From Primary to Postgraduate: My journey of student leadership
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- العمر 22
Have you ever been a student leader? Do you know what it takes to be a successful servant leader? Maybe, yes! Being a leader is being a selfless person who is committed to improving and transforming people's lives, and being a servant leader below the age of 18 is unique and extraordinary!
I was always inspired by analysing problems in school and finding solutions in order to excel in my and my peers studies. I managed to build trust and develop an influence at every school I attended and every team I worked with across all level of my studies. I have remarkable stories of leadership and volunteerism; I have been leading and volunteering since my primary school up to now in my tertiary education. Most of the time, I have been either in the role of a class coordinator, chairperson of committees or a minister.
At 10 years old, I was attending an Islamic school alongside my primary classes in Mogadishu, where I was born and grew up. I had many schoolmates of different ages; my instructors and fellow students usually described me as hardworking, smart and gracious. They saw me as someone who studied well and helped others to learn and to succeed. I used to assist my instructors with low-performing students to teach their lessons and assist on their exercises. Also, the instructors used to assign me to lead student teams; those were composed of students older than me, to perform extra curricular activities. For example, in the month of Eid-Fitri, according to the Hijra Islamic calendar, every Muslim is obligated to give a grain to the needy or vulnerable people. So some students' families bring the grain to school and the management redistributes it to others for charity. Therefore, my teacher assigned me to lead a team of students to his home to deliver the parcel of maize, the grain. Before we left the school, he called and whispered to me saying ‘‘Lead this team and deliver these bags. Then you all come back. No one can go to another place! You should come back early." This scenario was not rare and made me feel motivated.
At Damal primary school, where I attended both my primary and secondary school in Mogadishu, which later on was named Heegan, is where I also found my talent as a leader. From P2 to Form 4 I was class monitor by both unanimous election and nomination by school staff and, sometimes, by my classmates. I earned their loyalty and trust by successfully handling their study related needs and school activities affairs. I was not only learning with them, but also caring about them. For example, if one of us got ill; I used to organize our classmates to pay a visit to students that were ill in order to show solidarity and support. This not only builds trust and loyalty, but also influences all the students, teachers and the school management.
The same spirit of leadership continued after I graduated from my secondary studies. For a couple of years I was awarded by school management. Most of the awards were materials, but I always preferred inspiring words and encouragement over materials. One of my earlier school days, the principal, Mohamed Ali, said to me "I see your excellence in your studies and leadership, you will be a great leader in the future". I liked those words, but I thought about them for a few seconds and asked myself why should I be a great leader in the future, why not the present or both!? I told myself you are a great leader of today and tomorrow.
After high school graduation, I was offered a primary teaching position by my school, Heegan. I accepted the offer and started teaching Social Studies and English courses to primary classes because I have been passionate at building people's lives. During my teaching at the school for two years, I won the in-service teaching training program scholarship at Mogadishu University where I was awarded a Diploma in Education in 2012. During my college studies, I was described as a prominent student with an excellent reputation at the university. At this time, everyone is adult, the environment is different, and most school challenges are not the same.
I decided to quit my job at the school because I wanted to pursue my dream course at the university. In 2011, I started a degree program of Public Administration at SIMAD University. I always wanted to learn a course addressing public issues. This time I was not only a class coordinator, but I volunteered as an administrative assistant to my faculty in Economics and Social Sciences. This Looks great… isn't?! Sure yes!
In 2013, the university enacted a new policy to establish the University Student body; therefore, I launched my presidential campaign at University. I got a petition of 300 student's signatures at my campus, without even reaching the main campus! One of the requirements for the eligibility criteria of presidential candidates was to have 50 petition signatures. Unfortunately, a few weeks later the university updated the candidate's eligibility criteria which stated that last year students were not allowed to run. Really it was disappointing! However, I shut down my campaign and directed my energy to volunteer with the electoral committee, we introduced and streamlined a new and impactful culture of elections.
On November 2013, I participated in a public debate which was organized by the faculty of Law at SIMAD University. This was the first time that a student acted in this role at the university. Also, On May 2014, I served as Deputy Chairperson of the electoral commission of the faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at SIMAD University. Furthermore, in 2017, I successfully served as the minister of International Affairs and Foreign Relations of Kampala International University Guild Union, and it was my last official student leadership role at the campus. This time the environment was a cross-cultural one. I was coordinating and working with all the national, cultural and religious student bodies at the campus. Acting and representing the entire KIU community, over 20,000 diverse students across Africa, was an opportunity and privilege for me.
As a student leader, you might not only meet and collaborate with students, fellow leaders but also the university top management, the business community and public agencies and community at large. During my leadership, I have not just given perspectives, but also gained. I learned more about critical thinking, team building problem analysis, communication, and many others.
If I would have summarised in one key term about the essentials and lessons I learned from my journey is VLTMP. Every leader needs to have a vision. They need to know where exactly he or she is heading or leading to. Leaders should be good listeners. The more I listened the more my followers listened to me which helped our communication. Also, leaders should teach their followers. The more you upgrade them, the more they understand and collaborate. The concept of leadership is interdependent between leaders and followers. Motivating others is a very essential element in every leadership. In my tenure I always felt I connected souls with students because their problems were my priority plan for action. This really motivated them to collaborate. Moreover, problem analysis is inevitable because the existence of problems is the reason we need to lead and be led. It important to be a critical thinker and to analyse challenges within your team. Great leaders always find a path to prosper even amidst problems.
Lastly, may I advise my fellow young and emerging leaders? Surely yes! Leadership is
dynamic; the environment changes, the problems change, philosophies upgrade;
it takes great leaders to be situational and adopt contemporary global trends
values to local ones and build a better present and future.