“Afghan refugees have experienced trauma and upheaval unimaginable to most of us, and that includes an interruption to their studies,” said Western registrar Glen Tigert. “As part of an international community, Western considers it both a privilege and a responsibility to help them rebuild their lives.”
Western is also committing to fund two Afghan scholars through the Scholars at Risk network, and through the Scholar Rescue Fund – international organizations that work to offer a safe environment, support and financial assistance for academics facing persecution or threats to their lives in their home countries.
“We have a responsibility as global citizens to create opportunities for access to education and research, and to respond in times of dire need,” said Lise Laporte, senior director of Western International.
Canada is welcoming 20,000 Afghan refugees who fled their homeland as Islamist Taliban militants expanded their hold throughout Afghanistan in recent weeks.
Some individuals and families have already arrived in Canada and are receiving resettlement supports, while others are temporarily staying in so-called ‘lily-pad’ countries while awaiting flights here.
Western is committed to a suite of supports for Afghan students who arrive here and is modelling its aid partly on lessons learned during and after extending scholarships in 2016 to students fleeing conflict in Syria.
“Many of these students experienced trauma, displacement, loss of family supports, loss of connection,” said Tigert. “Some needed English supports, some took a partial course-load. It was important that Western provide additional resources and accommodation to support them.”
For Afghan students, Tigert said, Western will bring together teams from Western International, Student Experience, Admissions and various faculty units who can provide “holistic, wrap-around aid” ranging from housing to mental health, social, language, financial and academic support.
The scholarship review subcommittee of Western’s senate committee on academic policy and awards (SCAPA) approved the awards earlier this month.
For incoming scholars, support will include a commitment of salary plus housing through Western accommodations. Partners in the effort include Western International, Western’s faculty association (UWOFA), and the faculty or unit where the scholar is placed.
Bob Gough, Western’s director of international internships and development, said the scholars and their families would also be connected with London Cross Cultural Learner Centre, which provides newcomers with resettlement support such as language, school and health access.