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What I've Learnt As A Black Girl At Private School

My last days of school have been a time of reflection, tears and the utmost pride. Over the years, I have witnessed my own evolution from a timid and rather anxious year seven, to the confident and self-assured young woman I am today. I have discovered my strengths and weaknesses, made lifelong friends and even surprised myself with what I can do when I put my mind to it.

As I stand on the brink of adulthood, quite terrified if I’m being completely honest, it feels like an appropriate time to collate the wealth of experiences and lessons that I have gained over the past seven years. Some have been funny, like watching my friend dance her way off a table in a French lesson. Some have been exciting and quite frankly illegal, like the time I broke into a school with my French exchange student (long story). Some have been difficult like my maths GCSE, which I still consider to be one of the most challenging things I have ever endured. But, of course, there is one experience which has taught me more about myself and my peers than any other.

From the outset, in the context of my education, I have always been noticeably and severely part of a minority. Although I haven’t always been aware of it, my experience as a black girl navigating my way through an environment with a culture that is quite clearly not my own, has undoubtedly played a large role in shaping my identity. When I first joined my school in 2009, I was one of only five black girls out of the 120 that started with me, this number has since decreased. The year above me was left with no black girls when the only one departed after her GCSEs. In addition, to this day, the only black members of staff are the cleaners and a science technician.

Aside from people touching my hair and constantly being confused for the other black girls in the school (despite bearing no resemblance to them), I believe that I have learnt and hopefully taught others a great deal from my presence as a black student.

When I first sat down to write this article, I got through precisely half a sentence before bursting into tears. Whilst of course some of these tears were because I still can’t quite believe I’m leaving school, the real reason I was crying was because it suddenly dawned on me that being one of only a handful of black girls has actually made me abnormally insecure.