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15 September 2020

Decolonising the curriculum: English dominates but at a cost to African languages

Filed under: News — ckeitch @ 9.21 am

Adeyemi P. Awomodu is a final year student studying BA English Language and Linguistics at Essex. 

Adeyemi P. Awomodu

Adeyemi P. Awomodu

I have twin girls. They are eight years old. They were born a minute apart of each other. They are beautiful, identical and unique in their own way. They are called Adeifeoluwa (the crown of God’s love) and Adeireoluwa (the crown of God’s goodness). While it is hard to tell them apart in appearance (my wife still asks: “Who are you?” every time she sees them), they are two distinct individuals with likes, styles and skills. For instance, Adeifeoluwa, the first of the two, has won awards in writing competitions, and had one of her poems published. Adeireoluwa, on the other hand, has won numerous sport medals for herself and her school.

Shortly after they were born, we took them to our local GP for registration. We filled out the forms with their details and gave it to the surgery. I later found out that a member of staff in the surgery had decided to update their record, by swapping their Yoruba first names for their English middle baptism names. Their reason was that the English names are “easier and better to pronounce”. After a trip back to the surgery, during which I had a word with the GP, we received an apology and my daughters’ names were put right again, with their Yoruba names as the first names.

This was not an isolated incident for me. There have been many instances when the English language had been prioritised at the expense of my native language of Yoruba. The Yoruba language is one of the over five hundred languages spoken in Nigeria, and a member of the Kwa language family of West Africa. Whether as a result of questionable government language policies, societal pressure, unhealthy negative attitudes, ignorance, or an interaction of all of these, English has continually enjoyed a more prestigious and privileged status than Yoruba, or any of the other indigenous languages in my multilingual Nigeria. I found out about this at a very tender age.

The second of five children in a low-income family, I was privileged, and saddened at the same time, to be the only child chosen to receive an education, as my parents could only afford to send one child to school. I was chosen because I spoke the best English of all the five children. To my monolingual Yoruba-speaking parents, this was enough proof that I was the most likely to succeed in life. The plan was that after my “success”, I would then take care of the needs of my siblings who have made the sacrifice for me to go to school.

A family tragedy would later derail the education plan, but not before I had already learnt about this language conflict going on between Yoruba and English. Yoruba speakers who do not speak English are often seen and treated as failures, and a predominantly monolingual Yoruba-speaking community is considered to be at the bottom of the social ladder. I was determined at that early age to master the English language, with one major aim in mind, viz.; to find out the properties exhibited by different features of the language and see how they interact to make it “more powerful” and “better” than my beloved Yoruba. The plan was then to see if these could be applied to Yoruba to attain the same status as English.

I am in my final year of a BA English Language and Linguistics course, and with the support of my Supervisor, have begun work on my Capstone project looking into an interesting aspect of Yoruba syntax. During the course of my study, I have learnt that, like my Adeifeoluwa and Adeireoluwa, Yoruba and English are both beautiful languages, identical in some ways (both have the same SVO word order e.g. “Ade ate rice”; “Ade je iresi”) and different in other (e.g. English verbs are inflected (suffixation) for past tense with the use of ‘-ed’ as in played, “They played together yesterday”. Yoruba, as an aspect-based language rather than a tense-based one, does not mark the past tense with suffix morphemes rather the past tense is prefixed with adverbs. “Won jo sere l’ana”).

A language embodies the unique customs and history of a people. The foundation of everything I know about the Yoruba language today, was laid by my parents while growing up in Bariga, a Yoruba-speaking suburb in Lagos State, Nigeria. For this reason, efforts should be made to encourage a language’s development, documentation and description. While there are over thirty million first language speakers of Yoruba around the world, and a written system that dates back to the nineteenth century, there is a general consensus that Yoruba, is a “resource-scarce” and an under-described language. Languages like English, on the other hand, are better-resourced/-described in the literature. When languages of the world are given the necessary support to grow, the language diversity that results plays an important role in our human heritage.

Finally, a quick update on my siblings. Two of my sisters are now teachers, teaching in private primary/secondary schools in Lagos. Another sister is a nurse, who is still training to advance her career in Nursing. My brother is a stage actor and a radio presenter hosting a Yoruba-educative programme on a privately-owned radio station. All without speaking “good English”.

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19 August 2020

Meet the wellbeing team

Filed under: News — Laura Mathias @ 12.37 pm

Need support while you study with us?

We’ve got an awesome Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity Team on hand to help.

Anything you need support with, including wellbeing, mental health or disability, we can help.

We see lots of students who may be struggling with the transition to University, or might just be homesick and want to talk to somebody.

Meet the team…

Lorna Gadd

Lorna Gadd

I’m the manager of the team. I have worked in this role for two years now and have previous experience in the mental health field. When I am not at work I enjoy festivals (which I miss), going swimming in the sea and spending my time with my lovely cats.

Taran Baragwanath

I’m a Wellbeing Assessor and spend a lot of my time supporting students through the drop-in service. I am passionate about tackling hate crime and harassment and ensuring support is easily accessible for everyone. One of the things I enjoy doing that supports my personal wellbeing is looking after my garden.

Will Jennings 

I am one of the Wellbeing Assessors. I have been in post since January 2020 and have previously worked in community mental health services. My interests out of work include reading (a lot of) books and going for walks.

Fee Boon

Wellbeing Assessor, Fee Boon

I’m a Wellbeing Assessor who will spend time with students who use our drop-in service. I am passionate about wellbeing and self-care. I think talking is a really powerful, easily accessible self-care tool. One of my favourite things to do is to visit our beautiful Essex coastline to collect sea glass.

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12 August 2020

Contactless payment

Filed under: News — ckeitch @ 9.49 am

Our income desks will be cashless when they reopen on the Colchester and Southend campuses.

Tuition and accommodation fees are paid:

  • online using a debit or credit card
  • bank transfer and international online payment service including online e-wallet payment methods.

Contactless payment methods are accepted across the whole campus and contactless is our preferred payment method. There is no minimum spend on card payments at the University.

For any queries please contact income@essex.ac.uk.

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7 July 2020

We need you to join the YUFE Student Forum.

Filed under: News — Laura Mathias @ 11.08 am

Are you an Essex student (undergraduate or postgraduate) who is committed to student-centred Higher Education? Are you eager to be a part of an innovative alliance consisting of ten universities from ten different European countries?

Then apply to co-create one of the first European Universities with our students and staff.

Diversity and inclusivity are at the core of the YUFE identity. We strongly encourage students from all backgrounds and identities to apply.

What is YUFE?

The YUFE (Young Universities for the Future of Europe) alliance consists of ten universities from ten European countries. YUFE aims at bringing radical change to higher education by establishing itself as the leading model of a young, student-centred, open and inclusive European University. YUFE is a pilot for the opportunity to re-think mobility across European countries and an inclusive education across different institutions.

What is the YUFE Student Forum?

The purpose of the Student Forum is to make sure that the perspective of the students is always present in the realisation of the YUFE vision. Each university of the YUFE alliance has committed to have three students participate in the Student Forum and the working groups that will oversee YUFE’s implementation.

What is your role?

As a YUFE member your role will take many forms. You will:

  • work with fellow students and your Institutional Coordinator to communicate relevant YUFE activities to Essex students and communicate their input to the wider YUFE Student Forum
  • work with the representatives of all other YUFE partners as part of the YUFE Student Forum to ensure that the input of students is reflected in the development of the alliance
  • participate in one of the eight thematic YUFE working groups, for instance in ‘Diversity and Inclusivity’ ‘YUFE in the city,’ or the ‘Student Journey’, which will make the YUFE vision a reality.

An ideal candidate has good communication and organisation skills and is open-minded. You need to be able to dedicate sufficient time (10 hours per month) and be willing to engage in European travel (when we can travel again).

This is a voluntary opportunity, but that all expenses due to YUFE travel will be covered.

Ready to apply?

Are you ready to take part in making history and change the education landscape of Europe?

Send your application, including a CV and a motivation letter (max. 1 page), by Friday 24 July, 5pm to Dr Nadine Rossol. Please use the subject line “YUFE Student Forum Application”.

We will schedule a 20 minutes virtual interview for Tuesday 28 or Wednesday 29 July.

Find more information on the YUFE website or by contacting Essex’s YUFE coordinator Dr Nadine Rossol, or our current Essex student involved in YUFE Laura Robinson.

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2 July 2020

Decolonising the curriculum at Essex: a student perspective.

Filed under: News — Laura Mathias @ 2.52 pm

Hi, I’m Samira Diebire, the Student Union’s Black Students Community Officer 2019/20 and a 2nd year International Relations student.  As Black Officer, I represent black students’ experiences across the campus to ensure their voices are heard.

Samira Diebire, SU Black Officer

When I first started this role, one of the things that students have fed back to the previous officers, and I, was the lack of diversity and representation in their education in the University of Essex. The large majority of our curriculum is westernised and Eurocentric, despite the richness and depth of diversity of the history and communities that make up our society. This is one of the many reasons why students demand that the curriculum is decolonised.

How do we decolonise the curriculum? What does this mean? Where would you even start? These were some of the questions I am continuously asked in meetings by University’s staff and occasionally I ask myself the same question. Decolonising the curriculum is more than just adding a few BAME authors’ papers or books to the reading lists and ‘voilà’ the curriculum is decolonised. It is more than just adding some pictures of BAME people in the lecture slides or advertisement materials for recruitment leaflets or posters.

To start this important work, we all need to learn and understand that the problem is systemic racism on which our modern society is built on; it’s not enough to simply state that you are not racist if you’re not being proactively anti-racist.

The system in which we live was not designed for BAME communities. To effectively decolonise the curriculum, we need to create a new system that is more inclusive and values people’s lived experiences.

All these are suggestions that all academic and administrative staff should and consider when designing modules or supporting students in navigating for example assessment procedures; this should also include research. It won’t be enough for us to happily say “we decolonised the curriculum here at Essex”, however acknowledging that this needs to be done is the first step that students will appreciate.

Furthermore, the lack of representation does not help the process, especially when black students have limited representation or role models in the University Boards and Committees where decisions that affect our campuses and experiences are made.

One of the things that I heard throughout my term in office was that we don’t have enough lecturers within our University communities, which may be due to the fact that BAME students decide not to progress their studies at the University of Essex which means that they are under–represented in Masters and or PhD programmes. However, when we look into the reason why black students don’t stay at this University, the message that we hear loud and clear is that we don’t give them any reason to stay.

The BAME award gap refers to the observation that Black students on average do less well in their degrees overall compared to their fellow White students despite comparable entry grades. It is important to look at how marking and feedback is provided. As much as we have a system that is supposed to protect the anonymity of the person, it becomes problematic if a student decides to write about white privilege and the person marking the assessment does not understand what white privilege is or questions if it actually exists. Lack of insight into what white privilege is may result in such an assessment being failed or awarded a lower grade. This unconscious bias or ignorance or both become a problem when a black student would like to do a study or conduct research on a topic but cannot find a lecturer that has the knowledge and expertise to supervise them.

How can such issues be solved? Suggested ways forward could include giving opportunities to black students to discuss the issues they face openly and support them to select and undertake projects that they are genuinely interested in; reinforce anti-racism programmes in the University and ensure that this is a collective effort. If you are an academic you are expected to mentor and inspire, so consider looking at your reading list and think about the changes you could make, perhaps you might want to start portraying black people throughout history and in society in a more positive light as there’s more to black history than just slavery. Start asking yourself and others how you can further support black communities and your students. Don’t invalidate us and our experiences and don’t treat us differently. We are not asking for special treatment but rather for equal and fairer treatment. Check your unchecked biases and learn from them. There’s still a long way to go, but now is the time to move from the conversational sphere to the actions.

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11 June 2020

#BlackLivesMatter – it’s more than just a hashtag.

Filed under: News — Laura Mathias @ 10.09 am

The Enactus Essex society wanted to share this message of support with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement:

“May we continue to give compassion and seek understanding, despite our differences, for the rest of our lives. May we continue to stand by each other, as equals, as one, when the energy for equality dies.” – Vex King.

We aren’t going to sit here and deny that racism doesn’t exist, it’s undoubtedly everywhere. What we resist shall persist, hence we must not remain silent. What is happening right now is not normal and is unacceptable.

It’s necessary to not overlook the fact that having a darker skin tone can often make life more challenging. Some people or should we say the unfair truth, that is people of colour, have to consciously think about how to approach each day, unlike other people of privilege. If you haven’t experienced anything such, then imagine going out everyday with the fear that someone might be triggered with your presence just because of the way you look, and you’ve got to think about your safety. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee and George Floyd, to name a few are many of the innocent lives lost. To the Black people, we want you to know that we stand with you, we stand for justice and love.

It’s up to all of us, it’s in our hands to be the change we want to see. We must believe and also stand for equality. The first step is self-awareness. Did we all forget how to love? It’s our nature by default and if one has learned to hate, one can be taught to love too. Take a moment to reflect and throw away the ideologies that creates a division amongst us. Let us learn to love again, once more.

Now is certainly the best time. Not being racist and not causing any harm isn’t enough. We’ve already seen the consequences of that. We must acknowledge humans, all humans. We must reinforce the belief that Black lives matter. We must hear people of colour and amplify their voices. If you choose to stay silent and neutral, sorry to say but you’re causing more harm to those who have been exploited and victimized.

#BlackLivesMatter – please note, no one claims that only they matter. As much as all lives matter, Black lives are in danger. It is important that we understand and find a solution to the injustice our black brothers and sisters are dealing with. This issue must be handled by spreading awareness and acting from the place of love in order to make progress. Please do not be silenced, thinking how others will react. After all, to bring about change we must act. Act for the ambition to unify the world. Their pain is our pain, we are all one part of the human race.

Here at Enactus Essex, we aim to use our voice to support what’s right, powered by our founding belief in creating a better world using an entrepreneurial mindset, teamwork and business as a driving force. Through all this, we stand with you. We truly support #BlackLivesMatter. As a matter of fact, our multicultural team focuses on inclusivity. We have people from, as well as international projects based in Black communities. We are action oriented, attuned to the needs of others, and strive to be driving change that benefits all communities worldwide.

Together let us ensure a world where #WeAllWin.

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4 June 2020

In support of Black Lives Matter

Filed under: News — Laura Mathias @ 2.03 pm

Statement in Support of Black Lives Matter for the LGBTQ Staff Forum:

We, as a forum of LGBTQ staff at the University of Essex, stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We support the protestors who are standing up against police brutality and systemic racism in the US, the UK, and the world.

The violent murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police was captured on film, but his death was not an isolated incident. Two days after the death of George Floyd, Florida police shot and killed Tony McDade – a Black trans man. Two weeks before, Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in her own home after Kentucky police broke in. The protests are fighting to get justice for these Black lives murdered by police.

But racist policing is not only an American issue:

  • Over 50% of British youth in prisons are ethnic minorities, despite being 20% of the general population.
  • Between 2014 and 2019, Black people were 7 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.
  • Black people are detained under the mental health act 4 times more than white people.
  • 12% of police incidents using force involve Black people, despite Black people making up 3.3% of the population of the UK.

But racism is not just found with the police. Our own University’s Student’s Union has released a statement reporting their experiences of racism at the University at the hands of other students and staff. The University must do more to challenge racism in our community and in our own institution. We cannot just claim to not be racist. We cannot just unpack our unconscious biases. We cannot just retreat into silence.

We as a community must be anti-racist. We must work to combat the racist acts and systems of oppression at our University and in our communities.

The liberation of Queer people has been intimately tied with the liberation of Black people, and the modern struggle for LGBTQ rights in the US and UK started at the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969. The Stonewall Riots were initiated and led by Queer people of color, including Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. As a staff organisation of LGBTQ people, we support the ongoing fight for racial justice in the US, UK and, the world, and we are committed to combatting racism in our own communities.

Black Lives Matter. Black Queer Lives Matter. Black Trans Lives Matter. Black Lesbian Lives Matter. Black Gay Lives Matter. Black Bi Lives Matter. Black Nonbinary Lives Matter. Black Intersex Lives Matter.

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7 May 2020

Join us in becoming a Hedgehog Friendly Campus

Filed under: News — Laura Mathias @ 8.35 am

University of Essex is working towards the Silver award for a Hedgehog Friendly Campus accreditation.

Hedgehog numbers in the UK have declined by up to half since the year 2000. It is now estimated that there are fewer than 1 million left. Becoming a Hedgehog Friendly Campus means that the University of Essex will become a safe space for hedgehogs to thrive.

To achieve silver we will be completing a set of actions which includes:

  • Having a Hedgehog committee
  • Tracking hedgehogs on campus and at home
  • Involving students in a hedgehog activity
  • Leaving log piles in the grounds for hedgehogs to use as their homes
  • Surveying hedgehogs on campus grounds
  • Carrying out an awareness campaign to encourage local residents, staff and students to become hedgehog friendly too!

If you would like to be involved in our committee, raising awareness of hedgehogs or helping us gain data by tracking hedgehogs in your garden then please email Rebecca – Sustainability Engagement Officer rmossa@essex.ac.uk.

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4 May 2020

Things I’ve learnt to better appreciate during social distancing

Filed under: News — Laura Mathias @ 1.53 pm

Elinor Nichols, Senior Residents’ Assistant for North Houses tells us what she has learnt to appreciate during social distancing and shares her top tips on making the most of this time alone.

Elinor Nichols

  1. Free time

Now that I’ve got time to myself and don’t have constant meetings and activities, I can enjoy time outside, or simply taking time to draw or sing. I’ve realised how much better I feel about myself and my life at the moment and I’m definitely planning, once things return back to normal, on making sure I defend my free time and don’t overcommit myself.

  1. Solitude

I thought all my friends moving back home and being alone on campus would be really lonely and depressing, but it’s been nice. Things are finally quiet and I have space to do things I really enjoy. Things only get lonely if you let yourself lose contact with friends and family, but so long as you spend a little time each day talking with the people you love, it’s really enjoyable to spend the rest of your time on your own.

  1. Timetables and routines

There are things I’ve discovered here. First, it’s important to have a daily routine, especially for the mornings to get you out of bed and start your day. The evenings are also important to have a routine for so that you can unwind, go to bed at a reasonable hour, reflect on your day and avoid everything blending into a monotony.

Second tip is to have an accountability partner; find a friend you respect and tell them at the start of the day what you intend to do, and promise by the end of the day you will send pictures of that accomplished task. It’s a really big motivator to actually commit to getting things done, whether it be going for a run, cleaning your room, or writing your dissertation.

My third tip is to have at least one scheduled meeting or commitment in the morning to make sure you get out of bed. Whether it be talking with a friend, a work-related meeting, or a webinar you’ve signed up for, having a firm time to start your day helps you get started on the right foot.

  1. Music for atmosphere

If you are totally alone on campus, make a few playlists for when evenings get a little too quiet for comfort.  Just because you’re stuck in the same flat all the time doesn’t mean you can’t create different atmosphere. Even better, have your friends send you some of their playlists and you’ll feel even more connected to them from far away as you listen to their favourite songs.

  1. Our global community

Do you have international friends? Or a club or society you were a part of during term time? Reach out to them and establish weekly meetings. Personally, as part of the Catholic Society it’s been really cool to see how we’ve been able to maintain our weekly prayer groups even though we’re now scattered all over the globe. Praying the rosary together is not only reassuring, but it reminds me that I have a community I can reach out to that is more enduring than university life; if we’re able to connect and stay together during this time, we’ll probably also stay connected and keep our virtual prayer groups going even after this whole thing is over. That’s a really exciting and encouraging thought. Now is the time to set up habits and routines to help your long-distance relationships endure.

  1. Purposeful social media usage

Hone in your ability to understand why you’re opening your Instagram or Facebook app. Is it because you genuinely want to be inspired or to connect with others? Or is it because you’re bored? Spending hours on Instagram or YouTube is not as fun as it might seem at first. If you start figuring out why and when you use social media the way you do, you can avoid being sucked down the rabbit hole of endless scrolling by checking in with your motivations when you open the app.

  1. Protecting your wellbeing

Working for ResLife and a local parish, my top priority the past few weeks has been reaching out to vulnerable people and trying to establish a sense of community and support those self-isolating. That means setting up lots of Zoom meetings and community networks. But it’s okay if you want to disengage. It’s okay to take this time to yourself to block out the noise of the world and just focus on doing the things you love or only talking with the people that really matter to you. So long as you are not feeling utterly alone and miserable, it’s totally fine to use this time as a sort of personal retreat. Just know that the support networks are there if you do need it and we’re all in this together.

The Residence Life team continue to offer support via email during office hours, and a telephone support service out of hours for each area of campus. Email reslife@essex.ac.uk to find out more.

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21 April 2020

Access the surgery during social distancing

Filed under: News — Laura Mathias @ 4.37 pm

Want to know how you can access the University surgery during the covid-19 pandemic? Here’s a message from the medical team:

Repeat prescriptions

  • Prescriptions can be sent to pharmacies within England.  This will avoid the need for our patients to register as temporary residents at practices near their homes.
  • Prescriptions sent electronically should be available for collection from the nominated pharmacy that day.
  • For those on repeat medications, the easiest way to order them is to send an e-mail to the Health Centre stating what medications you would like issuing and which pharmacy you would like the prescription sent to by providing the postcode.
  • We can do reviews of medication and chronic conditions over the phone.

Appointments

  • We are still offering telephone and video consultations with patients
  • If clinically necessary, we are offering face to face appointments for those still in the Colchester area.

Got a question? Call the surgery on 01206 794484. 

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