International student community mourns student death

RRC Polytech student Javed Musharraf passed in mid-December

Manitoba’s international student community is in mourning following the Dec. 15 passing of a  Red River College Polytechnic (RRC Polytech) international student. 22-year-old Javed Musharraf died after being involved in a collision with a front-end loader while riding his bike near Mission Street and Plinguet Street at approximately 10:20 p.m.

In an email statement released following Musharraf’s death, RRC Polytech vice-president academic Christine Watson said, our hearts go out to Javed’s family and friends, and to the wider community that has been shaken by this tragedy.”

We extend our condolences to his family and all who knew him. RRC Polytech’s priority is to support our community and provide counselling and other supports for our students and faculty who have been affected.”

University of Manitoba Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) president Abdul Ahad said that he met Musharraf a couple of times at community events. Ahad stated that Musharraf was “really social” and had a “sweet personality.”

“Every time I met [him], he always had a big smile on his face,” he said.

With Musharraf’s death occurring during the fall term exam period, Ahad said that he and fellow students did not feel that his passing was garnering enough attention from the student community.

Because of this, Ahad said that the international community, Muslim community and the Manitoba Islamic Association took the lead in planning Musharraf’s prayer and burial.

“We actually wanted to present the fact that, as the different groups from the university, we are all for him, and we are standing behind him,” he said.

“We are always there to advocate to the university to ensure that they are also helping the kids as much as possible.”

University of Manitoba international students’ representative Kunal Rajpal said that none of Musharraf’s relatives were able to attend his funeral, and that this is a common issue for international students. He added that because international students live so far away from their homes, many are without reliable support systems in Manitoba.

For this reason, he helped Ahad hold a vigil for Musharraf inside the Price faculty of engineering building on the U of M Fort Garry campus. Although Rajpal wishes they could have held the vigil on one of the RRC Polytechnic campuses, he is glad that one was held regardless.

“Mourning for someone is a very important part of the process,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that his memory is respected. That, even though Javed is not with us and that’s sad, that there is someone who can say, ‘I’m sorry that you are gone, but we are there for you.’”

Moving forward, Ahad said he hopes to see universities provide financial support so that students who die while studying away from their home and families can have a proper funeral. He said that burials are expensive, and that unexpected burials in the Islamic tradition can be particularly hard to raise funds for, as the body of a deceased person must be buried as quickly as possible. He added that many international students already spend high amounts of money on tuition.

Ahad said that universities act as a second home for many international students, and he believes that funding for funeral expenses would help individual’s families and the community through tragedy. Also, he would like to see universities take the lead to hold vigils for students who pass away, and to contact their families to offer support.

He also said that next fall he will advocate for the University of Manitoba to create a program that addresses these issues. Since the U of M is the largest university in the province, Ahad believes that other colleges and universities in Manitoba would likely make similar changes if such a program was introduced.

Ahad encourages international students to come together, help each other and take advantage of as many resources as possible. He believes that by doing this, international students can help keep themselves, and each other, safe.