Back to School

It was back to school for young people this week,

Some starting secondary school or sixth form for the first time.

Maybe others will be returning to college,

After the holidays, it’s a return to the classroom.

School can be a whole lot of fun,

With the friends you make and teachers you learn from.

You may not realise it now,

But school can be the best days of your life,

Before you know it you’ll be out in the real world,

Working hard to get by.

However, it’s not all about having fun,

And unfortunately, these days the pressure is piling on,

With regular exams and evaluations,

Which seems to have become the norm with education.

Some are in the early stages,

Preparing to start their SATs, A-levels or GCSEs,

Readying themselves for those illustrious exams in Spring.

They need to be reassured that exams are not everything,

And they can succeed in life without them,

Because mental health issues are on the rise,

And the constant pressure isn’t helping them get by.

School needs to be a more protective environment,

Allowing the students to be themselves,

Boosting them through the exam process,

And encouraging them to pursue what they love.

There is so much more for young people to learn,

Than just the standard lessons on the curriculum,

Which is what they should be championing in education,

Getting the best out of the students within the system.

Photo by Avolore and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by Avolore and used under Creative Commons License.

The Time is Now

The budget unveiled by the Conservatives this week revealed that they were scrapping the maintenance grants for lower-income students, but allowing universities to increase their fees beyond £9,000.  This is in spite of some students already resorting to extreme measures to stay financially afloat.

Rather than effecting their pockets, the constant pressure put on students in schools and the over-focus on exams is having a negative effect on their mental health.  It is no secret that the number of young people self-harming is on the rise; however, there continues to be a lack of understanding.  There needs to be some sort of module on mental health in schools.

Knife crime shows no sign of letting up and if anything, these stabbings seem to be a more frequent occurrence.  We are fooled by the news of reported knife crime being down, without considering that there were increases in most offense groups.

Image by PublicDomainPictures and used under Creative Commons License.
Image by PublicDomainPictures and used under Creative Commons License.

According to The Guardian, “Young people are nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population, the largest gap in more than 20 years, according to an analysis of official figures.”  Then there is also the problem of young people eventually becoming employed, and then struggling to progress in their field, buy a property or even live above the bread line.

The number of young people who are homeless is ‘more than three times the official figure’, and mental health waiting lists are ‘spiralling out of control’.  There are a number of other issues facing young people, as they strive to grow and move forward in life.

However, the system and powers that be continue to find ways to hold them back or put them down.  Too often, the youth are an afterthought or not seen as important as their elders.  They keep squeezing us and cutting our funding or services, but they are always quick to come down hard on us when anything goes wrong.

Nevertheless, it is up to us as young people to help ourselves and fight through the system that wants to keep us down.  We have the capabilities and through the right action, our voices will be heard.  And even if they don’t want to hear us, then at least we will be paving our own way and making a better life for the youth at present and the youth of the future.

Photo by real-napster and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by real-napster and used under Creative Commons License.

You just have to ask yourself, what can I do to be the change and how can I get involved to make a change?  The time is now.

Why you should give back with Future First

Earlier this week, I returned to the school where I spent seven years studying for SATs, GCSEs and A-Levels.  Norbury Manor Business and Enterprise College for Girls (NMBEC) holds a special place in my heart, because of the amazing teachers I was inspired by, the many lessons I learned and the great friends I made there.

However, on this occasion, I was not there for a social visit.  Instead, I came to speak to the girls in Year 9, who are beginning to consider their GCSE options.  Myself and two other NMBEC alumni sat on a panel to speak about our GCSE options and how they may have (or may not have) contributed to what we are doing now.

This particular event was put on by the school in partnership with the charitable organisation, Future First.  According to the Future First website: “Future First’s vision is that every school should be supported by a thriving, engaged alumni community. Our programme provides the infrastructure and expertise that make establishing these communities easy and inexpensive.”

Future First allows state schools to engage and keep in closer contact with their alumni, resulting in greater opportunities for current students.  Alumni can offer support or work experience, provide students with advice on their career aspirations, and most of all, inspire young people in a time when there is so much working against them.

Image by RRZEicons and used under Creative Commons License.
Image by RRZEicons and used under Creative Commons License.

When I was contacted by Future First and informed about what they do, I immediately wanted to get involved.  I not only wanted to give back to the school that gave me so much, but I also wanted to offer advice and support to students that I did not necessarily have at their age.

Speaking to the girls in Year 9 was a great experience and I loved seeing their enthusiasm, as they threw up their hands to shower us with questions.  I could also see that they had gained something from the session, which made me feel happy, because that is what you really want to see.

Future First is a special organisation that is inspiring, and is going to inspire, countless young people.  Alumni are really important to any educational organisation, because they exemplify what current students can aspire to and they could provide them with the inspiration that many young people may be missing.

I encourage you to head to the Future First website and look at how you may be able to get involved.  You never know, they might be connected to your old school and I can tell you, it feels great when you are able to give back.NMBEC

Why leaving university was the best decision I ever made

I have recently read a number of stories about individuals dropping out of university, and I have also spent a decent amount of time telling others why I made the decision to drop out.  However, my explanation has been quite minimal.  Today, I feel inspired to tell the full story of why I left university, and why it was the best decision I ever made.

While I was at university, I came to the sudden realisation that the career I had spent so long striving for was no longer my dream.  It was a terrifying feeling that seemed to smack me in the face and lead to a whirlwind of questions.  Should I call it a day?  Should I persevere to the end?  Should I give up on my dream?

I wasn’t like a lot of young people who struggle to figure out what they want to do in life, as Jane Austen Wedding DressI had envisioned becoming a fashion designer from the age of ten. I loved art and drawing clothes, and I intended to become the founder, manager and Dress Design 4designer of an organisation that created clothes for curvier figures.

I set out a step-by-step plan to reach my goal, and nothing or no one was going to deter me. Study Art & Design, Textiles and Business Studies at GCSE. Check. Study Textiles and Business Studies at A-Level. Check.  Then before I reached the world of work, there was just one more thing to tick off my checklist. University.

As soon as I knew that I wanted to become a fashion designer, I set my sights on going to the London College of Fashion (LCF). This was my dream university and I was determined that I would be there in September 2010, starting my degree.  Completing a Foundation Year was not a part of my plan, which saw me draining myself to create a stand-out portfolio and build on my fashion knowledge to ensure my place on my chosen course.

My hard work did pay off and by the time my A-level results were released, I was enrolled on the BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Development course. I was excited about taking on an amazing course that combined business intelligence with the creative side of fashion. And to top it all off, it was rounded out perfectly with a placement year in the middle.

However, as I worked through my first term, I sensed that something was wrong. I tried and tried to like my course, but for some reason I couldn’t.  No matter how long I stayed, I did not feel comfortable at my beloved LCF.  Despite all these warning signs going off in my head, I made the decision to stay put and persevere.  This had been my dream for so long and I was not giving up now.

Final prototype for Sensual Poison
Final prototype for Sensual Poison
Collage for my final uni project, Sensual Poison
Collage for my final university project, Sensual Poison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

University got harder and harder, and no matter how hard I was trying, it seemed that I was not progressing.  In fact, my marks seemed to be getting worse and I hated that, because I have high expectations of myself.  I also found myself feeling emotionally and physically drained, as I gave up all of myself to my degree.  There were times when I even found myself dreaming about my projects, which was a little unsettling.

When it was finally time for me to find a work placement, I struggled and ultimately ended P1110023 No 2up without one. This cut me deep, resulting in my feeling rejected, angry and not good enough.  It was the wakeup call I so desperately needed to reconsider what it was that I wanted in life.

Instead of taking a placement year, I took a gap year to re-evaluate where my life was heading before returning to final year. However, as I delved deeper into self-meditation, I realised that I no longer wanted to work in fashion, although I did want to complete my final year so that I would at least have a degree.

As I began making the necessary preparations to return to LCF, feelings of distress and P1110024 No 2unhappiness began to burn up inside me. I finally took the time to really see how sad and depressed my degree had made me over the two years.  I knew that my final year would destroy me, so I refused to go back.

Although I still had a strong love and interest in fashion, I could see that my heart was not in it and that a part of me that was not pursuing fashion for the right reasons.  Some individuals think I’m crazy for not finishing my degree, but I knew that I had to go back to basics and discover my true calling.  However, it wasn’t too hard, because writing has always been my real passion.

Changing my career path threw me off-balance and brought numerous fears to the surface, but that’s okay, because writing is what I truly love.  Just like one of my tutors from LCF said, it’s a good thing I discovered this now rather than 10 or 20 years down the line.

Staying at university would have been extremely damaging to my emotional and mental health, especially when I felt that I was not getting the type of support I needed.  Leaving LCF was one of the bravest things I’ve ever done and it has helped me to become happier than I’ve been in a long time.

I have also been able to properly kickstart my writing career by gaining experience and working on my own projects, which is what’s important.  Although I have no clue about what the future holds for me, I do intend to be successful and prove all those who thought I was crazy completely wrong.  Dropping out of university is seriously the best decision I have ever made.

An article I wrote for Croydon Guardian
One of my articles for Croydon Guardian

Are young people worse off today than previous generations?

As I spent time speaking about the sick condition of this world with my granddad and how the young people of the world were caught up in it, I started to think about whether the youth of today are worse off than previous generations.

The response to this would never be straightforward, because of the significant changes that have taken place from generation to generation.  In many ways, young people are not worse off today than previous generations, yet in many ways, they are.

With the constant increase in knowledge over time, there have been numerous developments in travel, methods of communication and other areas of our everyday lives.  In fact, many of these changes and developments have taken place, because of the revolutionary thing called technology.

The use of technology allows us to complete a number of tasks using faster, simpler and more efficient methods.  It is now easier for us to communicate with other individuals from around the globe  than ever before, leading to an increase in opportunities.  The Internet gives us easy access to an ocean of information and there is entertainment in abundance with access to televisions, computers, games consoles and mobile phones.

Image by blickpixel and used under Creative Commons License.
Image by blickpixel and used under Creative Commons License.

In many ways, technology means that we have a lot more variety than the young people of previous generations, as there is so much at our fingertips.  You could say that we’ve been privileged and spoilt for choice.  However, this also comes with a price.

Technology can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse.  It comes with a whole set of new problems that generations before us did not have to contend with.  There are the issues of sexting, hacking and cyber bullying, amongst others.

The ease of cyber communication has also messed up the ability for many young people to physically communicate with others, whilst the obsession with gadgets has dampened the imagination of some young individuals.  Instead of creating new games or creating scenarios with their dolls, they would rather play around with an iPad or XBox.

The divide in class – which is continuing to widen due to the economy and actions of the Conservative government – has had a very negative effect on the young people of this generation.  It has led to an increase in disruptive youth who are trying to gain the same sort of status or earnings as the class above them.  This also leads to lawlessness, knife crime and gun crime.

This is also a generation of young people who have grown up amongst the constant reports of gang culture and the issues that come with that, particularly violent crime and involvement with drugs.  They will be drawn into this, as they mimic the actions of others before them and try to gain their social standings.

Photo by cheifyc and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by cheifyc and used under Creative Commons License.

It does not help that there is a blatant lack of disrespect for life and authority.  This effects all young people, whether they are embroiled in “gang culture” or not, because a life could be taken for the silliest little thing.  Respect is something that has become extremely distorted in our society, specifically among the young generation.

The issues regarding economy and finance are also major factors in making young people worse off today than previous generations.  Those going to university now have to pay a large fee and leave in a pile of debt, unlike previous generations who were able to attend university for free.  And to make matters worse, there is a constant push for young people to attend university, which will lead to debt, without there even being a promise of a job afterwards.

Graduates struggle to find work like the many other unemployed young individuals and when they do eventually find work, many of them are forced to work in menial jobs with low pay and the unlikelihood of promotion.  In fact, an older individual I was speaking to told me that it is a lot harder for young people to find work now than when they were younger.

The struggle to find well paid work combined with the soaring house prices also means that this young generation will struggle to purchase a property in the future, which I think is unfair and unacceptable.

All of these issues do not help with the issue of increased pressure in our society, as we live in a time that is extremely competitive.  This pressure, mixed in with the points I raised earlier, has led to an increase in mental health problems among young people, including stress, self-harm and suicide.  It is also not helped with the constant images being pushed down our throats by the media, which affects the self-esteem of so many young individuals and leads to a number of body issues.

Image by johnhain and used under Creative Commons License.
Image by johnhain and used under Creative Commons License.

There are many different obstacles facing young people, and it would seem that they are worse off than previous generations, despite the increases in technology and all that comes with it.

Young people are facing issues left, right and centre in a sick world that shows no signs of getting better.  They are fighting to get ahead, which does not always lead to positive results.  Their parents are striving to give them the best possible life, which leads to an increase in working hours and a decrease in family time, which also has an adverse effect on young people.

However, we need to find a way to make the best out of a bad situation and rectify some of these problems.  It is just about finding the most effective ways to do this.  How do you think we can make the young generation better off?

Why the backlash over Emma Watson’s speech highlights a deeper problem

Earlier this week, actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson, gave a speech to launch the United Nation’s HeForShe campaign.

In her speech, she highlighted the inequality and gender stereotypes that are experienced by both males and females, as she called for men to join the fight for global equality.  She also raised the common issue of feminism and the fight for feminist ideals being confused for ‘man-hating’, as they really are not the same thing.

I am glad that Emma spoke up and delivered a strong speech about this issue, which many people seem to skirt around, and she delivered some hard-hitting truths.  However, not everyone was so happy about this and I was disappointed by the backlash that she received.

Photo by MyCanon and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by MyCanon and used under Creative Commons License.

The silly threat to release nude photos of Emma – which turned out to be a hoax – in response to her speech highlights the deep problems in our society with strong women, how we treat and perceive women, and also the sexualisation of women.  You have to ask yourselves, why did these individuals make the decision to “threaten” Emma with the release of nude photos?

This delves into the deeper issues of relationships and sex, which are two aspects of our society that there needs to be a stronger focus on, starting in the school and also home environment.  They effect your whole life and they are too important to just leave to chanceSex education seems to have been very lacklustre in schools, while relationship education does not seem to be very existent, when it clearly needs to be.

Photo by Sherri Samson and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by Sherri Samson and used under Creative Commons License.

We need to change our mindsets and properly educate our children and young people, otherwise what hope do we have?  Inequality will continue to exist and females will continue to find themselves in situations that they should never be in.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that in some ways, inequality will still manage to rear its ugly head and not every male will treat a female with respect of care, no matter how well they are educated.  I know that at the end of the day, every individual has their own mind.

However, it is our duty to do the best we can to educate the children and young people so that they can have healthy relationships and respect each other, regardless of gender.  No one should receive backlash for speaking up for their gender, or for domestic violence, or for inequality.  They have been brave enough to speak up for what’s right in a bid to make a change and more needs to be done to support that.

There also needs to be more done about implementing effective sex and relationship education in schools, so why not show your support by signing this petition on change.org.  Just by filling in some details, you are committing to making sex and relationships education in schools compulsory, including the subjects of healthy and respectful relationships, online pornography, gender stereotypes and sexual consent.

Nevertheless, education always starts at home, so we need to be setting the best example we can for our children and ensuring that we teach them about healthy relationships and the value of respect from a young age.  It will be engrained in their brains forever.

The ‘One Minute in May’ Campaign

With the continuous reports of knife crime and youth violence, public awareness and youth centred organisations or initiatives are growing in importance.  These are necessary to not only prevent violent youth crimes, but also to engage the young people of this generation.

P1120510 2

The One Minute in May campaign was set up to “confront the ever-growing threat of knife and gun crime.”  It was started by Tracy Cumberpatch in 2006 (with the help of Wayne Campbell) in remembrance of her 15-year-old son, Kiyan Prince, who lost his life after being stabbed while trying to break up a fight in May 2006.

Tracy intended to have a one minute’s silence in May, the month that her son passed away.  However, she was unable to maintain the running of the campaign, which meant that it was put on hold, until 2013, when it was revived by Bilal Awan and Wayne Campbell.  One Minute in May is not only in remembrance of Kiyan Prince, but all of the young people who have lost their lives to gun and knife crime in the UK.

However, it goes further than the minute of silence – the campaign aims to educate children about the dangers of violent crime in various ways, particularly through the use of film, in a bid to reach out to the “media savvy” young generation.

One Minute in May will commence with a major football event, which will be filmed as part of a documentary that will also be part of the campaign.  They aim to get all of the Premier League and Championship football clubs to “hold a minute’s silence, applause, balloon release or whatever they feel appropriate” during one day in the season, to honour the young lives lost to violent crime.

Although they would like to branch out into other major sports leagues in the future, football is currently a major element of their campaign, because Kiyan was an aspiring football player with a bright future ahead of him.

The documentary will be made for TV broadcasting and distribution in schools, to reach a wider group of young people.  One Minute in May believes “education is  a key preventative measure if children are to benefit from the message of the campaign’s film”.

According to One Minute in May team member Indya Oates: “Education for us isn’t just about going to school and getting good grades… Education helps spot potential talents, help create guidance for their future and keep them occupied with positive things.”

The documentary will follow Bilal as he tries to gain a clear understanding of why knife and gun crime exists.  He also hopes to enlist the help of football clubs, along with family members from around the country who have lost a loved one to gun or knife crime.  They will be visiting a number of high-profile clubs, including Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Manchester United and Liverpool.

One Minute in May also plans to launch a schools film initiative to “explore issues around socially conscious behaviour”.  It will involve children from each of the 32 London boroughs being split into groups and making short films dealing with youth crime, over the period of one month.

Eventually, the winning films from each borough (or top ten) will be screened and the best overall film will be chosen by the Mayor of London and given the title of ‘Schools Short Festival Winner’.

The children involved in this scheme will learn valuable skills in production and post production, as well as learning about core values, street safety and street awareness, in a fun way that will allow them to express their creativity.

The support of young people for One Minute in May has been generally good, although the team has found it quite difficult to get support for their campaign.

Indya says: “I believe that the reason for the lack in support is because [young people] are either currently in a difficult situation due to wrong choices themselves, or know of someone… and therefore , publicly supporting a campaign like this would be quiet contradictory.”  However, she has expressed that there a lot of young people that they still want to reach out to.

It has been upsetting for Indya to see such high rates of crime in the UK, especially because much of it is due to young people hurting their own.  She believes that young people can work together to prevent knife crime, firstly by learning to love themselves and then one another.

Indya said: “There is definitely a lack of love & unity going on at the moment, and everyone is divided. Our younger generation have developed this mentality of standing alone, dropping people out, not creating new friends, thinking that they must do things on their own and don’t need anyone, as if it’s a good thing.

“…In reality what they are doing is segregating each other, creating this mindset of isolation and ultimately creating division instead of realising their similarities & differences and how amazing they can become if they stood together.”

One Minute in May‘s minute of silence will take place on the May 1st, so spread the word and get others involved in this special campaign.  As Indya says: “Young people are our future and we need to give them that support.”

One Minute in May Logo.  Image used with permission.
‘One Minute in May’ Logo. Image used with permission.

Find out more about One Minute in May by visiting their website, following them on Twitter and liking their Facebook page.