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Alica Derome Rebecca Saul
Woodhouse College
Alica Derome Rebecca Saul

NUS President Malia Bouattia speaks for students

Dated: 16 December 2016

Woodhouse was pleased to welcome President of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia to the college yesterday, when she took time out of her very busy schedule to come and talk with our students.
After meeting with the principal and taking a tour of the college, Malia gave a talk in the learning zone on the theme of ‘Have students got anything to be optimistic about?'.
She spoke passionately about the state of the world at the end of 2016 - a year that has seen continued atrocities in Syria and the Middle East, ‘Brexit’, Trump and the rise of right wing nationalism across Europe, and, closer to home, increased austerity in the education system in Britain and the rise and rise of tuition fees.
In the light of all that's happened she agreed that it is no wonder that students might be pessimistic about their futures but insisted that they should look further than the headlines and take hope from the fact that young people are now more engaged in politics than ever before and students are protesting and campaigning for all sorts of human rights in increasing numbers. "The days of accepting the world as it is are over" she said.
There followed a Q&A session and our students asked some very smart and pertinent questions, including about the priorities of the NUS, the ‘Prevent’ and British values agendas, and questioning the role and value of ‘safe spaces’ on university campuses.
Malia answered fluently and comprehensively on every topic and certainly showed that she has what it takes to be an effective president of the union.
Inevitably, given Malia's headline-making media history, questioning turned to the Palestine conflict and her views on Hamas and Israel. Malia avoided being drawn into rhetoric of sweeping condemnations, and instead she spoke of her personal history of being brought up in war-torn Algeria, how her family were forced to flee the country when she was a young child, and how this experience has informed and directed her perspective. She urged students to learn more about the history of conflicts in the news and dig deeper for a truer understanding.
Malia continued to chat with students and answer questions long after the talk was finished and had a real enthusiasm to engage with them. We thank her for her time and hope to welcome her back again soon.

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