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Africa

Nigerian students acquire skills sets, cross cultural divide, on Malaysian campuses

The first African-Asian conference was held in Bandung in 1955. 60 year later, leaders are marking that historic event in Jakarta and students from northern Nigeria are studying in Malaysia.

While leaders of Asian and African nations were meeting in Jakarta to coordinate the promotion of common strategic interests, Musa Adamu was giving a lecture to his students at Bayero University, reaping the rewards of a year that he spent as a Nigerian student in Asia.

The 28-year-old has been lecturing in civil engineering for the last 12 months. He obtained his master's degree at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) in Johor Bahru in Malaysia in a highly practical example of Asian-African partnership.

He said that when he returned to Nigeria he "presented his work to Bayero University. Immediately they gave me an appointment within two weeks and after that I was taking the courses."

The UTM's motto is "We produce learners, leaders and thinkers" Adamu sees no reason to disagree with this claim. "Actually the university is of very high quality, because the government funds the university properly. They have enough manpower and equipment for laboratories," he said. It is one of the world's top 300 universities. Nigeria's universities don't even rank among the top 1,000, Adamu said.

Malaysia Newcastle University's medical school in Nusajaya

Malaysian universities have a reputation of being cosmopolitan and well-equipped

Good grades for Asia

Musa Adamu was one of around 2,500 Nigerian students who jumped aboard a plane on a cheap flight to Malaysia, some 10,000 kilometers (6,200miles) away from home.

The student exchange scheme was launched four years ago by Nigeria's Kano State. It encourages students to take courses in disciplines such as business information systems or communications studies. Students are also given financial assistance to help them with their studies.

"Asian economies are called tigers, they have developed rapidly into knowledge-based economies," said Rabiu Suleiman Bichi, spokesman for the governor of Kano State. "We want a similar pattern of development."

As soon as they return to Nigeria, the students will be able to make use of what they have learnt in order to move our state and our country forward, Bichi added.

Nigeria's universities are frequently hit by strike action which can mean it can take up to six years to acquire a degree. Conditions in Malaysia are different.

Another point in the country's favor is that Nigerian Muslims are able to practice their faith there. "Before you cannot imagine a Hausa Muslim girl leaving her parents' home to go not only outside the country, but even down south to go for tertiary education", Bichi said. "This adventure to Malysia has proved to be a very rewarding experience."

Nigeria Rabiu Suleiman Bichi & Ado Bayero

Rabiu Suleiman Bichi (left), spokesman for the governor of Kano State, backs overseas training for young Nigerians

Different people from different backgrounds

Salisu Babba Usman was particulary impressed by the openness of Malaysian society. The 28-year-old studied for three years at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology. He has just obtained his master's degree in communications studies with an additional qualification in marketing and PR.

"The Malaysian university I attended has more than 30,000 students. I've had so many opportunities to meet so many different people that come from different backgrounds, have a different way of life," Usman said.

Malaysia is a country which is prepared to share its knowledge with outsiders. Its rich culture and the way in which Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus live side by side in one country fascinated Usman. "They are living in peace despite differences in culture and religion," said the northern Nigerian, whose experiences in his own country have been very different.

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