From education to employment

NUS President visits London South East Colleges

President of the National Union of Students (NUS), Shakira Martin, visited London South East Colleges’ Bromley Campus last Friday (15 September) to give a very special presentation and motivational speech to over 200 keen students.

With a mission to increase student union activity and participation nationwide, Shakira arrived with a number of messages, recommendations and lots of advice about getting involved at college and in the shaping of their own lives.

Only three months into the job, Shakira is herself, a very successful product of the further education system. She is a native south-east Londoner who by her own admission, has had a rather chequered past. She said:

“It was without any doubt that further education got me out of a hole and gave me the tools and skills to rebuild my life after I almost went to prison.”

After leaving school, Shakira enrolled at several different colleges to study courses that she would ultimately fail to complete. In a couple of cases, she enrolled and turned up for class just twice before deciding not to return. This lead to her taking dead-end, manual jobs with low wages and no prospects.

Shakira continued: “It wasn’t long before I fell in with a crowd of people who were doing drugs, buying and selling and making money the wrong way. When the roof to this little enterprise came crashing in, I escaped going inside by the skin of my teeth. It’s something that I am not proud of.

“I was left with nothing, I was living in a sheltered home for abused women due to an abusive relationship, I was broke and had a child. Things looked bleak for a while before I decided to give college another go. In fact, it was the only option open to me. I enrolled onto a Leadership and Management diploma and took it from there.

“I suppose, the rest is history. I completed my diploma and learned how to use my entrepreneurial skills to do good things rather than bad. I was shown the way by my tutors and given positivity and encouragement from the start. I also got involved with my student union and became women’s officer. From there, I built and grew stronger, I learned how to work as part of a team and most of all, I became respected and people began listening to me. Last year, I graduated with my diploma and picked up my certificates with my two children at my side.”

Shakira has a huge ambition to become a college principal one day.

She added: “I appreciate what my educators have done for me and the work they put in to make me what I am today. When I am no longer President of the NUS, I will work to become a principal and give something back to the system that saved my life. I’m determined, now that I am a public figure, to keep going and become something much bigger. The world, as they say, is my oyster!”

New Student Liaison Officer at London South East Colleges, Destin Poungui is part of the team who organised Shakira’s visit. He said:

“I am brimming with pride this afternoon and, after watching Shakira’s marvellous presentation, can honestly say, I am truly inspired. It is my job over the next three terms to bring about a greater student union presence on each campus and to encourage students to become more involved with the running of their enrichment activities, the content of their courses and their everyday environments whilst on course. Shakira’s words have made this task a whole lot easier.”

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