Covid-19 and the murder of George Floyd by a serving policeman in the United States, further exposed the consequences of systemic/structural injustice rooted in socio-cultural, political and economic hierarchies and the disproportionate impact of these ‘hierarchies’ on structurally disadvantaged groups/constituencies. There is overwhelming consensus underpinned by research, that BAME communities including migrants faired worse in the pandemic not due to their collective recklessness or some natural deficiencies, rather, their precarious outcomes found root in routine structural vulnerability and structural ‘neglect’ that precede the pandemic.
As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, the pursuit in solidarity of lasting equal recovery necessitates our collective authenticity in examining the Faultline of structural inequalities and socio-cultural and economic ‘hierarchies’ and the precarious consequences on structurally disadvantaged and minoritized communities. Such honest pursuit would help engineer equal resilience for future pandemics and wider systemic transformational change.
Using the context of Covid-19, this blog captures a collaborative project by Migrant Action and University of Leeds to highlight the impact of structural vulnerability on international students. It articulates systemic and transformational change towards ensuring equal recovery from the pandemic and equity of resilience to ongoing and future ‘emergencies.
Read full blog below written by Evie Mendoza (Project team)
Our project surrounds the question of the impact of Covid-19 on international students. International students, from undergraduate to PhD level, were significantly affected by lockdown restrictions in society, and specifically at the University. Many of these students may have moved to the UK just as the country was locking down, and they may have found themselves living in an unfamiliar area, with few support networks. Due to the nature of online teaching, many international students (like home students) will not have met their lecturers or peers and may have faced increased struggles to access materials and academic support. They may also have been uncertain about how to access wellbeing and mental health support, being far away from home and loved ones.
This project sets out to examine, understand and raise awareness of the issues that these students have faced and continue to face due to the pandemic both in the University and beyond. Our primary aims are to raise awareness of these challenges, set up a platform to amplify their voices, strengthen dialogue between home and international students, and drive structural change at the University as we uncover areas in need of improvement. Within this project, we will be using an online survey and online focus group.
The survey will have 10 questions, investigating the overall impact of covid 19. The survey will ask more specific questions than the focus group so that we can find out the impact of covid on mental health, social relationships and academic life. We will also ask about whether they have accessed support systems, like societies, to uncover whether the university support has been effective and easily accessible. The focus groups will allow for a more personal insight into their experiences. We hope to hold one online focus group with five international student ambassadors at the university. We picked 5 student ambassadors for this method because their role involves being the voice of many students, so it will hopefully allow our research to be more representative and to help to prevent one of the biggest challenges of focus groups – that some participants might be reluctant to speak. These will be held on zoom and the emphasis will be on maintaining neutrality through open-ended + primarily exploratory research questions.
While considering our outputs, it was important to us to make sure the findings of this research project are presented in a way that is impactful and long-lasting. We realise social and structural change is not an overnight task. However, we believe our research can lay the foundations for such change to take place overtime. We hope to showcase our findings through various visual and written methods: using art and poetry submissions from international students; the setting up of a social media account and an electronic art magazine.
We have already set up an Instagram account @vois.Leeds in order to share our findings and connect people online to our other outputs and useful resources. In an era where technology dominates daily life, we agreed that social media would be a good way for our audiences to engage with our research.
We also aim to create a ‘zine’, a small magazine, which will feature these works of art and poetry created by international students. Historically zines have been used by marginalised voices to share stories and document experience