Have Your Say
Yeelo's very own blog, accepting submissions from students and staff and providing a platform for their creative thoughts
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One of our favourite Educating Mentors, Dabindid, shares details about Yeelo's very own debating society; relaunching "The Stage"
As a follow up to Miski’s reflections on Yeelo’s last debate, reviving ‘The Stage’ debating project which took off in late 2017 gradually became an absolute must. Why you may ask?
‘Sir, when are we going to have another debate?’
‘Sir, why don’t you create more knife crime discussions, or even whether or not Somalis are black!’
Yes, you can imagine how much of a nuisance demanding Somali adolescents can be especially when ‘we’re in the process of planning’ slowly becomes an inadequate response and rightly so, who could blame them? The long hiatus had to come to an end. The time finally came for Yeelo to officially embark upon a new chapter of youth development, one which went beyond academia, and what better way was there other than to establish our very own Debating Society.
Informally already known as ‘The Stage’, we had set ourselves the expectations as a community centre to try encourage our young people to engage in social issues which required them to critically think. Excluding those minority of students who have already engaged with ‘Critical Thinking and General Studies’ within the education system, how many of us dismissed this subject as meaningless despite not having a clue as to what it actually entailed? I know I certainly did. Logical assertion to make though right? Otherwise why would universities be rejecting it en masse within the UCAS application process? Of course, you see it’s too futile, insignificant to put it frank, not even worth any UCAS points. And I am now pretending to act surprised or in the slightest outraged, of the fact that thousands of 16-18-year olds to this day in this country, still spew out the same nonsense. Juvenile perceptions of Religious Education, Philosophy and Ethics within the education system will continue to thrive for instance, because of the extent to which this state sponsored travesty has infiltrated the minds of many young people today.
‘Sir, why do I need to know about Pythagoras’ Theorem, how will this help me in my life ??’
This classic question posed by young people perhaps typifies the very extent to which our education system has been corporatised. Arguably the forefather of logical thinking, progenitor of deduction and critical thinking, these tools for individual betterment that Mathematics as a subject possesses in abundance, have been obscured entirely. Why? Grades = Job = Money.
Having said that, I guess this is one of the ways in which I’ve seen it go wrong for some young people in our generation. We were never encouraged to think. To reason. All we were ever taught thus far was to pick up a textbook, memorise its contents and sit the relevant exams all to end up doing what exactly? Living a 9-5, corporate, often unfulfilled lifestyle. A toxic perception of ‘accomplishment’ in life that does not train and prepare the individual to be more than just a mere pawn in a world that thrives off of one’s labour for profit.
Why do people lack purpose? Why do people struggle to find purpose? Simply put, we were never taught to see the fruits of our work put into action. We were told to expect a wage and that will buy you your happiness. Don’t get me wrong. Financial freedom is certainly a means towards finding bliss, but surely a focus on passion, inspiring the individual to think about what they do best should be the foundational ethos of any progressive education system. But as I mentioned before, it starts off from getting our young people to think, from the very point of consciousness. To reason. You might think well mate, if I wasn’t already ‘thinking’ or ‘reasoning’ I don’t think I would’ve made it to this point in this piece, so what are you talking about?
Well, what gives me hope is the fact that we’re engaging in a discussion that has at some point required us to ‘critically think’. We’re subconsciously if not even overtly, questioning supposed societal norms that dictate how one should seek success and happiness in their lives. Now I don’t think I’ve got the character freedom to dissect exactly why I believe some of us have misunderstood what ‘critically thinking’ actually means. Besides, if there was no misunderstanding in the first place, and I was just ‘waffling’, we’d perhaps be living in a world in which the philosopher was just as much as valued as the engineer, but we don’t.And that my friends, these coveted proficiencies of questioning, thinking and reasoning will be at the basis of the Yeelo Debating Society;s philosophy. We've just done it. So, let the quest for leading a new generation of an intellectually woke, community of young Somalis begin!
With Yeelo hosting one of their debate nights, Miski gives us an insight on the event, reflecting on the importance of occasions like this
As Somalis, we naturally are a people who love to talk and debate. Perhaps the best way to support this claim is by acknowledging how many of our fathers, uncles and brothers etc often to go makhaayadds’s (coffee shops) to discuss politics, football and general current affairs. The need to discuss and debate is innate within us, so in a world where there are a plethora of issues, why not channel this into something more productive and stimulating? - especially for our youth.
The benefits of debating are endless: from helping one to develop essential critical thinking skills, to allowing one to acquire better poise, eloquence, and confidence. Debating can offer immeasurable opportunities for students to enhance relevant skills both for their personal development and in a professional context.
On Saturday the 2nd of November, we held a debate night - the title being: the causes and solutions to knife crime. As of recent, knife crime has become a rampant issue in London, and it has become especially pressing within the Somali community. Figures released by the office for national statistics (ONS) revealed that knife crime has hit a record high after more than 44,000 offences were recorded in the last year. Issues such as these must be discussed with our youth, as they are the ones who are involved and directly affected by them. The youth must be given a platform to express their opinions and to raise issues which are concerning them. It’s the only way to start tackling them.
Through this debate we were able to hear an array of personal accounts and a myriad of solutions put forward. One solution offered by a student was this: he wished that parents were more actively involved in their children’s lives, not just keeping up with their academic progress, but being more present in their lives on an emotional level. He felt that this was the key to more open and honest conversations. This argument, however, was swiftly countered by another student who argued that it’s often difficult for parents to keep up with their children, particularly the older ones, as they are occupied with the younger children. He argued that it’s therefore upon the individual to distinguish between what is right and wrong, and that we should use the 'aql (intellect) Allah has given us. One stance which another student took was that the socio-economic disadvantages that the youth face, particularly black and ethnic minorities, were often a catalyst to knife crime. Another compelling argument was that drill music incites violence. Lyrics which include phrases like: ‘we’re known for the stabbings’ (rap group Moscow 17), propagate and even glamorises the idea of violence. Even this was countered by students claiming that these lyrics reflect their lives and struggles; it offers them an outlet in which they can air their grievances.
What impressed us the most, however, was the amount of students who actually turned up, and the staggering amount of them who offered personal contributions. The highlight was one particular year 11 student who had come prepared with a speech. His words resonated with all those who were present, but it wasn’t just his words that made an impression. He exuded a confidence and passion that was awe-inspiring. This, along with a delivery that was full of precision, conviction and vim, made it an evening that was truly memorable.
These sorts of debates are vital if we want to start conversations about the issues that young people face. We hope to have more debates which cover a wide range of topics that are engaging, challenging and insightful - shedding light on taboo issues that are often avoided and brushed under the carpet by our community.
To close, I’ll leave you with something one of the students said: when met with the argument that knives carried more for safety than for malicious intent, the student aptly argued that safety is not something that we can take into our own hands. When it came to our lives, she said: “it isn’t someone’s life to take when they aren’t the ones who gave it to you”.
Siham shares a written piece titled 'Identity' which touches on both the struggles and fulfilling experiences of her culture and heritage
“Where are you from?” What sounds like such as simple question when asked can send someone into a spiral of confusion. “Ehm, do you mean ethnically, locally?” The answer is never straightforward, it’s a running joke amongst second generation immigrants, when asked the question. We laugh at it “London” you say, just to look at their dissatisfied expressions, when what they truly meant was: “where does the colour of your skin link you to on this planet, because surely it cannot be England, the land of English roses and fair skin, so where are you really from dear?”
Being bilingual has always been fun, in the playground you’re surrounded by your peers, who you have gravitated towards because of common ground; your parents were all once strangers to this country and left behind their dreams so you could achieve yours. Make no mistake, you had the accent covered and speaking to you on the one phone, no one would ever be able to tell. This you definitely knew from first-hand experience when pretending to be your mother, because your mum could not understand the strong regional accent of the speaker on the other side of the line. “They’re going to know I sound too young to be a mother of 5, you say as your heart races while they throw words around you’ve never even heard before.” But let’s face it, that’s what made it special because you all had those similar stories to share and it’s what made you all crack up with laughter as you discussed it in playground. And while it united you, you would admit that it made you grow up just a little faster.
As you left the innocence and naivety of youth behind , you realised that being raised in the country your parents fled to, a little more than the right accent was required. A dual identity meant you’d had to balance the British culture with your own cultural roots. After all, you owed it to yourself and your parents who for the most part had tried to make sure you spoke your mother tongue and attended mosque. Religion and mother tongue, the building blocks of your identity.
Being a Muslim in the western world has meant that you’ve turned off your phone in class mortified, as the adhaan (call to prayer) had accidently gone off in a silent classroom, and awkwardly answered why you don’t celebrate Christmas, and replied “ yes, even water” multiple times, during Ramadhan. It has meant trying to find a place to pray in shopping centres, or restaurants or even out in the park. Music was also always frowned upon, except when the lyrics were in your native language, then it was acceptable, almost encouraged.
You’ve always felt connected to your motherland. The country of your people, the country your parents called home, and finally when the day arrives to visit, you’re excited, exhilarated, and a little nervous. Everyone welcomes you with open arms, the people are radiant, smiling and hospitable. Despite all this, they immediately know you are not from there, and again, you are seen as just a little different, this time ethnic but not local.
Still you are proud because your identity means you are the end result of sacrifice and survival. Never quite belonging to one place, but being part of many. So next time someone asks “where are you from?” You smile proudly and say, “do you want the long or short version?”
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