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  • Shivam Sadana

CFS hosts International Student Forum at CBU

The Nova Scotian branch of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS-NS) organised an event last Friday titled ‘Fairness for International Students’; the event aimed to provide a platform for international students to share their problems with the federation. These forums are being organised all over the country, and it was the first time CFS held an event of this nature at CBU.

The students who attended the event seemed comfortable sharing their stories within those gathered. Sarah Trower and Grant MacNeil, Maritime Organisers with CFS, offered support to students as they discussed various problems international students face in the course of their studies. The most frequently mentioned issues revolved around housing, differential fees, and the scarcity of part-time jobs.

We also had a chance to talk to Sophia Descalzi, who is set to take over as Chairperson of the CFS in the coming months. She told us that “we organised the seminar just to make the International Students aware of their rights, and to get them together so that we can discuss problems regarding education, healthcare and work during their stay in CBU. These forums are organised at various places in Canada like Manitoba, Newfoundland and now in Sydney. These forums connect us to the International Students who may not be able to share their problems with others on the campus but here they are free to do that, so that we can guide them what their next steps can be.”

Included in a booklet handed out during the session was information about challenges faced by International Students in Canada; it reads “International Students pay a high differential tuition fees that is unregulated by the Government. Some institutions increase the tuition fees for international students as much as 35% percent in a single year. International students are seen as cash cows for a starved system, instead of students with valuable experiences who enrich their campuses and communities.”

A student, who preferred not to be named, offered that “we do not want the university to do a lot for us immediately, they can start by not charging us the interest on the fees if the students are not able to submit it on time. We just want the University to cooperate with us in financial matters.”

Some reference to the teacher-student ratio was also made, with students noting that some classes have more than 100 students. CBU has traditionally highlighted the small teacher-student ratio as part of their recruitment efforts.

The booklet further mentions that “International Students pay for costly private health insurance to receive healthcare that is a public service for all other students studying in Canada. Such plans are costly and provide limited coverage that is not universally accepted by physicians, hospitals and clinics.”

Another student told the Caper Times that “10 people are sharing a single bathroom. There is nowhere we can find work. Living conditions are deteriorating, just because of this I even refused my cousin to come here.”

Grant and Sarah instructed the student on the ‘campaigns cycle,’ wherein students can take action to address what they might perceive as an injustice. The three pillars of campaign cycle are: educate, agitate and organize. First, the students must educate themselves by virtue of events like class discussions, presentations, and social events. The next step in the cycle is the process of agitation, which can be achieved through assemblies, department meetings, petition signings etc. Once the students have completed the first two steps, according to the presentation, they are ready to organize. Organized events include walk-outs, rallies, sit-ins, and townhall meetings.

The organisers of the forum indicated that they would return at some point in the summer in order to continue the discussions begun on Friday. It is their hope to see some improvement in the life of International Students during their stay in Cape Breton.

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