Home / Op-Ed / Fighting for international students lifts us all up

Fighting for international students lifts us all up

author: jermain mckenzie – ursu president 

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The following is a editorial from the University of Regina Student’s Union’s President, Jermain Mckenzie, regarding the upcoming Day of Action to bring awareness to the rising cost of student debt across Canada. Mckenzie and the Carillon encourage students to participate in the Nov. 2 event. 

On Nov. 2, 2016, students across Canada will take various actions to draw attention to the fact that our current post secondary educational system, which operates from annually increasing tuition, does not bode well for the creation of a fairer and more just society.

Students have been suffering in silence for far too long and the harmful consequences are starting to show themselves across universities in Canada. Mental health issues have now become an epidemic across Canadian universities. The fix to the epidemic of hopelessness and indebtedness that are the underlying factors for the mental health issues is not to hire a new counselor or two. The solution requires a complete rethinking of our educational system and the purpose of a university education for the economic, social and political health of our democratic society.

Our call for free tuition is one that will help us all, not just this generation but the ones to come. A tuition free education removes the greatest barrier to social and economic advancement for those families that have been trapped in the cycle of poverty and precarious living for generations.

I came here for the same reasons that your parents, grandparents and great grandparents came here. We all came with the hope of contributing to the improvement of our lives while making Canada a better place to live for all.

The role of a post-secondary education in creating an environment that is built on justice and equality for all is undeniable. Our call is also in solidarity with our First

Nations brothers and sisters, whose call for justice and equality within our society has been falling on deaf hears for far too long. Removing the tuition from education will give more members of the community the ability to learn the knowledge and

On Nov. 2, I’ll be marching, as an international student, alongside local students, to fight for universal access to education- here is why you should too. The

Fight the Fees campaigns of the Canadian Federation of Students recognizes that the challenges we are faced with everyday are connected to larger problems that need big-scale solutions instead of the patchwork we are seeing now.

Tuition fees in Saskatchewan are the highest in Western Canada. Saskatchewan’s unenviable position of being the most expensive place to study in Western Canada is unacceptable, especially if this province is to see growth occurring outside of the resource sector, and a reduction in the negative indicators of crime. We must demand that instead of the current system that places students from lower income families into debt for pursuing a post-secondary education, that we invest in our students in order to have a future where more students can graduate and become meaningful contributors to the economy instead of having to worry about paying off debt in a very precarious work environment.

The current post-secondary system is tenuously funded from the differential fees charged to international students, which sees them paying three times the amount in tuition charged to domestic students. Many of these students are from working class families in developing countries and are simply trying to find a better life for themselves and their families. These students are committed to staying and contributing to Canada after their academic studies are completed. However, they live in fear from one semester to the next of not knowing how they and their families will be able to afford the yearly increases in tuition fees.

Looking at the American post-secondary system and we see an ominous warning of where we are heading with student debt fast outpacing all other forms of debt. Students should not have to start their adult lives with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, simply because they decided to get a higher education and to become highly productive members of the society.

We need a new deal from our government, a deal that will treat education as a right and not as the privilege of those who can afford it. We want a system that truly allows for children to flourish and look at the future in hope. We refuse the status quo where we see so many of our young people look at the future in despair and develop all forms of mental health issues from being denied the access to the education that is so intricately tied to their long term success and quality of life. So as the President of the Students’ Union at the University of Regina, I call on all students – domestic and international – to gather at Victoria Park at 3 p.m. to march to the Saskatchewan legislature. We want to send a loud and clear message to our policy-makers both at the provincial and federal level that we want education to be truly accessible, and the only way to fully guarantee that is by removing tuition for ALL Students.

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