In honor of the 57 Canadian citizens lost on flight PS752, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced on January 16 that a scholarship fund would be created. 57 scholarships, worth $10,000 each, will be awarded to post-secondary students across Canada, one for each life lost.
The announcement came at a time of national grieving for those who passed away on flight PS752, a commercial airplane operated by Ukrainian International Airlines that was hit by an Iranian missile on January 8. All 176 passengers and crew members were killed when the plane was struck just moments after takeoff.
“Many of the victims were students and professors with bright futures, studying and teaching at Ontario universities and colleges, contributing to the advancement of research in many life-changing fields” said Premier Ford during a news conference.
The University of Toronto (U of T) lost six of its students, including University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) student Zeynab Asadi Lari, who is remembered fondly by friends and professors alike.
The scholarships will be allotted directly to the schools who lost students or faculty, with the rest going to other institutions to be awarded based on academic merit and financial need. Premier Ford said in his statement that he has been in contact with the families of the victims, along with cultural community groups and the federal government, to implement this fund.
He stated that the schools and the families of the victims will be consulted in the selection process for the scholarships, which are planned to be in place for the 2020-2021 academic year. The scholarships will be a one-time disbursement but can be extended with the help of donors to the fund.
For the most part, students seem pleased with the news and see the scholarship fund as a fitting way to honor the victims of the Iran plane crash, especially those who had been so dedicated to the academic community.
However, they do acknowledge its shortcomings.
“Although I appreciate the emotional response from the universities, especially U of T,” says Nafas Tehrani, a third-year English and Drama student at UTM of Iranian descent. “I truly don’t think that will ease the pain their parents, family, and friends are going through back home.”
Some students are questioning Premier Ford’s motives in announcing the scholarship fund.
“I think it’s great, but I understand why people may question it,” said Keyanna Bell, a fourth-year Communication, Culture & Informational Technology student. “I’m sure people will question whether this is coming from a genuine or politically loaded place.”
This sentiment was echoed by other students The Medium spoke to, especially in light of last year’s cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and education program funds, which have been the subject of much contention recently.
Despite the debate, Tehrani and Bell both agree that it’s an honorable way to remember the victims. During the press conference on January 16, Ford said, “we will honor their memories through these scholarships to recognize their incredible contributions to our communities.”
In any case, the devastating crash will not be easily forgotten. As an Iranian student who is part of the UTM community, Tehrani is deeply aware of this.
“It will be a memory that all Iranians will never be able to erase from their minds, and we all feel sympathy for their families.”