1 Sep 2020
Black Students Matter: My University Experience during Lockdown
From students to parents, to grandparents, COVID-19 has hit everyone in different ways. With the #BlackLivesMatter movement resurgence during the lockdown, Black university students have been hit in a particularly unique way. There has not been much media coverage of university students and their experience during this pandemic. This piece serves as a reminder that black students matter, through sharing interviews with three black uni students and what they have to say about their experience.
Roukianicia is a 2nd-year student at Pearson College London. During COVID-19 she says ”there’s been a lot of communication with how we would move forward. We transitioned to have online lectures via our online portal. The transition was a bit difficult for me at first because before, it was more interactive in person for lectures, but online there could be slow internet connections and it wasn’t as easy to interact in real-time”, she explains.
Detailing her experience more, Roukianicia shares ”there was no information about discounts. My university library has always been online, so they said we had most facilities available, except for going into the building. They were also lenient on late work submissions during this time”.
Sharing her university’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement, Roukianicia says ”they were really good. The uni president sent an email saying she was outraged by the death of George Floyd. She organised a call for black students to express themselves and suggest what the university could do to help. The call was quite good from the feedback I got and there was a lot of understanding there.”
Delving deeper, Roukianicia says ”the issue I had was that there was no help from the government and relevant resources passed onto us for further help. Student finance didn’t help at all either. I think there should be more focus on BAME students and representation in finances. I feel like we are neglected, especially those from a low-income background, since the Maintenance Grant was removed.”
Anu graduated as a final year student at Loughborough University this year. So sadly, COVID happened in her graduation year. Describing her university experience during the lockdown, Anu says ”it was ‘confusing, whirlwind and difficult. I felt like the support I received was subpar to what I would have gotten if COVID-19 had not occurred”.
Anu’s university’s workspaces closed down, including the library. ‘’Though lots of books became available online, it is not the same as reading and scanning a physical book. As well as this, the books that weren’t online were not available to borrow via an ordering service for weeks”, she further details.
‘’They claimed they’d have email services to lecturers available but that wasn’t guaranteed. They also said that there’d be financial aid but that was only when you filled out a form that required an explanation for why you need money. Then they would choose who to grant funds to. It was all messy and not fully controlled.
I guess they tried but I feel like they could have done better. There were no discounts whatsoever. We were left to the wolves essentially”, says Anu.
“Also during this time, I was also dealing with the Black Lives Matter movement with my fellow black counterparts. So I was overwhelmed throughout my final year experience.”
Gina is a Nigerian International Student graduate at Greenwich University. She was completing her Master’s during the pandemic.
Detailing the help Greenwich University provided students with, Gina shares ”they really did try. They refunded accommodation fees for the last term of the year. Although there were no refunds for those off-campus or any refunds for school fees”.
Sharing what the transition from in-person to online lectures was like, Gina says ”the online learning system was good and the tutors were very responsive to emails to tackle any issues. We used zoom links and had discussion groups. The library service transitioned to ordering pickups from student unions or delivery to the accommodation”.
Detailing what more she would like to see done, Gina says ”I think they should look into the academic year of 2019-2020. A lot of university students, not my uni, but others have found difficulty with online study. International students have spent so much money to get here. And we have had limited work experience because COVID changed everything. It would be great if they could look into extending international student’s stay to give us more time in order to experience such things”, she explains.
It seems that through these three accounts, although some universities have tried, the general scope is that more could be done for financial support. University is a big investment with an expectation to receive a valuable and fair education.
Here are some further resources to help better guide university students in this current unpredictable COVID19 climate:
Written By: Maxine Harrison – Maxine is a freelance writer and founder of the Remi Reports blog – a blog helping freelance creatives build their business and lifestyle. She has published pieces in The Independent and The Voice Newspaper.
Illustration By: PAIGE VICKERS