Dr Daniel Smith interviews current second-year Rufeida Alhatimy about a new network for King’s students from backgrounds under-represented among university students.
Dr Daniel Smith (DS): So, Rufeida, you and I spent a lot of time last semester talking about wordplay in English Renaissance literature, but now I hear you’re taking on a new challenge, representing the First Generation Network as an officer within the Student Union. I’m particularly interested in this wonderful initiative as I’ve been co-ordinating the English Department’s Widening Participation (WP) programme this year. Can you start by telling me what First Generation Network is?
Rufeida Alhatimy (RA): Studies have shown that students from a first generation background find the transition to higher education and beyond more taxing and challenging, and the network seeks to help tackle the boundaries and barriers that some of these students face. First Generation Network is one of eight “liberation networks” built into the KCLSU structure, run by students for students to promote positive change and representation. We cater to students who are from Widening Participation backgrounds, those in or leaving care, those whose parents didn’t go to university and those from low-participation neighbourhoods to improve their university experience and create a home away from home. Continue reading “In a time of chaos, create”: The First Generation Network→
The Shakespeare Academy has been running at King’s for the past three years and I am very proud to have been involved from its inception. In 2017-18 we reached over 350 Widening Participation students, continuing to develop close partnerships with teachers and pupils at eight London state-funded secondary schools, from Key Stage 3 to GCSE. We’ve also run Teachers Days with the London Shakespeare Centre.
My role as administrator and workshop leader involves liaising with the schools, creating the programme for the Academy study days, supporting my colleagues in preparing individual sessions and delivering workshops myself. I am particularly passionate about inclusive access to education: my brother and I were the first in our family to obtain degrees. I also believe that engaging with Shakespeare in an interactive and creative way can help to break down perceived barriers by making the plays seem more accessible.
All ‘national curriculum’ students study Shakespeare (two plays at key stages 3 and at least one play at key stage 4). Many of the pupils we work with are from Black or Ethnic Minority backgrounds, or come from families where their parents or carers have not attended university. We give these students access to university-style learning to give them a taste of what they can expect. This makes Shakespeare’s plays a valuable common currency to reach groups who are under-represented in tertiary education. Also, plays such as Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet deal with important social and political issues – power, love, inter-generational conflict, gang warfare – that are still relevant today. The plays are useful tools for thinking about wider social concerns that are universally recognisable.