NIGERIAN-born student Aisha Akinola has become the first ever African to be elected as a sabbatical officer responsible for racial integration and support matters at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in its 438 years history.
Sokoto-born Aisha currently serving as the vice president, welfare in the Scottish University’s Student Association, said her mother motivated her to run for the role at a point when she felt discouraged. She revealed that she became aware of the sabbatical officer role while she was getting her visa to travel to Edinburgh.
Aisha said: “After giving my manifesto, I felt so down and depressed because I was the only person of colour but I called my mum and she encouraged me to continue. During my campaign, I gave it my all and I was determined that even if I fail, I would fail gloriously but lo and behold, I won.
“When I was preparing my visa at the airport, they asked me if I wanted to go on sabbatical. So, I was intrigued and checked out the meaning of the word and from that moment, I started looking forward to it.”
As a sabbatical officer in her university’s student association, Ms Akinola hopes to carry out campaigns on her campus to solve issues relating to racial segregation and students support. She is also passionate about embedding equality, diversity and inclusion into the experience of students at the University of Edinburgh.
According to her, she hopes that the university embraces diversity and inclusion under her tenure, as these factors are personal to her. She revealed that during her meetings with other officials, people always get to notice her as she is the only person of colour and that her religion makes her stand out too.
Being a person of colour and a Muslim, Ms Akinola sees herself as a person of complexities. Asides being a sabbatical officer at the University of Edinburgh, Ms Akinola is also a model, hair stylist and henna artist.
She said: “As a child, I was making toffee and chin-chin to sell at school. I have always had that entrepreneurial spirit and that’s how I’ve been able to manage my passion, role and side hustles.”