University of Calgary

Heritage Days brings home global battle to resist discrimination

UToday HomeMarch 27, 2013

By Betty Rice

This year’s celebration of Heritage by the Faculty of Education on March 21 coincided with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Photos by Riley Brandt This year’s celebration of Heritage by the Faculty of Education on March 21 coincided with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Photos by Riley BrandtThe United Nations chose March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; on that date in 1960, 69 South African protestors were killed by police during a peaceful protest against apartheid. The day is aimed at reminding people all over the world that racial and ethnic discrimination are still taking place, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to put an end to it.

But building bridges between people of different backgrounds and cultures doesn’t take place on a single day; it’s a process that occurs over time, through regular active engagement and interaction. 

And it’s happening here on the campus of the University of Calgary.

Since 1999, the Faculty of Education’s English for Academic Purposes (EAP) program has been welcoming students from all over the world, to assist them in learning to speak the English required to succeed in both university and later careers in Canada. To date, more than 3,000 students from more than three dozen countries have completed EAP programs.

And that number is likely to grow.  Figures from Statistics Canada suggest that one-third of Calgary’s citizens will be foreign-born by the year 2031.

"Both provincial and federal governments have noted that the numbers of visible minority students and ESL students in secondary and post-secondary education will increase dramatically," says EAP director Anuradha Sengupta, "and there’s a real and increasing need for programs like the EAP."

For many of the students, coming to the University of Calgary marks the first time they have been away from their home countries, and in many instances, the students have never met anyone from another culture. What’s surprising is how quickly they become friends with each other as they work to learn a common language.

Each year, EAP hosts “Heritage Days,” an event designed to allow the students to fully share their cultures and to learn about new ones. This year, the celebration happened to coincide with the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Special guests included Janaka Ruwanpura, vice-provost (international), and Scott Robinson, associate registrar of admissions and recruitment.

Students Hong Shen and Fasal Alsamel talked to the audience about their experiences in the program, and a cake marking the day was cut by the guests of honour. Students then treated everyone to one of the most unique celebrations on campus — traditional dishes made by the students themselves, and some entertainment, which this year included hip-hop dancing, a traditional Mongolian song, and a flamenco dance from Argentina.

International StudentsFasal Alsamel, left, from Kuwait, is one of the international students who shared his experiences in English for Academic Purposes.Janaka RuwanpuraGuests for the event included Janaka Ruwanpura, University of Calgary vice-provost (international).

 

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