As we continue to follow the current crisis in Europe where war is now on between Russia and Ukraine which is threatening international peace, stability and security, Grenadians are concerned about the safety of those who live in that region especially after being awarded government scholarships. To get a clear picture of the situation with Grenadian students, this newspaper reached out to the Scholarship Desk just so that we can be knowledgeable about the number of students living in or in proximity to where the disruptions are taking place. We are aware that during the Revolution, Grenadians have been granted scholarships to study in far-away places such as Turkey, China, Italy, Romania, Russia, and Serbia which continues to a great extent today.
The interest of their safety was sparked after hearing about the ordeal that Jamaican students in Ukraine had to go through as they tried to get to safety in Poland. However, we were directed to the Permanent Secretary (PS) Norman Gilbert who simply said that the students are safe and plans are in place in the event that they are required to be evacuated. This newspaper has enough respect for the government to doubt that there are plans in place. But maybe the PS has not realized that withholding the details of the plans can be seen as a mere promise which, in some cases, is a comfort to a fool. Some transparency is needed here to bring peace to parents and loved ones.
At the time of writing this editorial, attacks were being intensified, causing more concern. We were told by the PS that there are only two Grenadian students in Russia and three in Romania. But this newspaper is aware that Sheddon Richardson, a Grenadian, may very well be studying in Serbia after being successful in getting another scholarship in 2019 to pursue a Masters in Civil Engineering , strangely no reference was made about him. This leads to the question –How many of our children are now in that war-torn area? The Jamaican students have tweeted enough for us to understand that they went through chaos in checkpoints in order to get to safety on the border with Poland.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) condemned the military attacks and invasion of Ukraine by The Russian Federation and called for the immediate and complete withdrawal of the military presence and cessation of any further actions that may intensify the current perilous situation in that country. In the interest of the Caribbean we did some research which has shown that the cost of some studies in those countries on that side of the world is a fraction of what it is in the United States, or even at the University of the West Indies campus in Mona, Jamaica. Hence the reason that so many Jamaicans and other Caribbean people are taking up scholarships there. Most of them are medical students, living primarily in Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine. The attraction for many foreign students who want to study medicine there is also because it has a strong reputation for medical courses and tuition and other expenses are much lower than in programmes in other Western nations.
In a statement, CARICOM stated that the hostilities against Ukraine go counter to the principles of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-interference in the internal affairs of another sovereign state and the prohibition on the threat or use of force, and the peaceful resolution of disputes. The body joined the call to urge all parties involved to urgently embark on intensified diplomatic dialogue to immediately de-escalate hostilities and work towards a sustainable peace. CARICOM has also called on the Caribbean to speak in one voice on the issue. However, countries in our region continue to send out individual statements as we learnt about a private letter to President Putin from Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.
Then Prime Minister Mia Motley of Barbados said that her government firmly believes that a peaceful, negotiated, diplomatic approach which can result in the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is the only approach consistent with the values of the United Nations and with international law. The Cayman Premier, Wayne Panton said that the Cayman Islands would prefer an urgent peaceful end to this situation since war is not a viable solution and stressed that the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal No. 16 calls, in part, for peace.
This newspaper has also learnt that there are seven or eight students from Saint Vincent doing studies in Russia. Again we were told via on-line news that the Chief Personnel Officer is in touch with them and they have no problems at this time.
So are we waiting for problems to arise before moving our Caribbean people to safety? Already we have heard of airports being closed. We have also heard of trains and buses being attacked, not to mention the alleged racism. It was revealed that the Embassy in Russia is responsible for the affairs of Grenadians in that region. How much more news of the war should we hear before we understand that Russia is now facing problems of its own with daily demonstrations and arrests of people there who continue to protest against the military operations in Ukraine, before we decide to get our people to safer grounds?