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Rhodes Must Fall join campaign for student to continue studies

Kenyan masters student Gilbert Mitullah must raise £25,000 by Friday evening to keep place at university

Oxford student groups, including Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) and the Oxford University Africa Soceity (OUAS), have gathered in support of a campaign to crowdfund the education of Gilbert Mitullah, a Kenyan masters student who faces losing his place at the University if he does not raise £25,000 by Friday.

Mitullah, of St Antony’s college, was named last year as one of the 100 most influential young Kenyans of 2016, after launching two social enterprises focused on teaching employment skills to Kenyan school children.

However, due to a visa delay, this week he faces the possibility of losing his place at Oxford if he does not raise enough money to fund his masters in Comparative and International Education.

He was the first Kenyan ever accepted onto the course.

This funding originally came from a Kenyan company, but due to a visa delay Mitullah’s trip to Oxford was delayed by two weeks and the funding was withdrawn.

He told Cherwell: “I have been trying to find other means of paying my fees, including debt and work, but I have so far been unsuccessful in raising the enormous amount required. I have also tried to reach charitable foundations and trusts, but have so far failed to receive any positive outcomes. I now have an incredibly short time to raise the money or leave Oxford before my visa is cancelled. This would mean that I would be unable to complete my studies.

“I would ask people to support me in completing my studies by giving whatever amount possible. This will allow me to go home and support others who would need my effort and knowledge to complete their primary and secondary school education successfully. I have spent the past nine years giving my time to mentorship and free legal aid in the rural areas of Kenya. I may not be able to change the whole world, but I am able to change someone’s world in Kenya with the knowledge and skills I gain at Oxford.”

One anonymous supporter donated £2,500 to Mitullah on Thursday.

A spokesperson for Oxford University told Cherwell: “The Department of Education and St Antony’s College are both aware of Gilbert’s situation and are working with him to find a possible solution.”

Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) is an organisation supporting Mitullah’s campaign to stay in Oxford, urging its more than 6,000 followers to buy Gilbert a ‘virtual coffee’, by donating minimum of five pounds each before the Friday deadline.

Femi Nylander, a major figure in the Oxford chapter of Rhodes Must Fall, told Cherwell: “Gilbert’s lack of funding due to a delayed visa and corporate bureaucracy highlights everything that is wrong with UK’s visa service, which delayed a black African Oxford student for no good reason. The lack of a sufficient institutional response from the university provided him with little support. International students and African students have very high fees indeed. He is a victim of circumstance, and as one of the few African Oxford students we have gathered together to try to change those circumstances.”

In response to this support, Mitullah commented: “Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford has been very gracious in sharing my message to their followers and I appreciate them. I have received support from the Oxford University Africa Society as well as St Antony’s College members and the Oxford community.

“I also received great support from the Oxford Gospel Choir, which I sing in, and my church, Emmanuel Church, has given me immeasurable spiritual support in this whole process.”

A spokesperson from Oxford University’s Africa Society told Cherwell: “One of our objectives as the University of Oxford Africa Society is to facilitate increased access to and funding for an Oxford education for African scholars. Gilbert’s situation is one example of how wide the funding gap faced by African students is. It presents an opportunity for the university to prioritize initiatives that allow talented students to benefit from and contribute to the university, regardless of where they come from and how much money they have.”

This news comes in light of Oxford’s Rhodes Must Fall Campaign’s re-launch meeting, held at Linacre college on Saturday evening. The organisation set out two new initiatives that go beyond the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue at Oriel College.

The first is the development of a new interactive map with three layers denoting “problematic iconography”, areas of decolonial protest, and spaces where people have experienced racially motivated oppression, including non-University locations. At the meeting, it was said that the interactive map “will last with the movement for years to come.”

Submissions to the map will remain anonymous so that colleges cannot penalise students who identify images and symbols of colonialism.

RMF in Oxford are also developing an ‘alternative syllabus’, compiling reading lists of black and minority ethnic (BME) writers. It was claimed that Oxford’s present curriculum “perpetuates colonialism”. The ‘alternative syllabus’ reading lists currently encompass English and political theory, but RMF aims to expand across different fields, including STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) subjects.

It was emphasised in the group discussion that rather than focusing exclusively on Oxford University, the ‘alternative syllabus’ “should be passed on to the BME community at large.”

The discussion was interspersed with chants of “de-, de-colonise”.

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