“Having been raised by two profoundly deaf parents, I have a particular interest in the quality of education deaf children receive,” says Zulakha. “Both my parents are hardworking and driven but they didn’t have the support they needed at school that would allow them to achieve their full potential. I was determined to find out what changes have been made within education to close the attainment gap between hearing and non-hearing children."
Zulakha was selected from eight finalists to work with the scholarship team to develop her application into a detailed proposal.
“What followed was an unforgettable experience which saw me travelling to the Dominican Republic, learning more about the Trust’s connections with the Brugal Foundation, and best of all, discovering a whole new approach to working with deaf children.
“I had no idea that people could be so friendly and warm to a complete stranger. Now I know that’s just the Dominican way.”
At the institute, Zulakha learned about teaching techniques by shadowing teachers and helping with marking. She also used her accountancy skills to run after-school maths clasess, making sure all the children were confident in basic maths before they moved on to more complex subjects.
“The children were curious about where I was from and how British Sign Language differs from American Sign Language. At the beginning and end of lessons they would ask me questions about Scotland and learn some of the basic differences between the two languages. Hearing about the cold weather in Scotland one child asked if I had huskies and a sled at home!
“I also gave them some maths lessons, as it seemed to be a weak subject for a number of pupils. Every time a child was able to tell me their age correctly I would rewards them with a little Scotland badge, which they loved!”
Zulakha’s financial training meant that she also spent time with the school president discussing fundraising and expenses. Her own fundraising efforts have raised a total of £887 for the school and this will be used to fund additional classes in subjects, including art.
“They get little financial supports from the government, and a change in government policy could affect their finances badly.
“Art enables children to express themselves through painting and drawing. I so wanted to improve the children’s education in any way that I could, but now that I know how much the school struggles financially, I am even more inspired by the way the staff work to ensure the children are performing to the best of their abilty.
Now back in Glasgow, Zulakha admits she did not foresee just how life-changing her experience would be.
“From the moment Lydia and Annie told me that they had found a safe destination for me, it has been an absolute whirlwind of planning and organisation.
“This amazing experience would never have happened without the Robertson Scholarship Trust team. They taught me how to pull together an application, how to research and develop objectives, how to look deeper into organisations and how to raise awareness.
“Being with the Brugal Foundation reminded me so much of the Robertson Trust. They both have the same objective, which is to reduce the impact poverty has on education. Both believe that through building a strong network of connections and seizing every opportunity we can all achieve the success we deserve.”
Find out more about the Robertson Scholarship Trust here.