De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) alumni came together to organise a Black Education Matters (BEM) conference at The Venue@DMU.
Due to the success of the first event in March 2017, when over 150 first, second and third year students attended, DMU’s African and Caribbean Society (ACS) decided to hold another conference this month.
So six DMU alumni came together and organised the second BEM conference: Daniel Nyirenda Advertising and Marketing Communications; Kwabena Mensah-Sarpong Software Engineering; Kola Akinsanya Accounting and Finance; Toyin Adesoji Business Management and Law; Donna Lewis Law and Simon Adjei-Baah Economics and Politics.
Daniel explained that the aim of the conference was to inspire and motivate Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students leading up to examination period.
He said: “BEM was sparked from the statistic that will continue to underpin the reason as to why we will continue to pursue this event in DMU and hopefully across universities in the UK, ‘BME students are less likely to gain a First or 2:1 degree classification’, which is a statistic from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
“Through observation I realised that BAME students are not as eager and active as white students.
“We aim to bridge this attainment gap in many ways, to provide inspiration and mentorship to students to achieve top degree classifications alongside the tools and skills for them to become more employable.
“In addition to this, entrepreneurship is on the rise within youth and we also aim through BEM to provide a platform for black students’ businesses to excel. Although we do encounter inequality within society, this should not be a deterrence but a drive to continue to pursue black excellence and break glass ceilings to overachieve in every sector of society.”
The conference was hosted by Ayo Adeogun, who said: “I work in the civil service and I’ve decided to host this event just because I really advocate the message of today in terms of empowering students, giving them the opportunity to not only be educated but also pursue other avenues, to care about their mental health and to know what’s available to them. Hopefully it will inspire them and they will be part of a generation that will make a change in the world.”
Mark Prescod, DMU Lecturer
The alumni had a number of motivations for being involved in organising the event.
Kwabena said: “It will be a good thing for myself that I am able to empower my young black brothers and sisters to be the best they can be and not let society limit who they can be.
“I hope that they will be able to apply for jobs that society will tell them they can’t apply for and give them some confidence, empowerment and belief in themselves they can be whoever they want to be.”
Kola added: “I’m passionate about helping others, that’s what actually drove me to do the ACS in the first place. But the reason why I do it is because if I feel there’s a solution that’s available to a problem, I like to be the person in the middle to bring that to fruition.”
Donna said: “I believe it’s a problem and an issue and it needs to be addressed in universities. I hope that the students will gain insight into different kinds of careers and different paths that they can go into whether it be creative, making their own businesses, academic, whatever it is that they just have the motivation to continue and persevere, that they can do absolutely anything they want to do.”
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Benjamin Opoku, a DMU alumni and guest speaker who graduated in 2017 in Business Studies said: “I’ve come here today to inspire some people that probably haven’t heard a lot of information about the creative industry. I want to help someone find a bit of direction, give them motivation and understand there is a possibility in anything they want to do.”
Vanessa Erivona, a Business and Management final year student at DMU, said: “I think it’s important because some students from a certain background may not feel that these opportunities are accessible to them, but I like to think if I can do it then so can they so honestly it’s not as hard as people may think be. There may still be barriers but with hard work you can overcome them.”
DMU lecturer and Fair Outcome Champion Mark Prescod said: “I try and work on the BAME attainment gap here at DMU. The reason I’m here today is because I was actually a student at DMU and I wish something like this was available when I was actually a student.
“It’s been put on by students for students and what I really want to do is share my support by telling them my journey but also giving them some insight into famous successful people, how they have been successful and some of the great things at DMU that can help you to get there.”
Posted on Wednesday 31st October 2018