Picture above shows International students trying to leave Ukraine. Photo from FT
We have another crisis on our hands. As we just come out of the horror that was and still is covid, we are now trying to understand WHY there is war and a humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine. It is just so heartbreaking to see Ukrainians who have been living their lives peacefully fleeing their much loved country.
Like in 2020, when we were in the first lockdown, I have found myself binge listening to the news and feeling increasingly worried and overwhelmed. From Twitter and various social media sites, I found out from the BBC News Website that their are as many as 76,000 foreign Students who attend University in Ukraine studying Medicine, Engineering and Business and are from Various Countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Nearly a quarter of the students come from Africa with the largest numbers coming from Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt and nearly 20,000 from India. The attraction for these students are a high standard of education, cheap tuition fees, reasonable cost of living, easy visa terms and the possibility of permanent residency. A Ukrainian degree is also recognised throughout the world and are taught in English.
These students are an important part of Ukraine's economy. Some of these students are still trapped and don't know what will happen with their education. One student on Twitter mentioned that he and his fellow students were told by their Universities that this was just a drill by Russia and to continue lectures online and hence did not leave Ukraine in time. We now know that this was not the case and thousands of students have experienced shocking journeys and racism whilst trying to flee.
I have followed the journeys to safety of a few, which they have been documented on Social Media and have found myself having a variety of feelings - Shock, Anger, hurt, fear and wonder. Why in 2022 would students who have nothing to do with the war and are just trying to flee to safety be subjected hostility, racism and anti-blackness because of the colour of their skin? I am still trying to process this and am finding it very difficult. NBC, has highlighted the plight of these students and it makes for harrowing reading. One medical student - @korrinesky has tweeted her experiences as she tried to flee Ukraine to Poland and it has been heart breaking reading. This tweet shows how they (she had been travelling with a group of fellow African Medical Students) were treated by locals. Another Student @nzekiev has also tweeted his experiences. One tweet showed how they were threatened at gun point, how one student had his leg broken and @Nzekiev's interview for sky news. @nzekiev also tweeted about other African students not being allowed on a train. We also heard that a forth year Indian Medical Student, lost his life on Monday after going in search for food. There are many more harrowing stories here and here
The media reporting has also shown explicit bias in reporting and have not reported on the racism that these students are facing. One report during the week was riddled with bias and racist language. An article in The Guardian Newspaper talks about it more. And there are many more stories on social media. In life, everyday and in war - EVERYONE is important and their lives matter. There should be NO Hierarchy. Racism, Anti-Blackness should not be around in the world, in Eastern Europe ever and not in 2022. It is important that the world can hear the voices and see the treatment of these innocent Students, being treated in such an awful manner simply because of the colour of their skin.
As Allies, we need to take action, I need you to take action. It is important that you are aware of what is happening in the world and the injustices and racism that these Black and Brown students are facing. Whilst @nzekieve and @korrinsky are now safe in Poland, there are many more students still trying to flee. In Sumy, there are students who have no way of escaping and we are all praying for a humanitarian seize power so the UN can go in to rescue them.
What you can do NOW:
Use your platform to create change - be aware of what is going on and highlight the plight of these students to the government, the European Union, the UN, journalists, presidents, anyone who has the power to highlight their plight and rescue them.
Donate these students are desperate. They need help and when they reach the border they need transport, hotel, money and a flight home.
Understand why Black and Brown lives Matter.
Attend an Allyship session and the new workshop - The impact of Racism on Mental health we are offering. Racism has a huge impact on the mental health of an individual.
Sign a petition to get the Sumy Students out- lets keep up the pressure and momentum.
Remember, there are other international students still in Ukraine and surrounding countries who are desperate for help.
I am sitting at home, in a safe country and I feel that my mental health has been impacted heavily but let's look at the International students and Ukranians whose lives have been heavily impacted by the conflict. We all need to ensure we use our platforms to create change, highlight inequality and make an impact.