Interviewee: Anya Nedungadi
Interviewer, Editor, Graphic Designer: Pat Sevikul
Hi! I’m Anya Nedungadi, I’m 16 years old and I study the International Baccalaureate (IB) at NLCS. I am also the Deputy Youth MP for the borough of Camden, which means that I represent the youth in my borough within the Camden Council, and within the London Youth Assembly. In my role as Deputy Youth MP, I work to raise awareness about the inequality in our education system, and to equalise the quality of teaching around the borough; more specifically, I target the disparity between the quality of teaching in private schools and state schools. Thus, last February I started a magazine called ‘Bridging the Gap’ which aims to create communication lines between the socio-economically segregated youth in our borough, by creating a space where we can share our stories, opinions, and backgrounds.
How did you first become interested in politics?
In 2018, I joined the Camden Youth Council, a political group in Camden, on a whim, because I was becoming more and more aware of the prevalence of socio-economic inequality. So, I wanted to meet more people who didn’t go to my school and who weren’t of the same background as me.
What is the Camden Youth Council?
The Camden Youth Council is a political youth group which represents the youth in Camden in the Camden Council. Every 2 years, a Youth MP and two Deputy Youth MPs are elected in an election which engages most schools in Camden. These elected MPs, of which I am currently one, go on to represent their borough in the UK Youth Parliament, the London Assembly, and also within the Camden Council. We hold speeches around Camden for all of the business owners; we organise ‘Shout Out’ events to engage young people in social issues and to hear everybody's point of view so that we can accurately represent the youth; we consult on Camden’s education strategy and much more.
What has been your experience working with the council and how has that impacted you?
I was in for a shock when I joined the youth council because unlike the other members, I had gone to a private school for my entire life, so I was ignorant of issues that were prevalent in their lives such as knife crime and food poverty. I was incredibly ashamed of my ignorance because as a young Muslim,South Asian woman, I often felt like the people around me do not make an effort to understand the struggles that I face. Therefore, when I realised that my private school bubble allowed me to remain completely unaware of these issues, I was upset with myself. However, this experience has motivated me to use my awareness to make a difference: I ran for Youth MP and now I am actively trying to equalise the education system.
I was incredibly ashamed of my ignorance because as a young Muslim, South Asian woman, I often felt like the people around me do not make an effort to understand the struggles I face.
- Anya Nedungadi
Why does educational inequality stand out to you in particular?
Educational inequality stands out to me because I believe that the quality of education one receives determines the start of their path in life. Therefore, education is a key area in which we must ensure equality.
Only 6.5% of the student population are educated in the private/independent sector, but that 6.5% makes up 43.2% and 39% of Oxford and Cambridge undergraduates respectively. This blatant inequality is an issue which needs to be addressed.
Why do you think many people are still ignorant to these issues?
I don’t believe that people are actively ignorant about these issues. I think the reason why there is such a lack of awareness about these issues is because of socio-economic segregation within schools. We associate with the people we go to school with, the people that our families hang out with, and these people are never going to be of a different socio-economic background. We are all trapped in our own bubbles, so it is hard to see outside of these bubbles and educate ourselves on the issues that others face. However, it is incredibly necessary and instrumental in reducing inequality. Therefore, the ‘Bridging the Gap’ magazine is a fun way in which we can break our bubbles and learn about others’ perspectives.
We are all trapped in our own bubbles, so it is hard to see outside of these bubbles and educate ourselves on the issues that others face.
- Anya Nedungadi
How have you taken action in your community and what challenges have you
faced along the way?
I’ve used my position as Deputy Youth MP to take action in my community in a couple of ways. I obviously created a magazine; I also worked closely on Camden’s education strategy with the Camden Council; I have previously volunteered at a local state school; I also wrote an article for the Camden News Journal about educational inequality.
I think that the largest challenge that I have faced is just trying to get overworked students engaged and involved! Many of us are incredibly busy and plus, for private school students, it is hard to actively face the fact that we are privileged, that we were born with an automatic advantage over our peers, and it is even harder to want to do something about it! From both sides, there is a reluctance to get involved.
Why is politics important for young people and why should they begin to get involved?
Politics is important because we, as young people, don’t understand how much of a difference we can make. Adults will listen to us, they actually want to hear from us, and it is important to take advantage of that opportunity and make our views known. Also, young people getting involved in politics is essential in shifting power dynamics away from the older generations and in favour of ours!
Politics is important because we, as young people, don't understand how much of a difference we can make. Adults will listen to us, they actually want to hear from us, and it is important to take advantage of that opportunity and make our views known.
- Anya Nedungadi
How does the lack of representation of women, especially women of colour, in
leadership positions reflect on your community and why is this important to
Surprisingly, although there is a huge lack of representation of women of colour in leadership positions, the Camden Youth Council is incredibly diverse. However, I always believe that it is so important that young women of colour have powerful role models in their field of choice. In fact, last week I attended a talk with Preet Gill, who is the MP for Birmingham Edgbaston. As a young South Asian woman, it was amazing to hear from such a strong South Asian female role model who is in the exact position that I want to be in the future!
How do we encourage young people to get involved in their communities?
I think that awareness is huge. If young people understand that there are issues out there, they will want to get involved and make a change. I haven’t exactly figured out the answer to this question, and it is something that I struggle with every day, but I think using social media platforms and using word of mouth to spread messages is essential.
Get involved with Bridging the Gap!