Different Ramadan, Eid for foreign students here

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KUALA LUMPUR: There is a large community of foreign students pursuing their tertiary education at public and private higher learning institutions in Malaysia.

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Many of them have opted for Malaysia because the country is not only peaceful but also has a diverse yet harmonious society, apart from the prospect of being able to choose from the nation’s many reputable universities and institutions to complete their studies.

However, with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected the world over the past few months, many of these students are relieved to be in Malaysia during such unprecedented time, allowing them to remain healthy and safe, thanks to the proactive measures taken by the government to contain the virus, including the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO).

The New Straits Times caught up with a few of these students to find out how they were coping with the situation, especially during the Ramadan month.

Saeed Mohammed Al-Tamimi, 24, from Hadramout, Yemen, has been pursuing a Bachelors Degree in Economics at Universiti Malaya (UM) for more than three years.

“This will be my third year celebrating (Hari Raya) Aidifitri in Malaysia. Where fasting is concerned, I am thankful that I am in this country because it is easier to fast here than in Yemen since the weather back home is hotter, even though we fast for about the same number of hours each day,” said Saeed, who lives off campus in Damansara with three other Yemenis who are also pursuing their tertiary education at UM.

Due to the MCO, he said, his lecturers had begun online lectures, splitting them into two sessions, several hours in the morning and the rest in the late afternoon, as how they would do during normal times.

“We each have a smartphone and a laptop, which is essential. Malaysia’s Internet connection is good. In Yemen, the Internet connection is spotty and in some areas there is no Internet access.”

Having to stay indoors during the MCO period, Saeed said, he and his housemates had taken turns to go out to buy food and other essentials.

“We make sure that only one person will go out to buy groceries for the rest of us. It has been challenging having to stay indoors for more than a month, but we understand that it is necessary in the fight against the virus,” he said.

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Due to the pandemic, Saeed said, he and other Yemeni students would celebrate Hari Raya from the confines of their rented homes.

“In the past years, the Yemeni student community would usually gather during Ramadan and Hari Raya on university grounds like UM, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, or Universiti Putra Malaysia. But, things will be different this year as it is just not worth the risk.”

A.S.M. Borhaneul Hoda, 25, from Chittagong, Bangladesh, has been pursuing a degree in Syariah Law at the International Islamic University of Malaysia for the past five years.

He is in his final year, whereas his wife, Sadia, is in her first year of her studies.

“We came here without relying on any scholarship or financial aid. Due to the pandemic, it is financially hard for us as we are unable to get money from home via the usual banking transactions and transfers.

“We are surviving on the little money that we have managed to save for emergencies. During the MCO, we need to be prudent and only spend for food, rent and utilities. We are thankful that the university has been providing food for iftar (breaking of fast) and sahur (pre-dawn meal) for students. This kind gesture goes a long way for us,” Borhaneul said.

The couple usually returns to Bangladesh to celebrate Hari Raya with their family. The last time they returned to Bangladesh was last year, for two months.

For this year, they will be celebrating Hari Raya with their friends in Gombak.

“We pray to Allah to keep everyone safe and healthy. Since the MCO is still being enforced come Hari Raya, we will be spending it here. We are fine with it, as there is no point in us returning home. For now, we have enough to get by, but if it is extended, we do not know what the future holds for us.”

– NST

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