Two girls from Leicestershire have won a national competition to become young ambassadors for a UK campaign promoting the universal human right to education.
Samina Begum, 14, and Jessica Hardy, 15, both year 10s from Limehurst academy in Loughborough, will travel to Kenya next month on behalf of Send My Friend to School, to learn about barriers to schooling for deaf children. On their return, they will become figureheads for the 2016 campaign – lobbying politicians and sharing their experiences with other children and the media.
“I was already so happy to make it to the top three, but that we actually won this competition is something not even the dictionary has enough words to describe how awesome it is,” said Samina. Her presentation, which included details of a visit she made to relatives in Bangladesh, had beaten tough competition from schools in Chester and Lowestoft.
“I can’t wait to be able to help those who aren’t as privileged as me, to travel to Africa and to learn sign language. I’m really looking forward to being able to get my voice heard and see what change we can make,” said Jess.
Most deaf children in Kenya, as in other poor countries, lack hearing aids, and class sizes are large, while knowledge of sign language is patchy. With staff from Deaf Child Worldwide – the global arm of the National Deaf Children’s Society – Samina and Jess will visit a school for deaf children and meet children not in school. They will talk to teachers, politicians and others about what can be done to improve their experience of learning.
Send My Friend to School was set up in memory of former National Union of Teachers general secretary Steve Sinnott, whose widow Mary was one of the judges. The panel was impressed by the girls’ use of humour in their video, which featured outtakes, and felt this light touch could help motivate other young people. They also praised the commitment of teacher Ellie Bloodworth, who will accompany her students to Kenya.
The education secretary and local MP, Nicky Morgan, has already visited Limehurst as part of a Send My Friend to School event.
A Guardian reporter will accompany the girls to Kenya in February and give an update on their progress.