African students feel out of place

They bear racial slurs, find it hard to get accommodation on rent

 Twenty-three-year-old Richie Ronsard left home in the Congo two years ago to fulfil his childhood dream of obtaining a degree from an established institute in India.

The reality check was not long in coming. “I arrived in this city with a lot of expectations.
India has a very positive reputation in my country. I was sure that this was going to change my life, but instead I soon learnt that the image of the country outside far surpassed the reality I faced once I am here,” said Ronsard. He has been treated like a third class citizen from day one, he added.

“Wherever I go out in public I feel out of place. People stare at me all the time. They call me names like kalu and laugh at me. One day in the Metro a child came running to me and started shouting that word and pulled my shirt. His mother stood there looking at him without stopping him.

I couldn’t say or do anything because it was just a child, but inside I felt embarrassed and even angry. Is this how your children are being educated?”
said Ronsard, who has political ambitions and is working towards a Masters in PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economy).

The stereotyping of Africans, especially Nigerians, in India as drug dealers has in some part affected how most Africans are treated in Delhi and elsewhere. This puts them under the scanner of police and often intrudes upon their rights and privacy.

“At least twice a week during the first year I was visited by cops in what they referred to as a general check. I wonder if that is also what happens to non-Africans here,” Ronsard said.

At least 80 per cent of the hundreds of students from Africa — labelled the world’s fastest growing continent — who come to India are students. This translates into a fair sum of money for the country’s education sector.

But despite the growing interest by foreigners in Indian educational institutes, especially universities, little has been done to ensure their well-being by either the state or the educational representatives.  It is not just Ronsard, but many other African students in Delhi share his
story.

Fredrick Kaitale is a 20-year-old from Uganda studying Bachelors in Business Management. For him, who has met and dealt with the large Indian community in his country, being seen as different in India came as a big shock.

“I am proud to be black, so I don’t mind being called kalu, but it does feel weird when I am stared at continuously,” said Federick. “Everyday I meet other Africans who have been victims of racism and ill-treated not just by people on the streets but also by the authorities, who turn a blind eye to what is happening.”

Also, getting a decent accommodation is a major task for African students who come to India. Many of them are turned away by house owners as soon as they see that the students are black. Valid reasons are not given, but it is evident from the manner that they are turned away without any good reason.

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