Khadija Mannan, City Year Greater Manchester

Cityyear Manchester 2016 Red Jacket CeremonyAt a young age I was adopted into a loving, caring family that valued education and instilled this into me as I was growing up. My father, who spent 21 years working in social services, dedicated his time to ensuring the welfare of vulnerable children was met. He encouraged me to believe in education and the doors that it could open and ensured that I was supported for every step of my educational life. However, I was brought up in Tameside, one of the most deprived areas in England. It was very segregated and there was a lot of racial tension as I was growing up. It was normal for racial attacks to happen in front of you at school.

My experiences have given me a perspective on both a privileged and a disadvantaged background. In high school I was influenced by the wrong crowd of people, and in turn I didn’t achieve my full potential at GCSE. I attended a high school which at that time was quoted as a failing school and labelled as requiring improvement on a yearly basis. There was no real stability and head teachers came and went. I slowly realised that many of my friends and peers did not share the same mindset as me. They lacked motivation and never saw education as beneficial to them.

I think this is part of the reason I joined City Year UK. With my father’s stroke late last year, I realised that everyone should have at least one person who inspires them, motivates them and supports them; as I did with the support of my parents. It meant I was able to go on to study Law at the University of Manchester and meet some amazing people. I recognised that not everyone is as lucky as I was and that’s something City Year UK is here to tackle.

I have always valued the use of mentoring for children, through debating clubs I ran while at University, but when I came across City Year UK it seemed too good to be true. It was a year I could spend gaining experience supporting children and the dual benefit of personal development every Friday sold me.  I was able to learn key transferable skills.

Since starting City Year UK, I have been given a huge amount of responsibility through running breakfast and after-school clubs. I can definitely tell that I’ve made the right choice, because three months in, I’ve already had a tangible impact on children’s lives. Within school, I work with a Year 5 class, supporting the teacher and building relationships with my focus list children. Focus list children are those who are from a low income background, who I help on a one-to-one basis due to the behavioural, social and emotional issues they may have.

There’s one girl in my class who at the beginning of the year had serious behavioural issues. Nearly every week she would get a detention. I remember one particular lesson where there were books flying across the room and pencils being thrown so of course she was sent out of the class, didn’t benefit much from the lesson and managed to distract those around her. It was quite clear speaking to her that she was aware of her behaviour and by building a rapport with her I was able to make her understand that the behaviour she was choosing was not getting her anywhere. After that I decided to set up a simple sticker chart with her and I can proudly say that since we started, she hasn’t had her name on the sad side of her class behaviour chart yet. It may seem like something small, but for me it was a huge achievement for a child who saw no way of changing.

My plan after City Year UK is to go on to do a Masters in social work and eventually, I aspire to become a family court adviser. However, since starting City Year I have also been introduced to career paths I’d not even thought of and I’m looking forward to the rest of the opportunities which come my way.