By Zahra Rammahi
Before I graduated I had not realised how unrealistic the education system was in preparing us for future work. I understood the purpose of school was to mould us into successful career people, however, I had not realised that a first class degree with honours wouldn’t get me anywhere in life – especially with no experience.
In the three great university years of making amazing friends and learning psycho-social theories of human behaviour, people would often ask me, “so you’re a psychologist?” I would say, “yes”, they would ask, “can you tell what I’m thinking?”, I would reply, “erm…yes” they would inquire, “ what’s that?” and I would answer, “You my friend are thinking if I know what you’re thinking?’’
Yet on a serious note, I would pause and wonder why I don’t know. Why hasn’t my degree taught me valuable transferable skills that will help me make a difference in people’s lives? I’m paying for this degree after all; if I was so curious about Freud I would have just bought or borrowed a book.
However I realised it isn’t so much the education system that is the problem but the key issue lies with our community’s lack of experienced individuals to act as mentors for such young people and to prepare them for the future. Growing up, I did not have enough encouragement in what I wanted to be, because I was never really sure what I wanted – or what I was even good at – for that matter.
When I was young I would often ask my peers what they want to be when they grow up and a lot of them were not sure, and as I aged this attitude still seemed to have remained with students at university. We need to instill ambition in young people, because they are the ones who will grow up to make positive changes to the infrastructure of society.
But there are positive instances in this pursual of experience. A family kindly gave me an opportunity to work with their two boys that suffer from autism, and it was only at that point that I realised what I truly was good at. They taught me how to behave according to a special program and, through mentoring, also taught me the process of being a good ‘play therapist’. This method worked wonders with the boys. Had I myself had the opportunity to gain experience and encouragement from individuals in the community a little earlier on, I may have known what career I wanted to enter later in my life, which in turn would open up a lot of avenues.
If so many of us Muslims are struggling in this respect and we have professional Muslim brothers and sisters in the community, let us lend a hand to the youth. Let us prepare them with workshops and networks so they are able to leave their education with the confidence and reassurance that they will succeed in securing a job.
Within the next ten years, as Muslims living in Britain, it is important that we establish more mentoring programs where young people in our community are able to interact and engage in more grassroots organisations. Thus they will benefit early on and will benefit the community through gaining hands-on transferable skills. The possibility of creating mentoring programs in the next ten years has been made possible today; I myself am currently part of a new mentoring initiative where young people in the Muslim community are given the chance to gain a wider understanding of the experiences of professionals in a one to one format. We lend our career experiences, guide them through their journey and offer advice ranging from education and career, to family life and social relationships.
However this is just the beginning. I feel we need more mentoring programs to motivate youth by taking the initiative to make a change, so that the next generations have access to much more work experience than what was available to me. Let us recapture the true essence of Islam and help our community.
I will leave you with this thought. “One great strong unselfish soul in every community could actually redeem the world’’- Elbert Hubbard.
Zahra Rammahi is a Psychology graduate from University of Surrey: Roehampton Institute. She is currently mentoring and working within the field of Autism. She hopes to further her studies in Psychology and pursue a career in research.
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