If I were Prime Minister: All education would be free

Our series in the run-up to the General Election – 100 days, 100 contributors, but no politicians – continues with the blogger and activist

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The Independent Online

At the age of 11, I was the youngest person elected on the first Bradford and Keighley Youth Parliament.

I remember the adrenaline rush, I felt like I could make a difference. I remember the countless meetings we had with Bradford councillors and MPs, I remember the first column I ever wrote for our local paper at the age of 12. My youth workers, along with the unwavering support of my father, empowered me, they pushed me further then I thought I could ever go. I aspired to be the first Asian prime minister of the UK. 

And then I went to study at Bradford Girls Grammar and my world view changed. You see, as I was growing up I was convinced I could put the world to right. I believed racism and poverty would be eradicated. I believed my generation would make the world a better place. My dad tried his best to prepare me for the “real world”. He would say to me “get your head out of the bubble your living in,” or “you’ll soon realise the odds are stacked against you…you’re brown and a woman.”

It was only when I started studying history, literature and politics that the burden of power became apparent. The sheer responsibility of those in leadership. And the struggle of those who are a minority living within an indigenous community.

I recognised the theory of utility - the idea that the greatest good for the greatest number of people. I was told politicians had to make decisions and just sometimes there is a sacrifice. This is apparent now, more than ever.

So, what would I do as Prime Minister? 

Education would be free, partly to eradicate my own student debt, but also because it opens your mind. It enables you to critically examine life, and every individual needs to experience that without having to worry about money. I would invest in youth. Young people’s views are fresh and dynamic. For a short while we are passionate, and ready to take on the world.

We need more mentors to help guide the youth. Take Bradford for example, it has the youngest population in Europe, we have scarce job employment, low educational attainment and many of my friends who were born and studied here have had to move away to pursue their careers. 

If I were Prime Minister I would encourage all to celebrate difference. There is beauty in diversity. I would encourage communities to come together and to celebrate not only their personal identity but also their collective identity. Generations like mine, who have immigrant parents yet are born British, need to feel like they belong. 

In all honesty, If I were Prime Minister, I would lose sleep, eat less and worry more. I do not envy Cameron or Miliband. As Aung San Suu Kyi once wrote “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it.”