India: An emerging education hub for Africans

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CALL it an emerging educational hub for many African students and one will not be far from the truth.

Although a number of African nations can boast many universities and institutions for specialized and professional training, many Africans consider education abroad a significant achievement, particularly in countries that have advanced educational infrastructure.

Thus, the quest for a more “significant” academic, cultural development and personal growth has seen many people desiring to acquire education broad, and India, no doubt, is offering just that to many students from Africa and other parts of the world.

From self-funded schemes to others being funded through the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) programme and the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC), over 50,000 African students, according to Indian President, Mr Pranad Mukherjee, were studying across various universities in India.

Many people who have had the chance to study abroad have maintained the view that a wide range of professional opportunities that opened to them subsequently could be directly linked to the skills and internship experiences they gained while studying in foreign universities.

According to data from India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development, Sudan and Nigeria feature fourth and fifth on the list of top 10 countries from where students came to study in India.

Some 42,420 foreign students, according to the report, studied in the country in 2015 alone.

Over 2,500 Ghanaian nationals are also said to have been trained in India under different short and medium-term courses ranging from a week to two years under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.

The ITEC programme which has various technical and professional courses in Audit, Accounting, Banking and Finance, Environment and Renewable ENERGY, Rural Development, Information and Communications Technology among others are conducted in around 300 institutes spread over the length and breadth of that country.

More than 120 Ghanaian students have also benefitted from the Indian government scholarship programme to pursue a two-year programme in Science and Technology, Engineering, Management, Humanities and Creative Arts etc.  These courses are on offer from undergraduate, postgraduate to doctoral and post-doctoral level.

Human development

Many of these students have argued that their choice of India stemmed from the lack of adequate academic infrastructure, sufficient human resource and stable academic calendar in most universities in their home countries.

Others, however, choose to study in India out of the fact that their parents are affluent enough to sponsor them.

Some are simply taking advantage of scholarship opportunities to get an education in India.

Irrespective of the circumstances underpinning their studies in India, some of them appear to suggest that a good number of institutions in India have requisite equipment that support a more practical-oriented education and help them prepare for future employment and entrepreneurial needs, unlike in most universities in their home countries that are heavily tilted towards theory.

For Mr Abdullah Rahman, a 36 year-old Doctor Philosophy (PhD) Chemistry student form Nigeria studying at the Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) University in India, his choice of India was informed by the never-ending strikes by lecturers or students in universities in Nigeria, as well as the lack of adequate infrastructure at the state university in his home region of Sokoto

He told the Daily Graphic in an interview in India recently that finding placement in India was also not as complex compared to institutions in Europe where students would be required to write certification examinations before one could be admitted.

“The fees here are also quite moderate and I am paying about 77,361 Indian Rupees ($1200) annually which is quite cheaper compared to other institutions in Europe,” Mr Rahman, who is on a self-funded programme at the JMI, said.

“My dream to join the academia or work in an international organization requires that I have the needed capacity and expertise from my education and I believe India is the best place to achieve this,” he added.

Mr Ahmed Adullah Abubakar, 32, also from Nigeria and studying a Master of Science (MSc) programme in Chemistry at the same university, also expressed similar sentiments when the Daily Graphic caught up with him at the school.

He suggested that education in India was very competitive and offered one a real sense of purpose and capacity to go into the job market.

His claims were also echoed by Mr Jafaru Ibrahim, a 31-year-old Master of Arts (MA) Economics student from Ghana, who is being funded through India’s ICCR programme.

Mr Inrahim, a former student of University for Development Studies (UDS), said although he could have studied a similar programme at any public university in Ghana, the cost was beyond the reach of what his family could afford.

Challenges

While the systems may be good for the building of capacity and charting a career development, there are challenges these students have to grapple with in their quest to attain higher academic laurels.

Many leave wives and children behind in their respective countries to achieve their quest for higher education but hard societal challenges and realities such as racism, cultural differences and language often become an impediment to their dreams.

Racism towards Africans and black people is nothing new in India, with numerous incidents recorded.  Incidents of mob justice and racial attack are alleged not to be one-off as it has become a frequent feature in many parts of that country.

A Nigerian student was allegedly killed recently while four others sustained various degrees of injury, sparking diplomatic tensions between Nigeria and India.

While these incidents often could seem to be a disincentive for many people dreaming to acquire education in that country, African students such as Rahman, Abubakar and Ibrahim maintained that the educational environment could be extremely friendly depending on where one found himself.

“The students at Jamia Millia are friendly and willing to assist us as and when necessary,” they echoed.

The three also suggested that owing to the Indian government’s policy which makes provision for an admission quota for students from very remote communities in that country to have mandatory admissions to public universities, lecturers were sometimes prompted to use Hindi as an instructional language to make it easier for underprivileged students to understand.

That, they said, therefore required the need or African students to do a lot of self-reading if one was to make better grades.

The three called on African leaders to Endeavour to commit more funding to education in order to reduce the stress of students having to travel long distances to seek higher education elsewhere.

They also emphasized that if authorities in that country could curb incidents of racial attacks, India’s image as an international education destination would be a great success.

Some journalists who participated in a training programme in India recently were of the view that Africa could have equally become an education hub for many foreign students if African governments had put their house in order to develop the educational sector.

They suggested that the hard currencies expended on these educational tourism could actually fix the education system that has been left comatose and unreliable.