Thu, Dec 11, 2008
The Star
Hostile reception pushes Bostwanian students to the brink of suicide

PETALING JAYA, MALAYSIA - Students from Botswana feel they are being unfairly treated in Malaysia and many are so stressed out that they even resort to suicide.

Some even have to put up with racial slurs and insults on a daily basis.

Thembani Eliot Ncube, 19, and Mamie Baleseng, 17, who are students at a private higher education institution, claim Malaysians don't seem to want to mix with them.

"Perhaps they associate us with crime because of a few African students but this should not be the case. It can make some of us depressed," said Ncube, who is studying electrical engineering.

A 19-year-old design student, who preferred to remain anonymous, claimed his friends had been arrested because they were carrying photocopies of their passports and visas instead of the original documents.

Two female students, who also declined to be named, said that male students were more likely to face hostility compared to their female peers.

First-year student, Tebogo Lamaona, 20, said he was told that Malaysia was a friendly country, but his experience so far had been different.

"I have to put up with racist slurs and insults every day," he claimed.

Botswana's Education Minister Jacob Nkate is currently in Kuala Lumpur to meet with students from his country studying here to find out more about Botswanian students who had committed suicide here.

He is accompanied by the High Commissioner of the Republic of Botswana based in Beijing, Naomi E. Majinda, and the education attache Shiayana Kalane.

The delegation will be in Malaysia for a few days to gather feedback and make their assessments of the situation here.

According to a report in an African news portal, four Botswanian students had died in Malaysia this year in car accidents while two fell from the balconies of their apartments after drinking alcohol.

Ncube said he was happy to learn that Nkate was in the country so they could voice their concerns.

On the report, he said people should not think that all Botswanian students in Malaysia had suicidal tendencies.

Baleseng, who is doing her foundation studies, said the problem could stem from the mental state and motivation of some students.

"My friends and I are only interested in doing well in studies but some students may have come to Malaysia to 'escape' from their problems back home," she said.

She said some may resort to drinking or suicide if things got worse.

Study-wise, both Ncube and Baleseng who have been in Malaysia for three months, said adapting to the local environment was not a problem.

Deputy Higher Education Minister Dr Hou Kok Chung advised any international student having problems to speak to representatives from their institutions.

"The students can also approach us through the ministry's Student Affairs Division," he said.

There are currently about 7,000 African students in Malaysian higher education institutions.

Dr Hou had previously held dialogues with student representatives from China and Indonesia as part of the ministry's move to have open interaction with international students.

"There are plans to meet students of other nationalities soon," he said.


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