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The foreign students' verdict in Pakistan

April 26(The News): Educational institutions in Australia, United Kingdom, United States and other countries around the world are going out of their way to attract students from other countries. Pakistan, however, is not a preferable educational destination for foreign students but occasionally there are some students who do end up coming. The University of Karachi (KU) is currently hosting about 250 foreign students; a majority of them are from Somalia followed by Sudan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Nepal, Bangladesh, USA, Denmark, Korea, Japan and India.

Those who can afford rented houses prefer them over the 'International Hostel' of the university, which accommodates 43 foreign students. The actual international hostel serves as the Rangers' headquarters.

Prof. Kaleem Raza Khan, Chairman of the Department of English who is also the Foreign Students Adviser, admitted that the number of foreign students at the university has declined considerably. The reason for this could be attributed to the declining educational standard in Pakistani educational institutions and the law and order situation in the country. The prospective foreign students, especially Muslim students are willing to come to Pakistan, but without much enthusiasm due to the cold and unfriendly attitude meted out to them by the Pakistani embassies.

"I visited the Pakistani embassy in Nairobi to know find out about procedures and possible admissions to Pakistani universities but the staff wasn't very helpful. I almost abandoned the idea but my mother persisted and so I am here," says Ahmed Majoo who is studying at the Faculty of Social Sciences. "But now I'm happy that I came. Not only do I feel at home, people treat me kindly," he says.

Neddal Ahmed, a Palestinian student, with a Jordanian passport, is a 4th year student in the Faculty of Pharmacy. He says "I came to Pakistan because the minimum percentage for admission to pharmacy is 80 per cent and I had obtained 75 per cent. I was admitted here on the reserved seat for foreigners," he says. One of the reasons he came to Pakistan to study is the affordable educational costs. According to him, Jordanian universities are quite expensive; one credit hour costs 85 Jordanian Dinars (85 Pak rupees).

Neddal is not happy with his living arrangement outside the campus. "The only hostel for foreign students at KU is in a pathetic state and I am sharing an apartment with another student in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, which is expensive, and commuting to and fro the university is very tiring," he says.

Sanea Didar Ali, a student of pharmacy from Mauritius, said that she decided to study in Karachi because she wanted a home away from home. Her Indian background blends well with the local culture. She is critical of the facilities at the Girls' Hostel though and hopes that the construction of the new hostel building will bring the much-needed changes. On the whole, however, she says "I am pleased to be in Pakistan. People are friendly and I feel secure here."

Salima Ahmed who is from Somalia and is also studying pharmacy, says that she came here because universities back home do not offer pharmacy programmes. A majority of students at KU are from Somalia as the country has maximum number of seats. "It is a good university. I find the teachers well-informed and the lectures engage students and are lively." she says.

Taj Karam, a student from Oman, said that she chose to come to Pakistan herself. "I had three choices to study pharmacy. It was Pakistan, Russia and Syria. In Syria lectures are delivered in Arabic. It is my mother tongue but it will not help me if I want to pursue higher studies in a western country. In Russia one has to learn the Russian language before the actual commencement of courses. Here in Pakistan, lectures are in English and I am closer to my country," she says.
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