Talking about a more inclusive environment for students from diverse backgrounds

1.    Hello Maria! Thank you for accepting our invitation. To begin with, tell us a bit about yourself.

Hello! Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my story. Although I was born in Greece, I am a mix of Greek and Nigerian and moved to England at the age of 8. I’ve lived here for the past 10 years, however I’m still strongly connected with my Greek roots. I started dance at the age of 4 and have pursued a career in it since then. As dance is a non verbal art form, it helped me adjust in my new environment as I could still dance without having to speak the language.  Around the years, I have grown as a person, due to the different events of my life. The birth of my baby sister, changed me as a person, as I immediately stepped up to help with her upbringing. This has made me more independent and responsible, which are some of the qualities that set me apart from my peers.

2.    How do you think Greek schools can create a more inclusive environment for students from diverse backgrounds?

I think that educating the Greek population about different cultures will help decrease the racial division in schools. When I attended primary school in Greece I faced racial discrimination from kids twice my age, which made me feel isolated in an environment that should have felt safe for me. In England, as an immigrant I received lots of help when joining my new school. Immediately, I recognized how differently people of colour were treated there. My class consisted of children from different cultural backgrounds which made me feel included and the teachers did everything in their power to teach me the new language and make me feel part of the class. I’m a firm believer that children learn from their parents and here in England schools held up events which allowed both parents and children to share their cultural backgrounds. Greece lacks such events. Therefore, I believe that holding such events will educate and normalize people differences within the community.

3.    We’ve been informed that you have showed great academic success, since moving to England, even surpassing your peers who were natives. How did you manage to do that? What were some of the difficulties that you faced?

Before moving to England, my biggest fear was the language barrier. However, due to the great help of my teachers there, I learned how to read, write and talk in the span of 3 months. Maths had always been a strength and as numbers don’t change in languages I quickly reached the top of my class in that subject. I put a lot of hard work and effort in my classes, as I knew I wasn’t as confident in the language as my native classmates. This hard work and determination resulted in academic rising within my class. When starting high school, I took every opportunity present, which helped me develop a range of skills, such as communication and team work. I have always been a resilient person, who puts in a lot of effort and the support from my parents and teachers encouraged me to further progress. The effort eventually paid off, as I represented my high school in many events, throughout the five years. In my final year at that school, I was grateful to become head girl and achieve some of the highest grades in the school. Alongside academics, I attended a dance academy, which I am still a part of and they helped me grow to be the dancer that I am today. I am proud to say that my talent in dance has helped me get a place in one the leading dance universities in England, to which I’ll begin my studies next year.

4.    Has being a woman and a person of colour affected your life as a teenager?

As women, we are expected to follow certain paths of life. This is done by limiting our ambitions and opportunities in order to force us into being housewives. Growing up, my mother set a great example to me of how women can be an active part of the household without taking up traditional roles. This taught me at a young age how to be independent and stand my ground in any situation. Additionally, being a person of colour, as being a huge part of my life, as growing up in Greece meant that my family faced a lot of racial discrimination. This exposed me to the injustice of the world, at a very young age, quickly maturing me as I had to learn how to deal with such events. Although being a woman of colour still induces challenges in my life, it has helped me grow as a person as I am now not afraid to stand up for what is right.

5. Who inspires you and why?

One of my biggest inspirations in life is my mother. She has faced lot of challenges in her life, yet she continues to thrive as a person. Everything she does is in the interest of her family, which inspires me as she has greatly helped me with everything I personally faced. My mom is my biggest supporter and the only reason I haven’t given up on my life long dreams. She taught me to have confidence in myself and not let others’ opinion affect me. This is the reason why today I am still reaching towards my goal of being a choreographer, no matter people’s opinions. I’m thankful for all she has done and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.

6. In what ways do you think England has achieved equality between males and females?

Unlike Greece, women here aren’t constricted due to the higher development of the country. We have freedom over our educational sectors as more women enter fields that are usually reserved for men. For example, many females join jobs, such as policing, construction and engineering. Unfortunately, this is unheard of in Greece, as women are expected to work in more domestic jobs, such as chefs and cleaners. Additionally, women are more confident as they aren’t belittled by men and forced to act in certain ways, meaning that it is more common to see women in positions of power, such as managers and bosses. This is because England is more socially advanced, meaning that although there are still people who hold traditional views, it is looked down upon and challenged if the system discriminated against any individual.

7. Are you a feminist?

Yes. I believe that the title “feminist” simply refers to a person who believes in equal rights. I think that getting equal rights is not only about empowering women but also allowing men to express their vulnerability as we will make everyone realize that we’re all just human. That’s all I need to say.

8. Τhat is all! It’s been a pleasure to talk to you. We wish you the best of luck in life!!

Thank you guys. I hope everything turns out well for you too!!

Συνέντευξη:   Φραγκάκη Εμμανουέλα &

Δημητρίου Πετρίδη Τσαμπίκα (εξωτερική συνεργάτιδα της εφημερίδας μας)

Σκίτσο: Πλευράκη Ελευθερία (εξωτερική συνεργάτιδα της εφημερίδας μας)