Rufeida Alhatimy is studying for an MA in Contemporary Literature, Culture and Theory at King’s College London. This article originally appeared in The Pen, The Aziz’s Foundation’s scholars blog:
The world is constantly shifting. It is moving at such a rapid speed and forcing many things to move along with it. It’s difficult not to appreciate the shifts I’ve experienced solely in my own lifetime. However, one thing that I’ve noticed minimal changes in is the education system and how it operates. Despite the changes in our societies and the identities that inhabit it, the red bricks of the education system have settled into the dried up, cemented norms and values of the structure. I found myself desiring a way to soften these bricks into clay and mould it together with the warmth of the diverse identities that hold it in their hands, hoping for better futures.
Having experienced a journey through the education system which was punctuated by both internal and external struggles inspired me to begin a ‘social mobility’ project before I could even fathom the exclusive nature of our education system. I have to place the phrase ‘social mobility’ in inverted commas because I don’t think that this term does enough justice to what is at stake, nor does it capture the essence of the problem — the system itself. This is one thing that I have only recently discovered. I knew that I was struggling throughout my educational journey, but I never realised why.
That was, at least, until I was elected as the First Generation Network officer at university to voice the concerns of underrepresented groups. I nominated myself because of the many complaints I had heard from my peers. Hearing their issues triggered a sense of responsibility in me and a need to find a way to ease their burdens. By chance, I got elected into the role. I wanted to facilitate a space and support network for people who otherwise would not be supported. Only after hearing people share their stories did I realise that I was also going through many of the similar struggles of a first generation student. As much as I wanted to create the space to help others, I found that I, myself, was being helped in a space that we had collectively built. Being in such an environment is what made me realise the importance of having spaces like these. I wanted to ensure that people across various universities can feel supported. Ideas started bubbling in my head throughout my time as a First Generation Officer. Ideas that I wanted to make a reality. I knew that I needed to create a space that extended our aims to people across other universities.