CSU executives will soon implement childcare services and accomodations.
“We want people to realize that some students have different experiences and realities that they have to deal with. Our goal is to make sure that [student parents] are as successful as possible in their education,” said Mikaela Clark-Gardner, the Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) academic and advocacy coordinator at a council meeting on Sept. 19.
At the meeting, Clark-Gardner sought council approval for a year-long project to help student parents during their time at Concordia. In the motion, Clark-Gardner said the CSU will call on the federal and provincial governments to improve access to education for student parents through a variety of services and accomodations. Some of their requests include recognizing part-time student parents as full-time, providing bursaries, funding childcare services and family residences on campuses, and offering academic accommodations for having missed a class or exam due to parental obligations.
According to a 2011 North American survey by the Concordia University Student Parents Centre (CUSP), 27 per cent of student parents are single parents, 90 per cent of whom are women. Furthermore, the majority of them have one or two children, most of whom are at the daycare or elementary level. The average age of these parents is 39.
The CSU’s Loyola Coordinator, Alexis G. Searcy, emphasized the importance of obtaining more data on the statistics of student parents at Concordia. “We need a lot [more] research into demographics,” she said.
Searcy, who is also coordinating the project, said that loneliness is a big issue among student parents. Due to parental responsibilities, many of them have difficulty attending social events and spending time with friends.
Clark-Gardner said the majority of the surveyed parents are international students, and that many of them go to CUSP. “They are also in more precarious situations because they have to be full time in school, otherwise their visa is revoked, so that can make things more challenging,” she said.
Both Clark-Gardner and Searcy want student parents to be more visible so that CSU executives can provide help. “The most important thing now is to self-identify on the [Concordia] portal so that we can give them access to a variety of resources,” Searcy said. While this feature isn’t currently available, CSU executives are working with the administration to implement it. Clark-Gardner wants student parents to be involved in policy affairs so that the changes are in accordance with their wishes. “We would love to hear your voice and [for you] to be involved,” she said.
For now, Clark-Gardner plans to work with Searcy to have a daycare service for all CSU events. “Somebody who is interested in the event within a [short] notice, they can request child care so they can go to the events.” She will also create a focus group to look at their policy recommendations and any input they would like to provide to the CSU.
“I think it’s very important to represent student voices and we are taking the time to listen,” Clark-Gardner told The Concordian. “We are on the ground and we are listening to students because they are most informed about what is best for them and the success of their education.”
Photos by Mackenzie Lad.