A former Lewisham and Southwark College pupil has been re-elected as president of the National Union of Students (NUS) for 2018.
Shakira Martin, 29, who used to live in Peckham, was re-elected as national president for 2018/19 during the union’s national conference in Glasgow.
The single mother of two fought off competition from King’s College London students’ union president Momin Saqib and Momentum campaigner Sahaya James, who is also campaigns officer at the University of the Arts London’s students’ union, to be elected for the second year running.
Speaking to the News after her win, Shakira said she was “really proud and excited” to be re-elected.
“I’m the second president since the NUS was formed 96 years ago to come from further education rather than university and the first black woman,” she said.
“Further education gave me ten years of different choices because I left school at sixteen and I didn’t know what the power of education was.
“I had my first daughter in 2011 and I thought ‘I need to do something different’.
“It’s hard being a single parent but I just want other people, other single mothers, other black women or young people to think ‘you know what, I can do it’.
“Many of us go to university or college to get qualifications but overcoming adversity is a lifetime qualification and I use my experience to fight for change.”
Shakira said her slogan this year was “it’s time to get real”.
“It’s about the issues people are facing on the streets and I want to represent the everyday person,” she said.
“I used to live in Peckham so for me I just want people to get the opportunity to break the cycle of deprivation.
“My key objectives include poverty and getting into university is just one part of it – but what about getting on.
“I want to be talking about scrapping tuition fees as well; I strongly believe in education as a right, not a privilege, but scrapping tuition fees is just one problem when there are others such as a housing crisis and bedroom tax.”
In a speech at the conference, Shakira said: “I know I’m not your typical president, and I can’t promise I’m perfect, but what I can say is I will give all for my kids, my membership, and the next generation, and I will never stop trying to make education a real option for everyone.”
Shakira pledged in her election manifesto to:
- Fight for a minimum living income for all students and securing the return of grants
- Fight for regulation that forces universities and colleges to reduce costs
- Build and launch a national student rights framework on everything from academic appeals to eduroam
- Demand universal discounts on student travel