Is India Ready to Welcome its Foreign Students as a Part of its Internationalization of Higher Education? By Enakshi Sengupta

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Is India Ready to Welcome its Foreign Students as a Part of its Internationalization of Higher Education?- Recent cases of racial violence against students in India.

By Enakshi Sengupta

In the past couple of weeks, Indian media has witnessed a flurry of reports concerning racial abuse against students from Africa who have made India their home trying to seek higher education in the country known for being the largest democracy in the world. The media narrated horrific tales of both physical and mental abuse bordering to torture, their crime being the ‘colour of their skin’. “When I went and sat next to an Indian girl in the classroom, she instinctively got up and moved away,” says Ornella Mosibo, a 24-year-old Congolese in New Delhi, India.

The year 2013 saw a growing number of such cases and some of these major incidents of violence against African’s in India became the headline in Indian media. Pastor Wandoh Timothy, according to reports, was cornered and violently beaten up by nearly a dozen men on his way to a church in Karnataka. One of the attackers was about to fatally throw a large stone on his head when passer-by’s forced them to retreat. Timothy Junior’s right eye was bleeding, ribs were broken, and he was hospitalised for over a month. “After the attack, I met the home minister of Karnataka to personally file a complaint. While the complaint was lodged, nothing else has been done till date,” he laments. The Chad national, who is married to an Indian, says the attack was only an extreme manifestation of the racism Africans suffer every day in India.

Christoffer Okito, a 29-year-old Congolese, studying information technology in Delhi, and the president of the Association of African Students in India (AASI), shares Timothy Junior’s opinion. “We are looking for a place where we can study well without any problems,” he says, “but going by what I have seen here, most Indians don’t understand that African students are here to study and not set up illegal businesses.” (Source: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/features/blink/the-colour-of-my-skin/article5635153.ece).

India has around 50,000 foreign students studying in various fields of higher educationwhich is responsible for earning a good amount of foreign exchange for private and public educational institutions in India. The majority of these foreign students are from neighbouring countries and Africa and the Indian government has announced a further 22,000 scholarships for Africa in the coming three years (http://www.thehoot.org/web/African-victims-don-t-move-Indian-media/6615-1-1-1-true.html ).

The African students are not alone in the incidents of racial abuse. Students from North-eastern India can also empathise with the Africans as they too are stigmatised because they look different because of their Mongolian facial features or hair and are vulnerable to verbal, physical and sexual attacks. Recently reported in the media is the case of NidoTaniam, an 18 year old student from Arunachal Pradesh who died after being beaten up mercilessly by locals at a marketplace in New Delhi, triggering widespread protests across the nation. He was called abusive names owing to his narrow eyes or straight hair (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nido_Taniam_Death_Incident)

The concept of ‘internationalization’ has witnessed rapid growth of mobility amongst students who have crossed borders to seek appropriate education in foreign lands, at the same time bringing with them the issue of integration with local students or the local community who view these foreign students as ‘aliens’ and a threat to their community.Research literature has suggested that instances of overt racial conflict cannot be viewed as isolated or sporadic incidents but indicators of a trend of unresolved racial issues in educational institutions and society at large (Hurtado 1992).

Theorists writing on racial relationship have proposed that racial tension arises from threat of a group’s position. The dominant group fears that they are at the risk of losing their power, their resources or their advantages (Wellman 1977). They tend to forget the fact that socially and culturally different people are important in shaping the dynamics of social interactions (Kanter 1982).Blalock (1967) hypothesized that with the increase in minority percentage there would be a rise in discriminatory behaviour as more members from the minority group will be in competition with members of the dominant group. With the change in composition of the racial mix in a college, there will be implications in the college campuses (Hurtado 1992).

Higher education is expected to set democratic outcomes that deals with the constructive nature of democracy, promotes students’ ability to interact and work with diverse people with varied viewpoints, and build student self-efficacy in return. Higher education plays a constructive and important role in encouraging moral development, through inter racial interaction and understanding it encourages students to develop a sense of social justice and to become responsible citizens of the nation, unfortunately institutions of higher education are unable to inculcate such values in their students.

As with any form of integration, education is no exception and there is a need for interaction between the different groups or individuals (Maleevic, 2002). The cultural interaction must incorporate deep understanding and appreciation of cultural values and the differences of values which differs from each group. The local community is expected to be open towards cultures which is inherent in international students and which they bring with them overseas while coming to study in a foreign country.

The Indian community and its international students needs to be integrated for the success of internationalization of higher education in India and at the same time the communities in India should be made aware of the importance of the concept of internationalization and its impact on the economy and should be taught to accept the international students as part of their community, allowing a full integration and the delivery of a positive “Indian Hospitality”. Acceptance can only occur when there is an understanding of internationalisation of higher education and how to best profit from it, as a fully functional community with trades, education, and social rules, especially for those communities that come into existence as a result of higher educational institutions inducting foreign students (Tange, 2009).

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Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR.

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