I have a strong believe in networks, and as a life principle, I believe anything is possible if you have faith.
Born to teacher parents in South Western Nigeria, Dr Bosede Edwards moved to Malaysia on 16th September, 2012 for her PhD in Educational Technology from the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. Her husband and their three kids only joined her in Malaysia 2 years ago(2016). Her love for reading and writing, led her to write and publish six books, including 3 fictions for kids. Her solid educational background gives her the opportunity to become anything in this dynamic world. More like a Jack of all trades.
She is a researcher, teacher, trainer, instructional designer, and serial entrepreneur. PhD in Education with sound knowledge of theories and methods for designing, developing and delivering successful instruction as well as running businesses. Education in science, business startup & leadership. Committed to evidence-based and technology-enhanced learning approaches to educational improvement, process development, and women empowerment. She has interests in diverse opportunities that leverages new/social media and emerging technologies.
When she is not working on her day job, she is privately working at building a research network consisting of a multidisciplinary team of scholars called Global Trends Academy with the aim of promoting Academic Research and Collaboration and linkages African scholars and the rest of the world. This is done through conferences, training workshops and academic journals among other things.
Dr. Bosede takes us on a dive into her world in this interview as a wife, mom and researcher at the Imagineering institute Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
Why did you take the decision to move to Malaysia?
Moving to Malaysia was not originally a deliberate relocation decision for my family. I was lecturing before coming to Malaysia for my doctoral studies and my plan was to return home afterwards, but I lost my job towards the end of my programme. Fortunately, I managed to finish the programme in spite of all odds, and on time too. I got the offer for my current job after my oral examination. It wasn’t a bad offer, and then, I also had no job to go back to. So, my family decided to take the opportunity; and…here we are.
LIVING IN MALAYSIA
What do you enjoy most about Malaysia and how’s the quality of life? What are the positives and negatives?
Enjoy most…quite difficult to say, but I think I can mention a few of the things I love about living in this country.
- I really love the simplicity of life and living here, expectations are simple…sometimes, there are none (lol). Special occasions are not complicated, meals are simple, and if you are lucky, you can run into some very nice and fantastic people. The variety of fruits and vegetables here are quite nice as well…I wasn’t very great on those prior to coming to Malaysia, but over the past few years, they have become major parts of my diet. Two things that are abundantly available whichever direction you turn in Malaysia are restaurants and toilets (lol), and food is relatively affordable if your focus is on survival…there is something for every size of pocket. You could go on food tourism here (haha) especially if you are okay with sugar in everything.
- Quality of life is good, somewhere between the two possible extremes, and not bad if you are earning here. There are many places where you can find affordable stuffs if you ask the right questions and you are not afraid of venturing. Shopping is fun and if you love travelling and tourism, you’re in the right place. If you are the sit-tight kind of person too, you can take advantage of online shopping for many things from food and wears, to car. There are many food delivery services and you can always find a mall or hypermarket somewhere around you.
- As a parent, one of my greatest appreciation of Malaysia is in the nice environment it provides for parenting. I am a bit on the conservative side, so, a good environment where things are not too crazy is an important factor for me. I’ll say, it’s quite homely here. Not that crazy things aren’t out there, but they’re the exceptions, not the norm. As a growing nation, there’s a lot of opportunity for growth, be it academically or business wise. Quality of education is good and comparable to, or even better than what you can get in many developed nations; and the cost is very okay when compared with what obtains in those nations too.
- I like the variety of nationalities all around from every continent and it can be a great learning experience living here; the international community couldn’t be more diverse.
- The location of the country in South-East Asia is another nice thing about living here, it’s a fantastic location from where you can easily reach almost all Asian countries. And considering the trouble in many parts of the middle east, the peaceful living one enjoys here is a significant factor that has fuelled growth and development.
- In addition to that, there is always somewhere in/out of town to go for relaxation, and if you prefer long distance too, you wouldn’t run short of places to go. There is the homestay programme which I think is a fantastic idea as well; I have been to a few of them and it seems to me a really nice way to get the grassroots into the flow of things.
- Road network is fantastic, and inter-state transport is great too, and there are many options including air, rail, road and sea, which are all relatively affordable. Intra-city transport is great in Kuala Lumpur, in my part of the country (Johor), it is not well-developed yet. So, you need to have a personal ride or use taxis, and that can be a bit expensive. There are buses, but you really don’t want to try them if your time is valuable. A functional intra-city railway and commercial bus network will go a long way to lessen the burden of daily travel in that part of the country. Traveling around is great and with respect to safety, I think the level is relatively ok, though others-especially locals, or the city-dwellers-may have a different opinion. I am aware of a few cases of thefts here and there, which is what you can find elsewhere on the planet too, but on the whole, it is not terribly bad. There is a vibrant night life, and you can grab a taxi 24/7. I have never had a safety issue in my 6+ years, and no member of my family has. So, for positives… Malaysia has done well, with great room for improvement still. It is a growing nation with a focus. It has its many challenges like any growing nation, the racial diversity and the politics surrounding it has its own issues, but as an individual, I see vision in the projects, in the national plans, in governance, etc. Living here is a lot easy and no much hazzles getting through things officially.
For negatives I’d say,
- Things can get unduly too slow many times…people are laid back and you feel disappointed by the lack of initiative and creativity sometimes displayed…I mean, you see people not interested in making effort at using their heads.
You know…like, you expect someone to know 1+2 and 2+1 is the same; unfortunately, it doesn’t get that straight in many cases and that can be frustrating to say the least. There is also the issue of scheduling what can be done right away till tomorrow for no sound reason, and the idea of stagnating process in an entire establishment because the officer-in-charge is on leave. There’s something called ‘standing in for’ or relieving a colleague who’s not available. I think that’s part of what slows the system down, it’s a major source of frustration I’ve experienced with the system here.
- One more thing is that a lot of people love to stereotype, and that can be quite frustrating. It is extremely ridiculous in the banking system, some of the officers act like they’ve received no training. Sometimes, at some local malls, you find people giving you ‘the’ treatment…you know what I mean (lol). But then, I have met several fantastic locals too who make the narrowmindedness of those other groups pale into insignificance.
What do you miss most about home?
Hmmmmm…foooooood. Seriously, I miss ‘ewedu and amala’, that’s the Yoruba delicacy that’s non-native elsewhere in the world (lol). I miss yam badly, and oloyin beans, moimoi and akara, real goat-head, or cow-tail peppersoup, bush meat…I can go on and on (haha). I am not really great on food, so, if food is among what I miss most, it means if you are an African foodie, you won’t find things easy here in Johor.
I miss family and friends…especially that human connection that makes us who we are as Africans. That’s one of the most difficult part of staying here…we live very strong communal lives back home but it’s really hard to find that here. People live very individualistic lives here; sometimes, you don’t know who lives next door. Although I will say my family is probably more blessed than many foreigners around because there are hundreds of wonderful, honourable Nigerians in the state of Johor. They’re mostly scholars at the university and because I have been a member of that community since I came in 2012 it affords us a community of friends with whom we still enjoy something not too far from the home connection. So, family connection is one of the great things I miss living here.
As someone who has raised a family in Malaysia, what’s your opinion on healthcare system?
For a growing nation, I think Malaysia is doing a lot to improve in the area of healthcare though I will say there is a lot of improvement required especially with regards to public health facilities. My family has access to good health-care based on corporate medical insurance and the facilities are great at the private hospitals, but it is quite expensive and outside the reach of the average person. There is need to bring the public health facilities near what is available in the private health sector.
Based on my past experience as a student, and those of other friends and colleagues including those in other universities, there is a lot of improvement required in how international students are attended to at the facilities too, whether on or off-campus. There appears to be a default response (and prescription) to any complaint…and you know that nobody is listening to you. I have experienced that many times before while studying. It is important that people are treated as people…sometimes, a little listening may be all that is needed to save a life.
Are you part of any Nigerian associations and would you recommend any?
I was only involved with the Nigerian and Central chapters of the University’s International Students’ Society (ISS) while I was studying. I served as the welfare and tourism chair and as the education chair of the Nigerian ISS and as Vice President of the ISS-Central unit. I am currently not officially a member of any Nigerian association.
There’s this misconception. Many people think if you are a Christian in Malaysia, you are likely to get beheaded. What do you say about this?
There are a lot of funny stuffs from people out there who don’t even know where Malaysia is on the world map.
There are many theories…many of them are really out of this world. If there is any Islamic nation anyone should want to live in, I think it should be Malaysia. Though religion (including Islam) is highly censored here, and Christians are not permitted to hold open-air programmes or proselytize publicly (you’ll get arrested or deported), there are many churches all around. I have seen many orthodox church buildings in Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Sarawak, Penang and even in Johor. There are also many Pentecostal churches, including several RCCG* parishes, Mountain of Fire & Miracles, and Deeper Life Bible Church, Christ Embassy among many others in Kuala Lumpur and other places. There are two RCCG parishes in Johor. I guess people might be surprised that there are Baptist Seminaries, Catholic seminary, Anglican seminary and many others in Malaysia. Religions practiced by locals include Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism. I am a Christian and I have celebrated 6 Christmases here; not once has anyone challenged me or any member of my church. We get to fellowship and study the bible with other believers, and we don’t have to hide to do it. We’ve had night vigils in my church too, though we had to get police approval and close early. In my opinion, the major challenge with religion here is more for the Malay citizens who don’t have the freedom to choose or change their religion. To a great extent, foreigners from non-Islamic nations enjoy freedom of religion here.
WORKING IN MALAYSIA
How were you able to find a job after your education in Malaysia? + What does it take for Africans to get a job in Malaysia
That’s a hard one. I guess you make applications, attend interviews and if they decide to take you, you get an appointment letter (hahaha).
I have a strong believe in networks, and as a life principle, I believe anything is possible if you have faith. I met my current boss at an academic seminar early in 2016. I had met him 3 years earlier at a similar event, but I could only remember having met before, not where or when. So, we got talking about that during the networking session and he told me about the institute and the great research they were doing. I visited the lab a few months later and afterwards filed a job application at the end of my doctoral studies. A few months later, I attended an interview at the lab, and…that’s it. It did require venturing into some unfamiliar space and doing some extra work though. I have always loved research and was hoping to do some full-time research work with the United Nations in the future, but I didn’t know it will come this early. So, I guess the first thing about getting a job here is to tell yourself it is possible. Then prepare yourself. If need be, go the extra mile to improve on your knowledge and skills. There is something, or a few things you are very good at; use that as a leverage and where you are weak, develop, get more training, read, attend online courses, get help from others, etc. Make yourself relevant; that’s the only reason why anyone should want to employ you anyway.
Another key issue which I mentioned before is networking; there are times employers are desperately looking for persons with certain skills and they cannot find. Meanwhile there is someone with that skill next door, but there is no link between the two. So, as much as it is possible, whenever the opportunity arises for growing your networks or building new ones, take advantage of it. Step out of your comfort zone and connect…don’t wait for opportunities to come after you, go after it. Above all, keep learning.
The society is changing at a fast pace, re-invent yourself so you can stay relevant. Read. Talk with and learn from others and get in the flow of global changes.
Above all else, I am a Christian, and I believe in miracles. I know we live at a time when many people think success is a function of efforts, but then, physical laborers should have been the most successful of all people. A scientist knows ‘nothing comes from nothing’ and the bible talks about ‘time and chance’, that’s what we call ‘grace’. So, if you believe in God, I will say, have faith. I am a great believer in the God of miracles, I have seen Him make impossibilities possible. He is not a God of bible days, He is also that of internet days. There are doors that only open by divine intervention. So, do your part and trust God to do His. It works. Seriously.
So, for an African desiring to get a job here, it is easy if you operate in a specific high need area and you can find an organization that will second you to Malaysia. Another way is building highly-desired 21st-century skills that have relevance for the future of work; that is one of the easiest ways to find jobs anywhere in the world. Other than that, it is near impossible to be at home and get a job here. So, on a general note, if there are legal means of finding your way here, that will be a big step. Then, prepare yourself. Seek for opportunities. Build good networks. Believe nothing is impossible. Be patient. If you believe in God, pray and have faith. Go for it, and if given an opportunity, give it what it takes. Yes, there are issues, and I can say it is more challenging for Africans to get jobs here, that is why we may need to do a little more. Most employers are looking for employees who can deliver; of course, there are racist ones among them, but you sure don’t want to work for those ones. There are also a few out there who don’t care about where you come from or the colour of your skin, but whether you can deliver or not. I mean, there are still open doors. More may be required from you to prove yourself, so, go for it.
As a research fellow,what does your job require of you?
I am a Research Fellow at my institute. I lead projects in the field of Multimedia Instruction and Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) with focus on Science Education. My organization’s mission is to ‘Invent the Future of Internet’, so, all our research works are targeted at conception and execution of research projects related to this in various fields. I have Master’s and PhD in Educational Technology, some call it Instructional Science or Instructional Technology, Multimedia Education, Creative Multimedia, etc. I also have a background in the sciences…I have Bachelor of Chemistry and Master of Organic Chemistry; so, my research revolves around those themes. I look at the ‘future of internet’ in terms of teaching, learning, learning environments, instructional technologies, etc. I am presently working on projects on new media and emerging technologies, with focus on robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality in education, especially in terms of next-generation education. I may sometimes be required to be involved in other projects that may not be directly related to my field though. We do collaborative, interdisciplinary research and work as a team on every project.
Here are two of my projects on the Future of Education at the Imagineering Institute
SEE ALSO:Transmitting scent over the Internet
Most people out there think Africans in Malaysia basically come to sell their kidneys or get involved in some sort of fraudulent business. What do you have to say about that?
There is a saying that,
‘nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance’.
There is no imagining the damage done by sincerely ignorant people who spread stories about things they do not have even the slightest idea of. I’ve heard such things from people who have never been to Malaysia and who don’t know anyone in Malaysia, but I have yet to meet anyone who’s in that business. I have personal relationships with 100s of fantastic, sincere, Africans with integrity who have studied, are studying, are in paid employment, or doing decent, honorable business in Malaysia, and I sincerely do not know a single African who is selling kidney, scamming people or pushing drugs. I am not saying there are no such people, but that they are not as ubiquitous as the news peddlers make it seem.
It is sad that good news is never news; there are many Africans doing great things here: outstanding students, great researchers, decent business and family people, employees of several organizations including almost every university in Malaysia, BUT, nobody is talking about them or what they are doing. The media does not care about those ones. But they give all the damn about a handful doing something wrong and they seize that opportunity to criminalize all Africans. It just shows how narrowminded people can choose to be. There are good and bad people in every nation and continent of the world; that is a fact that will never change. And another great fact that is almost always overlooked is that wherever international evil thrives, it is only possible within a conducive local environment. There is nowhere in the world where international criminals can operate without local collaborators.
What is student life like for Africans in Malaysia?
That is a dicy one because there are many facets to it. It can be a bit tough studying here, especially financially if you don’t have scholarship or other forms of sponsorship. This is because there is no much support from within. But it can be a really good experience if you are on scholarship. Malaysia does not have the ‘work-and-study’ opportunities that are available in most developed nations, and that remains one of the major challenges of foreign students here. So, if you want to study here, especially if it’s a bachelors or a taught Masters programme, you need to be sure of your funding. I won’t say it is impossible to find something doing, especially during long school breaks, but it is not very easy; the reason being that most potential local employers are not familiar with policies surrounding student holiday work experience, so, they won’t even talk to you. That disconnect between various parts of the government sectors remains one of the things I find frustrating here. Things are a bit better at the capital city in Kuala Lumpur though…it’s a bit easier to find something small doing, but I can tell you, it is not going to pay tuition. Maybe it can supplement upkeep, but that’s it. The taught programme is quite intensive and stressful, and it is almost impossible to work during the session while on a taught programme. Things are a bit better for research students; there are some scholarships and university-based funding or grants that they can take advantage of if they have necessary information.
Did your family settle in easily upon arrival in Malaysia?
I think relatively, yes. Much because I have lived here for over 4 years and so, it’s not a completely unfamiliar terrain when they came. In addition to that, we are Christians, so, having a church family made it easy to settle down and to integrate quickly. Our kids became active in the worship team and two of them also went into high school almost as soon as they arrived. All that helped them to make new friends and settle in quickly. What was a bit difficult was food. That is always the problem for most Africans. For my family, the big trouble was the sugared soups and too much sugar in everything. That was really hard…it still is for me, even after 6 years. But then, we have a strong tradition of home-cooked meals, so, we cook using what we can find locally and some of the home stuff my family brought with them. They gradually settled down to find what they can manage after trying out several menus. I think now, they are completely adjusted and they’re already more Malaysian than I am in terms of food (lol). I am a poor adjuster, but I have survived, and we are surviving.
Did your children attend local schools and would you recommend any?
Yes, and No. Yes, because the school is owned by a local. No because it is English-speaking, runs the British curriculum and the final examination is the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) which is an international O’ Level certificate tenable in any part of the world. With the IGCSE, kids can go directly for any of Diploma, A’ Level, or university Foundation programmes in any country. My son attended one year of high school when he came and wrote the IGCSE. He is currently in his first year of university foundation. My last daughter is still studying in the same school. I will gladly recommend the school to anyone. It is called 100 Lambs School and is located at Taman Pelangi in Johor Bahru. There is an elementary school and high school. Student performance including IGCSE results is excellent, up to 98% pass and the school produced the overall world best in mathematics and business in IGCSE 2017. Moral, extra- and co-curricula instructions are also big on the curriculum. There is hostel facility which is also available to very young kids. The school as well as the hostel runs Monday to Friday and kids have to go spend the weekend at home with their parents. So, the idea of abandoning kids in the hostel doesn’t work there. You have to be on ground or get a guardian. Apart from this, there are many international high schools where students from abroad can get visa to study. They are a bit more expensive though.
How have you been able to balance work and raising a family?
I should give the credit for that to my husband. When you have a partner who believes in you, things are a lot easier. I didn’t work for the first 9 years of our marriage, I did some entrepreneurial development, writing, studying, and had all my kids too. I took up paid employment when my last child was 4 years. So, we work together and fill in the gap for each other whenever necessary. I took care of the kids when I wasn’t working and he did when I was studying. I won’t say it was very easy combining both, but it can be done. It was not easy at all, especially when the kids are very young and completely dependent. It is challenging because both are full-time jobs, it takes courage, sacrifice, and determination. Above all, it takes an understanding partner. It is easier now than it was in previous years. As the kids grow and become independent, your most difficult tasks gradually get done. So, it’s not easy but not impossible.
What have been your greatest challenge raising a family here in Malaysia?
A few things are quite expensive here. Among them is education and accommodation. Both are key factors for raising a family here. Kids go to school, and they have to pay tuition as international students; you have to pay rent and provide for upkeep. The same must be maintained for the family too. That’s really challenging. The issue of societal vices is also there, there are many things that they were encountering for the first time here; they had close colleagues who are kids from highly dysfunctional homes, young kids with suicide tendencies or gender identity issues, etc. Some of those were not public knowledge materials in our society back home. In addition, home settings here are quite different and sometimes, children have questions on why certain things are the way they are, or why certain values are not important for their colleagues. The most important thing here is to provide a foundation on which children can build as they grow up. ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it’. That has been a very important part of our family tradition. Finally, we make it a point of duty to be flexible, to continue learning, to be open-minded, and to be their friends. That is a key part of success in raising a family here or anywhere for that matter. So, the biggest challenge is to be non-judgmental of others while trying our best to show our children the right path as inspired by our faith and values.
What can you say are your greatest accomplishments since you first came here?
Oh, I guess I got the highest possible academic degree here (lol). There are several personal, family and career achievements too. My first two kids are studying as undergraduates here and the last is in high school. That, I guess is among the greatest accomplishments for me. If networks count as accomplishments, I guess I can also say I have developed some great friendships and networks here as well.
We are living in an age where social capital counts as wealth and achievement
I think I can confidently say that apart from my academic or family achievements, great friendships and networks are among some of the good experiences I’ve had. I have learnt a lot too. I am working on some novels and I have plans to document some of those lessons in them. So, you can be on the lookout (lol).
What’s the best advice you would give to African parents raising teenagers in Malaysia?
It is a different environment here. The culture is completely different. It is better to be prepared for that. It will also help to understand that there are things in other cultures that are good, we should emulate and learn from such. There are also some fantastic aspects of our own culture that must continue to be upheld. Help your children to find and maintain the balance. Let them understand why certain things are not acceptable and why some are. Teach them to be proud to be who they are. They need that understanding and confidence to face life. Teen challenges here are many…and some of those teens with serious issues are the friends and colleagues they will meet daily. We may have different issues to deal with, but we need to help our children see where to draw the lines and what to believe and what not to believe. We need to be friends with them, and with their friends. We should learn to show interest in who they hang out with without being nosey.
What are your future plans as far as living in this South East Asian country is concerned?
There are not many opportunities for foreigners here. So, it is hard to make any long-term plans. I guess I can only say I am here till the end of my contract, then, we will see what is in store for us or where God will take us next. I am considering returning to the classroom after this short stint at full-time research, so, if the door opens, I will consider lecturing. I am an entrepreneur at heart, and I may also be thinking about business in the nearest future.
Any other Useful Information you’d like to share?
Some great opportunities are available for ‘permanent residents’ in Malaysia for those who are interested or qualified.
There is the Malaysian My Second Home (MM2H) programme targeted at retirees (no room for paid employment but can start business) and the Residence Pass-Talent (RP-T) programmes. Both offer 10-year, renewable multiple-entry visas to those who can meet the conditions.
There is also the Malaysia Tech Entrepreneur Programme (MTEP) for technology-oriented start-up entrepreneurs which I mentioned earlier. More information can be accessed at the link Malaysia Tech Entrepreneur Programme
NB: RCCG* = Redeemed Christian Church of God; one of the largest Christian assemblies in Nigeria
I have a strong believe in networks, and as a life principle, I believe anything is possible if you have faith.