Born and raised in an impoverished area in East London in the UK, and student of a public school, 16-year-old Selina Begum has stunned the world by winning the individual prize at Eton Autumn Invitational debating competition.
Selina is the first state-funded school student who won the prestigious competition held this month at Eton College, beating 200 other students from top private schools including Winchester College, Westminster College and Eton College, said a press release yesterday.
An A-level student at Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre (NCS), Selina lives in an East End council flat with her parents who barely speak English and immigrated to the UK from Bangladesh in the 90s.
Selina beat her competitors in motion debates on junk food and rights to privacy. She also gave a speech on Islamophobia.
Mentioning that she felt like a fish out of water when she arrived at Eton, Selina said, “I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at Eton. I thought there’d be some social stigma being the only Muslim state school pupil competing, but there wasn’t.”
Regarding the other competitors from well-off backgrounds, she said, “They may have come from far more privileged backgrounds than mine, but they were all as scared as I was. What struck me most was how alike we all were. No one looked down on me, we all encouraged each other. It was a wonderful experience.”
Her proud father, Abdur Rahim, 44, said, “Selina is an ordinary girl from a humble family who has just done an extraordinary thing and we can’t be more proud than we are today.”
Jusna Begum, Selina’s mother, said, “Selina’s success and those of others in the school highlight what young people from Newham can achieve if they are determined and ambitious.”
Speaking about her inspirations, the impressive young woman, hoping to pursue a career in law, possibly at Oxford, humbly said, “My parents may not be educated, but they have always instilled in me a determination to seize all the opportunities they never had.”
“My parents came to Britain because they wanted a better life for their children and I want to make them proud of me. They’ve always told me it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, anything is possible if you work hard.”