“I feel great, valued and seen here at the Erasmus MC. I hadn’t experienced that before in Dutch education. What will always stay with me is what it was like after I did the Cito exam in year 8 of primary school. I can’t recall experiencing much in the way of racism before that time, but I do remember that my parents often went to the school to discuss things. Such as why I wasn’t allowed to skip a grade while others who performed less well were. In year 8, we all had to walk to the front of the class one at a time to see our Cito score. I was nervous because I really wanted to do well. I had worked hard, but that week my concentration wasn’t optimal. My grandma had just died. But my score was 550! The maximum score. Then the teacher said: ‘Shh, don’t tell the other children. That would be cruel.’ A year before, everyone in school had been told when a boy got a score of 549.”

“That same teacher later asked me: ‘Are you sure about studying at a gymnasium? I’m not sure you would be able to cope.’ I didn’t get where that was coming from. We had done an IQ test in school, and I got the highest score out of twenty schools; I was already taking maths at secondary-school level. It felt so unfair.”

“After that summer, I didn’t go to school in the Netherlands but in Slemani, in the north-east of Iraq. My parents missed their families. My father studied engineering and he was offered a good job there. The international school my younger brothers and I went to is incomparable to my Dutch school. In Kurdistan everyone is more open than in the Netherlands and the education is more supportive. I felt at home there. I was no longer the best in class, but I felt more encouraged than ever before. The teachers never called me dumb. They spoke to the class, saying: ‘Baasnne has come all the way from the Netherlands, and look at all the things she can already do.’ I developed fast in those four years. I learned how sociable I am. I really became a people person there.”

“Then I returned to the Netherlands and it was a real shock. My friends in that secondary school were great, but the atmosphere wasn’t. I started in year 5 of VWO at a school in Voorburg, at the same time as a blonde girl who had been living in France for a few years. No one asked her why her Dutch was ‘fluent without an accent’. But they asked me, even though the teacher had told them I was born here. My tutor told my parents: ‘Your child is just too dumb to study Medicine.’ I often cried with frustration because no one in school was helping me.”

Paul van Geest EUR campus diversiteit inclusie_Sanne van der Most (1)

Read more

Theology professor Paul van Geest feels perfectly at home in the world of economics

How much do you feel at home at this university? Students and staff answer this question…

“Although I had been admitted to the Medicine programme straight away, I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to cope. That had been drilled into my head by my teachers. I was afraid of how the university would respond if I failed. Then I failed my first exam. I confessed to my study adviser that I was afraid I would be considered dumb, afraid that they would send me away. She replied: ‘We don’t use the word ‘dumb’ here.’ She also said: ‘Let go of those fears. You’re here for a reason. You worked hard to get here.’ The conversation brought me back to my time in Kurdistan.”

“The years in the Dutch secondary school weren’t easy, but even so, I’m thankful to some extent. Thankful that they admitted me to the school, that I got an education that has allowed me to study Medicine. I’ve become a stronger person, and I would never let people talk to me like that now. There were two teachers who helped me. My parents have always encouraged and supported me, and I’ve always had friends. In hospital, I see so many people who are not fortunate enough to have that. But there is one thing I want to say: mind your words, especially if you’re a teacher. Children don’t forget remarks, although everything can still turn out fine for those children. The fact that I got to where I am now is testament to that.”

Margot Kersing regenboogpad EUR campus diversiteit inclusie_ Sanne van der Most

Read more

Margot sees pinkwashing, ‘a lot of blah’ and not much effort for more inclusion

"A crass example of pinkwashing", is how Margot Kersing views the rainbow zebra crossing.…