingling with these so called "blacks" that spend thousands of ringgit and sit for hours in flights to come study in Malaysia. if at all nothing, the mere fact that our fees one way or the other improves your economy is enough to make you shut up and give us a break. I am Black and proud of it and will never for once choose Malaysia over the poorest country in Africa because at least they know what they want. The Malaysian people seem to dwell on "hear says" and never have the chance to explore their thinking and research abilities and besides the whole restriction placed on you guys makes you all a well polished hypocrite...and for the record, you will never see a she-male parade the streets of any African country like you see millions of them in Bukit Bintang and the likes. Clean up your home before you call another dirty. Racism is an archaic thing and even Americans proved it when they voted a black man as their president and for you kind info, that black man is African, specifically from Kenya so DUH!...get a life, get educated and you will see the world in a better picture, one that racism is a thing of the past. Thank You!

Murasta said...

Some Malaysians are stereotyped, first thing they talk about HIV/AIDS, but in Malaysia only a few use a condom and only a few test for HIV, how would you know the status of a dying population if their government does not even bother to advice them to test for the Virus.. in Botswana 1 out of 4 know their status, in Malaysia 1 out of million knows their status. what if the rest have the virus, and 1 other thing, most Malaysian people are racists and they will die racists so we don`t care how they treat us and by the way please come to Botswana and learn how people live with each other black, white, Asian, Indian, Russian or whatever everyone lives in peace and together are 1, there is no color that can differentiate us cause we all humans after all... you know Malaysia has been nothing but hell for me i hate this country believe me.. but much love for those few Malaysians who accepted me as mother nature made...

Anonymous said...

uhu...malaysians plz dnt tok bwt AIDS statistics n shyt!ya'l r sooooo ignorant'by the tym u realise dt AIDS exists in ur country'''ya'l wl b gone alreaaaaaaaady!!!no real tok...u dnt gv a shyt bwt ur health'''luk at the way u smoke'''the way ya'l spit errwhr and i dnt even thnk ya'll use protectn!lets wake up plizz....dis is real life''racism yone ke masepa!!!we takin our degree nd we goin home for good!

Anonymous said...

Every1 should realise that there are smart people and there are young kids trapped in the bodies of adults. Most foreigners in Malaysia are you children trying to learn. Teach a child hate they will hate, show a child love they will love and only speak good things of you. I understand the anger angst the foreigners show sometimes but I have been reading through this whole thing and the comments and was shocked by the latter aggressive and foul mouthed comments that came from my country men. Lets show that we are educated and can reason out things peacefully rather than insulting each other please.

We should address the issues as they are; some foreigners stick to themselves and become too self absorbed in speaking their language and being with their country men. They will leave Malaysia having gained no valuable experience except a degree and more fuel to the stereo types.

The idiot country man of mine who is calling locals names like that, and the one trying to brag about our country; as an ambassador of goodwill you are giving us an even worse image. Don't you dare try to boast like that when you have just displayed ignorance. Sadly the internet allows anyone to comment and the people hating on the country that is doing us a favor by letting us school here are in the wrong. My country men you put me to shame. Slow your roles down and prove you are actually learning here.

I came about this post via Google search, and the fact that its on top of the list means you picked the wrong platform to behave like a 16year old, when the conversation had just been going ok before you commented.

The locals will have to bare with us as we also have "blacksheeps" that mess up the general image for everybody.

Anonymous said...

One thing should be noted.Botswana in my eyes is better than Malaysia because the country knows its statistics concerning Aids and they are not ashamed to divulge the figures.Im not from the country but i admire the strides they have made in terms of developing their people and improving their infrastructure.FACT of the matter is the people in Botswana live far much better lives than the people in the United states.I went to the country last year and i was somehow surprised as to the development and stability that exists in an African country.These people are educated for free by their government,from primary level till high school.Well the truth is,the same thing cannot be said when we talk about malaysia..Is your education free??Is racism under wraps? How many people test for HIV in Malaysia? How many people know their status in Malaysia?You Malaysians should be admiring this contry because more than 3/5ths of its population know their status as compared to 1/50thof how can you know the true figures of HIV AIDS in time learn to acknowledge what others have done for themselves and the strides they have made instead of bashing them..These people are non racial and welcoming to foreigners from all over the world..Go to Botswana and see for yourself..I would like to thank the people of Botswana for their hospitality and welcoming open hearts