Our class of 2021 really are something to shout about. They’ve overcome challenges, helped others, grasped opportunities and developed their skills, showing their Essex Spirit in so many ways. And they’ve done it all during a pandemic when student life has been changed beyond recognition. We couldn’t be prouder of them so we’re telling their stories.
Tue 13 Jul 21
Samira Diebire wants to play her part in solving global issues and has made her first steps towards that goal by spearheading Essex’s move to decolonise its curriculum and help create safe and inclusive spaces on campus for Black and minority ethnic students.
Samira, who is graduating with a BA International Relations, has been a leading voice in advocating for Black students at Essex as Black Students Community Officer and as the Welfare Officer for the Black Social and Political Society.
She helped campaign for greater food and event diversity on campus and cites a flag parade at the Black Market she organised for Black History Month as one of the most memorable moments of her Essex experience: “It was great to see so many BAME students outside in the squares, having fun and enjoying themselves.”
But her greatest legacy is perhaps the changes she’s helped make to decolonise the Essex curriculum.
“I was doing a degree that was not targeted towards me and I had the constant feeling of not belonging,” she said.
Samira, who says the lack of diversity amongst academic teachers made her feel “inadequate”, added: “It was important to me because I would like generations after me to have a better education, to feel represented and feel that they belong where they are and deserve to be there.”
"It was great to see so many BAME students outside in the squares, having fun and enjoying themselves."
Working with the Black Network team, the Library, the SU Education Team, and academics including Dr Hannah Gibson, Samira set about making her voice, and those of Black students, heard. She worked hard to get more students on board and faced challenges along the way but is proud of what she’s achieved.
“I experienced roadblocks with people who claim to decolonise the curriculum but are unwilling to make lasting changes. It was also challenging to frame because it’s such a broad and complex issue,” she said.
“I’ve learned a lot, but mostly to take credit for my own work. Most people assume that BAME people can do the work without getting any compensation and credit,” she added.
Samira has always wanted to make a difference and says she chose her degree because of a “desire and drive to know, understand and perhaps resolve contemporary global issues.”
She’s changed lives through volunteering too. During her first year, Samira volunteered as an art club leader, working in local primary schools at after-school clubs. In her second year she coordinated and taught science lessons in schools through the Einstein Project.
She says her volunteering experiences have been invaluable: “I learned the value of doing things for other people, giving out my time. And it gave me a lot of transferable skills such as leadership, time and line management, planning, and cultural awareness.”
Samira’s made every minute at Essex count and was also an active member of the Model United Nations which took her all the way to Dubai, for the international conference, where she was awarded the Outstanding Diplomacy Award.
Samira is graduating with a first and has scooped a number of prizes including a 2018-19 Activist Award, a 2020 International Student of the Year Award and Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum Big Essex Awards.
Thanks to a SeNNS Studentship award, Samira is staying at Essex to complete an MSc Conflict Resolution and PhD on conflict in sub-Sahara Africa.