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Interview: VP Welfare & Community Candidate, Farai Shoko

Where are you originally from?
I’m an international student from Zimbabwe.

What course do you study?
I study Business and Systems management and I’m a second year student.

What drew you to the University of Portsmouth?
I did my foundation here in Chichester and I really wanted to do international business. So when I was doing a little shopping around, Portsmouth was like the natural choice for me. I was looking at all the other options available from the agency that was helping me. So I just fell in love with Portsmouth. Although my family stays here, it’s the Portsmouth city itself. My second choice was Plymouth, I could have gone to Plymouth but I chose Portsmouth.   

What is your favourite thing about the city of Portsmouth?
The weather. To be honest, I stayed in Chichester for a year and it’s always wet and it’s very cold. But Portsmouth has got a very different English weather, it’s not as wet and it’s not as cold. So having grown up in a fairly warm climate, that’s the best thing. And I play cricket as well so not too many matches are rained off during the summer.

Who is your idol and why?
I… the telling in part is I usually look at ideas and not people. So it confuses me when you have to look at a person. Because there’s one bit of a person that you may like, one idea of the person, but the other idea comes from a different person. And idolising a person can get you disappointed if you know what I mean. Like let’s say you look up to someone and then they do something really horrible and then they’ve got a scandal coming up. And then you have to go through all of that with them. So, I to be honest, I don’t idolise people, I idolise ideas. I prefer to look at ideas and they always come from different people.   

What is your dream job?
Consultancy, business and IT consultancy. So, it’s like my ten year plan. I probably want to work for seven, eight years, get the experience and then get into business and IT services and consultancy.

So very thought out then?
Yes, but often life tells you no no, we’re going this way. So, yeah that’s how it is.  

If you won the lottery what’s the first thing that you would buy?
I would probably buy a house. I would say I’m a bit of a mature student, I’m not young. So, there are a lot of things I could do with money that I can’t do now. So, I’d probably just buy myself a house, something safe.

What was the primary reason for you running in the student elections?
I would like to be representing the students, like student politics. There’s the drive in campaigning and also the achievements that come with being a student representative. There are a lot and they are very fulfilling. They sort of drive me, representing people and doing, having to toil with people kind of drives me. It does drive me in a matter of ways.

If you could change one thing that would instantly improve everyday life for students at the university, what would it be and why?
It is part of one of my manifesto points, it’s self awareness. I believe if I’m not aware of anything being offered it’s as good as it not being offered. I’ve been going around talking to fellow students, there’s issues with, okay I know that sanitary pads are available in the student union. But, unless you come to the student union toilet, you will not know. I’m sure it can happen, you might need some whilst in Portland. But, there are students that never come to the student union. That’s very true. So, if you’re not aware, if students are not aware that something is being offered, health services being offered, how good is it if we don’t know it’s being offered? So, it’s self awareness.

Could you sum up your manifesto for us in ten seconds?
Alright, the first manifesto point is introducing a student run and student union run housing agency. A non-profit making one, to reduce housing costs for students. Then secondly, I’m advocating free condoms, free sexual products and sexual health services. And I’m running on the theme, it must be managed as a right. Health awareness, must be managed as a right. As a student right. Students need to be aware of their health and the health services offered and the health risks and issues. That’s how I’m running that point. Thirdly, there’s an issue that students have stated, that just for one issue, they have to go from one service to another because of boundaries. One service can help you up to a certain point, and then they can’t go further because that’s covered in a different service. So I want to try and initiate an interservice community that can work for the common issues. Because they are common issues. Common issues, a student, once a student approaches one service, they can try and address it in a whole. So, those are the three main manifesto points that I’m running on.

How do you intend to promote the union to our less engaged students?
The most important thing is not to think from outside, in. It’s to think from inside, out. Put yourself in their shoes, why are they not engaged? Why are they not interested? What would they be interested in? But sometimes we throw options at people that they are not interested in. So think from inside, out. I’m sure we could come up with a solution. So, the solution is thinking from inside, out.

What do you feel is the top ‘welfare’ issues facing students and how would you use the role to support them with this?
Okay, going around, it’s sort of balances but I’d probably say finances are a very big concern for students. So, things that can help them save. When I was talking to students and getting feedback for my manifesto, the idea for a student union run housing agency is getting very positive feedback. Because they are saying the assumption is once agency commissions are scrapped, once agency fees are scrapped, you could save almost up to £100 a month. Because we’re looking at the percentage that agencies take. Also, apparently, generally between 2016 and 2017 on average in the UK rentals for students went up by £87. So it’s an effect of housing and letting agencies who are in there for profit. So it’s part of the whole issue. That’s what I’m getting positive feedback from.

With the whole finance thing, do you think that applies to both home and international students?
It does, it practically does. With international students apparently their issues are focused more on guarantor-ship. Because they have to pay a minimum of six rental months in advance. So, if you can’t do that, to get a guarantor service, you have to fork out £480 for a £600 a month rental. So, the whole issue covers both students international and home. Home students, they pay their agency fees. They go through, the total costs involved including agency fees and commissions. So, it benefits everyone. Each and every student.

Student safety is a big concern at the moment. If elected how would you address this issue?Like I’ve highlighted before, this is where the inter-service community comes in. They come up with a framework, statistics can help. Which incidents happen more and when do they happen. So, does it affect the police? Is it something to do with lighting? And awareness is a key issue. I always come back to awareness. Students must be aware of security risks, I don’t even know if that’s prevalent within the university. But it’s something that must be educated. Awareness will remain a key issue in my campaign and within this issue as well.

There can sometimes be tensions between those who live locally and students, what would you aim to do to improve this and the view of students in the city in general?
I think there’s, the first thing is the issues, it depends what the issues are. For example, it can be, the tension can be caused by the students. Or sometimes it can be caused by the communities. Having events that allow the community to take part in, where you invest yourself in events and social events. Sometimes it’s good to have that to allow or promote those from outside of the university, to take part in and socialise. Because we are living together, most of the things that people clash over is because of not knowing or not understanding. Or assuming ah, they are students they are obviously anti-social, they will obviously make noise. They get drunk on weekends. But sometimes we assume well, they already have a negative attitude of them. Before we even have a problem, we have a problem. So, it’s more of allowing interaction and promoting interaction.

What are your values as a candidate and student leader?
Leadership. I believe you toil to lead, you lead to serve. I am able and I am willing to toil for the students that I lead. For them, for their welfare. For their fulfilling experience in the university.

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