Get yourself a proper job

“How much do you get paid?” This is the first question I am asked by many of the A-level students I meet as part of a Muslim mentoring programme for schools in underprivileged areas of North London. Although they ask with a cheeky smirk, in the eyes of many of the students a satisfactory answer would cement my credibility as a mentor. Most are of Somali, Pakistani and Bengali origin, and the mentoring scheme kicks off in their first year of A-level study with the purpose of helping to motivate the students academically by providing successful examples of the fruits of a good education. If they make enough money, that is. Upon closer acquaintance, it appears that most of the students need very little academic motivation. They are second-generation immigrants whose families encourage them to perform and go to university in order to secure a good job and a healthy livelihood. If anything, they need motivation to take up more extra-curricular activities and be more involved with pursuits that would allow them to explore their talents and personal aptitudes. Every single one of the students in the programme was planning to enrol in either a science or maths-based discipline (except one girl, who wanted to study English and asked sheepishly whether an English degree would help her secure a lucrative role in today’s job market). Nesrine Malik reports.