The killing of Masonda Ketada Oliviea, a Congolese national teaching French at a private institute in Delhi a few days ago by a group of ‘criminals’ on a minor provocation has generated a debate if indeed Africans in India are facing racism and the ugly incident was only part of a pattern. While minor aberrations on account of misplaced perceptions on alleged drug trafficking or money frauds could be a possible reason behind some anger, racism will be a much loaded word to be used in this context. The solution lies in understanding cultural sensibilities on both sides.
We asked a few questions to Neguse Bahre, an African Scholar pursing PhD at JNU in international studies and he says he has never encountered an abuse of whatsoever during his years of stay in India as a student.
Why did you choose India as a higher education destination?
I had two scholarship opportunities before I decided to come to India. I had admission and scholarships @ AUC in Cairo and @ Norman University in china. However, I decline them all when I was offered a chance to pursue my studies in India. Hence I have chosen JNU as my first priority and luckily was admitted out of the three Eritreans who applied for the same. As I did History for my undergrad, had studied partially Indian history and believed pursuing my higher studies in India would enable me to discover more and learn a perspective which is quite different from the mainstream academia which is overwhelmingly dominated by the west, not to mention the diversity India present as a unique destination is worth venturing though. Besides, medium of instruction is English and it’s also equally important to acknowledge that educations in India are affordable to students coming from a third world country as opposed to Universities in a developed countries.
Did you find it easy to get accommodation? How are the hostel facilities?
At the University where I study (JNU), accommodation is provided to all students particularly to foreigners immediately after arrival. Nevertheless, it is shared rooms in most cases unlike other University like DU and IIT where foreigners are offered single seated room irrespective of what program you are in. shared rooms has its own limitations and not conducive for producing a good work. Generally hostels in JNU are overcrowded yet they are rendering really good services against all odds and it has nearly all services ranging from mess services, electricity and water supply throughout the year almost without interruption. However, internet services/ connectivity are lacking in the hostel premises unless you subscribe on your own way!
How satisfied are you with your higher education experience (curriculum, teachers, social life etc) in India?
My educational experience in India is rewarding. For me, JNU has provided the platform to interact and discuss on matters of national and international issue. I have the opportunity to attend conferences, seminars and public talks daily at a time. And was equally privileged to have distinguished professors who are active academically and politically as well. Curriculum wise the courses offered in JNU are designed in a way that broaden students understanding and are multidimensional in approach and little inclined to third world perspective and covers whole theoretical debate at best. Hence, every single day for me is a learning experience. Students are equally vibrant and critical on their own rights and impressively they constitute a melting pot of India’s real image and most importantly are very friendly with little indifference of some until they get completely immersed into the system!
Did you face any racial abuse?
Sadly, an India that aspires and works hard to engage Africa at all level has become intolerable to African Students and professionals recently which is a reflection of sick mindset and ignorance of some people than I call it “Racism” for the concept itself is flawed and who is racist against whom after all! I rather call it disrespect and becoming inhospitable and Labeling an isolated incident on the same tune are actually wrong in the first place and gives undesired impression unless its well thought off/ politically motivated. Discriminations happen everywhere based on different assumptions and color could be one of the factors as caste is. hence, if Casteism is an issue and subtly used for differential treatments others who fall out of the box ostensibly has different parameters for judging them or providing them access to certain privilege… and the whole system function accordingly I guess and no further explanation is required I suppose. However, as a student who studied master and currently pursuing PhD at JNU I would say I have never encountered an abuse of whatsoever.
What are the problems you face as a foreign student in India?
Problem faced by international student vary from one place to another as well as from one University to another. Living in a cosmopolitan city like Delhi and studying at a premium University of the country like JNU the challenges are comparatively insignificant as dwellers of the city and Students of JNU comprehend English in most cases. Besides, enforcement of law and follow up seems better in the big city like Delhi as opposed to those studying at different towns and city. However, it does not mean there are no challenges. Visa issues whether it is for extension or conversion of Visa’s into a research type are one of the pressing challenges international student face beside unnecessary hurdle at offices for trivial issues.