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Ukrainian students in Toronto seek support during the war

Mar 9, 2022 | News, Featured

Kateryna Bandura, New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

Russia’s war against Ukraine forced students of Ukrainian descent in Toronto to deal with the mental toll of the war while doing their schoolwork. Many have faced difficulties getting extensions as they were trying to reach out to families back in Ukraine. But some professors have been relentless in granting extra time for schoolwork completion.

“The University of Toronto has many supportive staff and faculty, but the message should be consistent. Students dealing with war back home should not have to beg for an extension,” said the Ukrainian Student’s Club at the University of Toronto on their Instagram page last week.

The Club posted on their social media that their member, who is struggling to reach family members in Kyiv, could not get an extension on university work. According to them, a professor refused to consider the exceptional circumstances.

“We need to be consistent, transparent and fair to all students,” said the email from the professor to the student. “As you may know, there are other armed conflicts and humanitarian catastrophes all over the world which directly impact students and their families.”

“If we grant an extension to students because of the situation in Ukraine, we have to consider other students,” the email said. According to U of T course policy, extensions should not pass more than two days if granted.

U of T Ukrainian Student’s Club called the situation “absurd”, saying that nobody should have to prioritize writing a school assignment over arranging asylum for their family.

“There is no dignity in having to beg for an extension during war,” the Club said. “It’s upsetting this even has to be said, but course policy should not trump human lives.”

Since the issue has been brought up to the political science department at the University of Toronto, the professor agreed on a seven-day extension. But the Club representatives think that had the extension been given graciously, this would be a different story.

“The explicit disinterest of the instructors indicates a deeper problem of prioritizing course policy over compassion,” they said.

University of Toronto students are not the only ones who face similar difficulties at their institutions.

Ukrainian students at Humber College voiced their concerns about difficulties completing their coursework on time during a Zoom meeting on March 2.

“Some students may not have the capacity to complete work by a set deadline,” said a student during the meeting.

The meeting was held by Ukrainian Students Club Humber, IGNITE Student Union, and Humber College representatives. During the meeting, the students discussed mental health support, tuition fees and payment, finances, housing and immigration, and additional concerns for the cultural safety and well-being of other students affected by the war.

In response, Humber College supported the Club’s request to send out a letter requesting teaching faculty to respect the possibility that accommodations might be required to support students. Whether extensions will be grated remains unknown.

Another critical issue students faced was tuition fees; they asked Humber College to lower their tuition to that of domestic students.

“We, international Ukrainian students, are put in a position where we are not sure we can pay for tuition next semester, and we are not sure we will have the resources to live,” said the president of the Ukrainian Students Club at Humber Kebrija Leeks-Kottick in a petition to lower international tuition for Ukrainian students and students affected by the war. The Club identified 183 students from Ukraine that would be impacted by sanctions and banking decisions stemming from Ukrainian government websites being offline.

“We need action now and we need to show universities and colleges that Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians NEED international tuition lowered during this time of turmoil to ensure students can take a well-deserved breath!” she said.

Although the next tuition payment is not until May 22, Humber College froze the electronic payment process to ensure students get extra time to pay their tuition. Many logistics would need to be worked out, and Humber College said they had not yet decided on possible options but would be doing so soon.

After the meeting, Humber College and IGNITE put together a list of resources that would provide services for mental health support, housing & immigration, and other areas of concern. These are available at https://international.humber.ca/support-for-ukrainian-students.html.

For more resources, visit the Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union (SUSK) at www.susk.ca.

This article is written under the Local Journalism Initiative agreement

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