My primary school employed grouping. However, instead of grouping children in terms of ability, we were grouped according to race and gender. I started primary school following a rocky start to life, having moved schools three times before settling. Although I was proficient in my mother tongue, I was very quiet and did not interact with the other children as much. Rather than supporting me, I was placed in remedial with other children of colour, predominant little girls, where we remained academically unchallenged. This continued for several years before I then graduated to the lower ability group, again with no other white child. It became quickly apparent that we were inferior to the other children in our class and sadly, the inequality of being darker skinned and female in a predominantly white society became internalised from the age of 4.
My dad was a member of MENSA from the age of 14 and had been an exceptionally successful entrepreneur majority of his life. At home he would embed in us the importance of education and took a remarkable interest in our education and took great joy challenging us. Our games revolved around history, geography, politics, religious studies, maths and computing and we fell in love with academia. We had encyclopaedias that we would read when other children played and we would borrow DVD’s from libraries that would challenge us with complex mathematical problems several years more advanced for our ages. I was 11 when I attempted my first higher paper (equivalent to A levels) and I was encouraged to pursue a career in medicine for as long as I can remember.
At 13 I approached my head of year to discuss taking on more STEM based subjects for my standard grades (equivalents to GCSEs) as I knew this would give me a better chance of applying to medical school. Instead, I was met with bemusement and puzzlement. Why would I need to study three sciences at standard grade? Do I understand how hard it is to get into medical school? I left the meeting really upset and later opened up to my dad that evening. He unfortunately was not surprised by the teachers’ outburst but instead reinforced in me that I could achieve whatever it was that I set my mind to and that he believed I could achieve great things. I felt invincible. I applied for three sciences, did really well in my standard grades and highers and was now eligible to apply for medical school, to everyone’s disbelief.
I got accepted at the University of Aberdeen and won two competitive scholarships to study there. I sailed through medical school, watched my parents cry tears of joy at my medical school graduation, completed my core training in London having attained two additional post graduate qualifications and have just been selected for a highly competitive higher specialty dual training post in Intensive Care Medicine (ICM) and Emergency Medicine (EM) at the age of 27. This means I will dual qualify as a consultant in both ICM and EM which are two separate, highly competitive specialities by the age of 33 in my hometown of Glasgow. I am also currently trying to attain a MSc degree whilst working full time and will plan to complete a diploma to work internationally.
I started my journey into education believing I was inferior because of the colour of my skin whereas now I feel invincible. This is wholly attributed to my loving, supportive parents who refused to accept the institutional racism and sexism we are faced with everyday in all aspects of society and embedded in us that we are all equals irrespective of the colour of our skin or gender that we are born.
By Miriam Kauser