The first CUSU Caribbean Students’ Conference was held at Newnham College on Saturday February 24th 2018. Specifically aimed at students of Caribbean descent in Yrs 10 to 12, it was a day full of sessions designed to introduce them to the possibility of studying at a top university.
I kicked off the day byÂ sharing my journey to Cambridge and the huge role that a visit (similar to Saturdayâ€™s) played in shaping the past few years of my life. Following this, I provided students and parents with a whistle-stop tour of the different types of university, what makes a top university and why students should consider applying to Cambridge.
The group was then split into two. One group satÂ through a mock lecture by Sharon Walker, a PhD student at Wolfson College. HerÂ lecture was centred around her research on the Sociology of Education with reference made to W.E.B. Dubois. The other group, comprised of Yr 12s, watched a mock interview between Chelsea Kwakye, a History Finalist and two academics – Dr Nicholas Guyatt and Dr Julia Guarneri. Â
Lunch followed with attendees mixing with the array of volunteers present from Naomi Kellman of Target Oxbridge to PhD students from different universities around the country. After this, the students were able to get a greater understanding of the collegiate system through tours of Newnham College and Robinson College.
Opportunities for Black students like this are incredibly limited. The poor attainment of Black Caribbean and mixed White and Black Caribbean students (and subsequent failure to secure places at top universities) is not a new phenomenon. It is a problem that has persisted for decades.
In 2007, a Runnymede report showed that there were more students of Black Caribbean origin at London Metropolitan University than at all the Russell Group universities put together. OFFAâ€™s latest BME briefing showed that â€œthe proportion of Black Caribbean and White and Black Caribbean students entering a higher tariff institution is the lowest of all groups, even lower than White Britishâ€.
There are so many factors at play against us and Hamiltonâ€™s piece â€˜Too hot to handle: African Caribbean pupils and students as toxic consumers and commodities in the educational marketâ€™ does a brilliant job of touching on this.
Iâ€™m incredibly grateful for all of everyone who supported this conference. While one event alone canâ€™t change the world, I hope it gets us thinking about what more we can do as a community to change things for future generations.Â Â
All photos were taken by Kalifa – an incredibly talented artist who has fundraised her entire PhD. Please consider donating to her camapign here:Â https://www.gofundme.com/FundJendayiKalifa