Chris Busch, centre, speaks during a panel discussion on the issue of international students at post secondary institutions at the University of Windsor, Thursday, January 23, 2020. Dax Melmer / Windsor Star
The number of international students attending St. Clair College jumped from 500 to 6,900 students in three years.
“Canada is in such huge demand right now both as a country and as an educational system,” Ron Seguin, the college’s vice president of international relations, campus development and student services, said Thursday.
The growing number of international students — they represent about 3.3 per cent of the Windsor-Essex population — was part of the discussion Thursday when the Building Migrant Resilience in Cities Windsor City Network held a forum at the University of Windsor. The forum talked about helping international students while they are studying here and to find employment and permanent residence.
Like the University of Windsor, the college is getting most of its international students from China and India.
The students are coming to Canada for an education because of an expedited Visa process in India, Seguin said, and graduates of a two-year college program or longer are automatically eligible for a three-year post graduate work permit in Canada which is driving the boost from China.
“For us it’s a new phenomenon,” Seguin said.
The 6,900 international students from 55 countries at St. Clair College attend the two campuses in Windsor along with programs offered in Chatham and Toronto, he said after the forum. Most are taking business and information technology courses.
“It’s a huge economic impact,” Seguin said. “Most important, it brings diversity and the world economy to St. Clair and kids who graduate today are entering a world economy.”
Chris Busch, the University of Windsor’s acting associate vice-president of enrolment management, said there are more than 4,000 international students at the university. The growth there has been in the graduate programs and has increased from a few hundred to a few thousand international students in the last decade, Busch said.
Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada, said Thursday’s forum was part of a research project of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada on how to build resilient cities.
“It’s really important for the future of Canada that we continue to increase the number of international students and that they have positive experiences and contribute to the Canadian economy and Canadian society,” Davidson said.
International students — there are about 500,000 across Canada — contribute about $22 billion to the economy, he said.
It’s a myth that they displace Canadian students. The extra students allow courses and universities to grow, Davidson said.
Plus, Canada has an aging population and needs to grow by adding immigrants, he said.
Wesam AbdElhamid Mohamed, a Western University student from Egypt, said it seems like there is no monitoring or plans to deal with the growth. “The main issue is looking at students as numbers not lives,” he said during a discussion on recruitment.
Francine Schlosser, the academic director of the Building Migrant Resilience in Cities Windsor City Network and a University of Windsor professor, said international students need more help dealing with issues such as loneliness, financial hardships and finding work so they can stay in Canada. More than half of the Express Entry immigrants to Canada are international students, she said.
After graduating, he specialised in user interface design – that is, making computer systems more user-friendly.
He worked for a number of major tech firms during his long career. He started at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (Parc), before Steve Jobs poached him for Apple, where he spent 17 years and rose to chief scientist.
After leaving Apple he set up an education start-up, and worked for brief periods at Amazon and Yahoo.
In 2012, he told the BBC of Silicon Valley: “There’s almost a rite of passage – after you’ve made some money, you don’t just retire, you spend your time funding other companies.
“There’s a very strong element of excitement, of being able to share what you’ve learned with the next generation.”
‘A counterculture vision’
Possibly Mr Tesler’s most famous innovation, the cut and paste command, was reportedly based on the old method of editing in which people would physically cut portions of printed text and glue them elsewhere.
The command was incorporated in Apple’s software on the Lisa computer in 1983, and the original Macintosh that was released the following year.
One of Mr Tesler’s firmest beliefs was that computer systems should stop using “modes”, which were common in software design at the time.
“Modes” allow users to switch between functions on software and apps but make computers both time-consuming and complicated.
So strong was this belief that Mr Tesler’s website was called “nomodes.com”, his Twitter handle was “@nomodes”, and even his car’s license plate was “No Modes”.
Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum said Mr Tesler “combined computer science training with a counterculture vision that computers should be for everyone”.
When Kim Thompson scrolls through Facebook or watches the news, the hot topic is the teachers’ strikes that are closing schools sporadically across the province.
She’s been walking the picket line, too.
An early childhood educator at Steve MacLean Public School, Thompson works alongside the teacher in a kindergarten class, guiding kids as they paint, play with blocks and learn their letters.
But the public doesn’t hear as much about Thompson and other school support staff who are among the education workers engaged in contract disputes.
Even the name of Thompson’s union — the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation — obscures the fact that about a third of its 60,000 members work at a wide variety of other jobs. They include office administrators, custodians, social workers, IT staff, library technicians and educational assistants who work with special-needs children.
The other three unions staging job actions have fewer support staff members. Overall about 12 per cent of education workers involved in the current disputes are not teachers.
Thompson says it irks her to read snarky Facebook comments about well-paid teachers on strike.
“They don’t know it’s not just teachers, and it’s really frustrating sometimes.”
Support staff like Thompson typically earn half the salary of a teacher, and are laid off in the summer.
Across Ontario, the average salary for OSSTF support staff, excluding professionals such as psychologists, is $38,415, according to the union. OSSTF professional staff, including psychologists and speech and language pathologists, earn an average of $75,892.
Teachers in Ontario earned an average of $86,689 in 2017, according to the education ministry.
Thompson and other support staff interviewed on the picket lines say they are concerned about the same issues cited by teachers: The want more support for kids with high needs and action on violence in the classroom. They oppose larger classes and mandatory online courses for high schoolers. They want full-day kindergarten preserved.
But most also said wages are a key issue and they deserve a raise that allows their salaries to keep pace with inflation.
The government has offered all education workers a one-per-cent increase, in line with the wage-restraint legislation passed last fall for public servants.
Unions are asking for a raise equal to the increase in the cost of living — around two per cent.
“I love my job, and I’m not doing it for the money,” says Thompson. “But yes, I would like (a raise), there is no doubt about it.
“My rent is going up and I have to find the money for it somewhere. The cost of food doesn’t get any cheaper. Cost of living is not an unreasonable request.”
“I consider my work valuable,” she says.
Thompson says support staff are deeply concerned about the quality of public education declining.
“I know parents want the best for their kids, and we do, too. Educators, regardless of their position, cannot give quality when all they are doing is managing numbers and special needs. So for that reason, if no other, that’s why I’m on strike.”
School administrator Rachelle Ferron, who works in an Ottawa French Catholic school, snorts when asked what she thinks about a one-per-cent raise.
“So that’s ridiculous,” she says. After deductions, Ferron says she takes home about $1,000 every two weeks. She can’t immediately locate the pay stub to find the exact amount. “I never look at my pay because it’s too discouraging.
“For the secretaries, the Number One issue is keeping our salary and benefits,” says Ferron.
Ferron says her colleagues at Sainte-Geneviève elementary school on Arch Street are terrific, the principal is awesome and she adores the kids. “I love it here! I love the kids and I love working in a school.”
But her expenses rise faster than her pay. “It just seems like my pay cheque is getting smaller and smaller.”
The support staff who are part of the OSSTF unit for the Conseil des Écoles Catholiques du Centre-Est earn an average of $38,000, says unit president Marie-Claude Thibeault.
Many of her members are educational assistants who help children with disabilities, mental health and behavioural problems. When a student who has difficulties gets a high school diploma, “that’s like a salary for us,” she says.
Support staff also worry about students “sitting alone in front of a computer trying to do an e-course,” or struggling in crowded classrooms where they don’t get the help they need, she says.
“We love the students. For us, this is our priority. We want them to be happy at school, to be safe at school.
“Our education system is the best in the world. Our students deserve better than what will be arriving soon.”
Thibeault worked in a school office before she took the union job. She too loves working with kids.
“You know when they arrive at school, and see madame the secretary, and smile at you and say, ‘Hello, how are you?’ That is so nice.”
The educational assistants are on the front lines dealing with the increase in violence in classrooms, says Thibeault.
“My people face violence every day in school. A lot of them they wake up and think ‘I don’t know if today I will be hit, be bitten.’ The teachers face violence, too, but my workers are on the front line and it’s not very good for them.”
Several educational assistants at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board who work with children who have autism or have severe behaviour problems said they feel underpaid for the difficult job. None wanted their name used because they wanted to protect the identity of the children and also fear reprisal for speaking out.
One has a permanent back injury suffered while restraining a violent teenager who was attacking another student.
After more than 20 years on the job, the person’s salary is $47,000.
“How can you live on that? Nobody else wants the job. But I really like working with the kids. It’s my life. And I’m really good at it.
“And the parents are behind us. They know it’s an impossible job.”
Another said educational assistants feel “dismissed and devalued.”
It’s tough hearing Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce repeatedly talking about high school teachers who earn $92,000, says the assistant.
“He will never mention us. Never. His narrative is the greedy teachers.”
Some OSSTF member wages at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board
Library Technician: $32,500 to $41,600 for 10 to 10.5 months of work
Speech language pathologist (Masters level): $61,568 to $78,675 a year
Social worker: (Masters level): $69,669 to $80,155 a year
Educational assistant: From $23.67 to a maximum of $30.30 a hour with seven years’ experience. They work for 10 months and are laid off in the summer.
Early childhood educator: From $19.58 to a maximum of $27.74 an hour with five years’ experience. They work for 10 months and are laid off in the summer.
Office administrator at secondary schools: $47,000 to $61,000 a year with seven years’ experience for those who work year-round
Office administrator at elementary schools and board departments: $39,000 to $50,800 with seven years’ experience for those who work 10 months a year
School office assistant: $28,300 to $35,800 with seven years’ experience for those who work 10 months a year
Custodian: From $35,949 a year for a beginning “floater” to $61,995 for a chief custodian at a secondary school. For part-timers, pay is pro-rated to $35,949 a year, while casual staff earn $14 an hour, the minimum wage in Ontario.
In a northern state in India, known as Uttar Pradesh, a woman named Meena has just met her newborn child. She is joyful while breastfeeding in the crucial hours after giving birth to a healthy little one. She gave birth with help from the Sure Start program, which helps mothers give birth in clinics, assisted by a birth attendant and with the right equipment.
Now, consider yourself going to congratulate her on the good news. By joining, chances are you’ll share in her state of elation, as most couples cry at delivery from tears of joy. But, if the scene doesn’t already pull at your heartstrings, this might: Imagine Meena asks you to take her newborn child with you. Not only her newborn, but her other little one as well.
Meena faces an uncertain future, in an impoverished area in India, without the means to secure education for her children and without assurance they will be okay with her as their mother. Meena herself hasn’t heard about family planning services or accessing contraceptives until now. “It’s too late for me,” she says.
Ultimately, Meena’s hopes for a brighter future for her babies lie uncertain and too difficult to bear. Make no mistake—Meena is a mother in search of help for her family.
As a result of cultural biases, child marriages, and impoverished conditions, girls as young as 9 years of age are married and face pregnancy in their teenage years in countries like Niger and Senegal. When they are married off, the promises of education fall to the curb and early motherhood often becomes their destiny.
Young mothers lacking an education, studies show, are less able to avoid poverty, avoid premature illness or death, or keep their families healthy. Families thrive less—and the world is a less healthy place—when young mothers continue to have child after child, often without knowing the means by which they might survive. A cycle of poverty and hardship can ensue.
How can we help mothers like Meena? Through family planning services—at least, by one measure.
The definition of family planning (in part by the Kaiser Family Foundation) is: the ability of individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of births through use of modern contraception. As defined by the United Nations Population Fund, abortion is not viewed as a component of family planning.
What Are We Doing to Provide Family Planning to Those Who Need It?
The FP2020 program states that, in line with country strategies to deliver family planning services, 10 dimensions of family planning are supported, including but not limited to: accessibility, acceptability, quality, empowerment, and voice and participation.
If enacted, the program’s vision could help break biases and rebuild perspective on the value of girls and women in society. But what is certain is the impact of family planning services and education goes far. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, one-third of global maternal deaths—roughly 100,000 deaths—could be prevented annually, “if women who did not wish to become pregnant had access to and used effective contraception.” FP2020 has helped guide national governments in many countries to deliver such efforts.
FP2020 Country Examples
According to the World Bank and Jhpiego, respectively, Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in South Asia at 638 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births; Afghanistan aims to achieve 30 percent modern contraceptive prevalence among married women by 2020 under FP2020. It is unclear whether Afghanistan has met its 2020 targets yet since joining FP2020 in 2016.
Niger, located in central Africa, has had an uptake of 350,000 additional women using contraceptives since joining FP2020 in 2012, with 760,000 women now reporting use; however, a 21 percent unmet need remains in Niger today even with the efforts by FP2020.
As made evident by Afghanistan and countries like Niger, it is clear that FP2020 still has much progress to make. As of mid-2019, an estimated 214 million women worldwide still have an unmet need for modern contraception; for comparison, the size of this unreached population equates to roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population. FP2020 workshops in Asia and Africa this year, in part, will reveal newer country-led strategies aimed to reach 120 million in uptake of modern contraceptives by women and girls by 2030; more clearly, the revised strategies will strive to reach the initial 2020 goal by the 2030 deadline of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to a 2019 Devex report.
SDGs on Family Planning
SDG 3.7 says, “By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information, and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.”
In order to ensure “universal access” to family planning services by 2030, funding, planning, collaboration, and leadership will be essential by stakeholders in low and middle-income countries. What else is needed among young girls? A strong education.
SDGs on Education of Girls
SDG 4.1 says, “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.”
Currently, the United Nations for Women (UN Women) states that up to 48 percent of young girls are out of school in some regions. Education of young women is key, especially in low-income settings such as Afghanistan and Niger. Studies show that education of young women helps them to avert poverty, reduce rates of illness and death, and keep their families healthy.
In order to reach more young girls, leadership and advocacy efforts by partners such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are vital. Further, investments in education—and closing of its gender gap—by national governments and philanthropic organizations are critical.
Reaching more young girls via primary and secondary education, combined with family planning services, is akin to strengthening families all over the world—including those like Meena’s.
Consider the power of ending cultural biases, child marriages, and impoverished conditions through universal access to family planning services. Consider what it would mean to end the cycle of poverty via continued education throughout girls’ youth and teenage years. These are the tools or building blocks to lead toward a healthier and vibrant future for all.
Please note: Meena’s story is a real-life story from The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates (see reference below). It is included in this post in order to show the importance of family planning services for women and girls in impoverished settings.