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Union News

Interview: VP Welfare & Community Candidate, Rafiq Arthur-Quarm

Where are you originally from?

What originally drew you to the University of Portsmouth?
Portsmouth has got a very good name out there. I heard about the city three years ago and got my admission two years ago. And because of work I had to stay and do better preparations, so I deferred and then I came in.

What is your favourite thing about the city of Portsmouth?
So far what I like about the city is that it’s made up by the university. It’s like the university is the community. It’s very lovely – you can go anywhere and you are in Portsmouth University.

Who is your idol and why?
Well I have two. One is Doctor Udom back home in Ghana. I always wanted to be a doctor because of him. I like the way he treats children and I was a kid when I met him, I think I was 10. The way he treats children and carries his work, in that time I had made my mind up that I wanted to be a doctor. Unfortunately not a medical doctor, but a book doctor maybe soon haha. And the other one is Professor Mills. I also wish that I could be a professor but I want to be a professor before I reach the retirement age of 60. So these are the two people I look up to every time, so my target is always to be a doctor and then a professor.

What is your dream job and why?
Lecturer. So after my Master’s I’ll continue onto my PhD, and then onto full-time lecturing. I’d like to teach here to get the experience, to get different teaching experiences. I’ve already taught in Ghana at two universities.

If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing that you would buy?
[Pointing at a UoP badge on his jacket] I want to buy the badge and distribute it to people. I wish everyone had one of these.

What was the primary reason for you running in the student elections?
The primary reason was because of the welfare in the position. Back in my class on this campus, almost every week I ask a question about the welfare of students. I didn’t even know this question was going to come up and my class will testify to that. Almost every week I ask a question about the welfare of students. So it’s about the welfare that prompted me to enter into the competition.

If you could change one thing that would instantly improve everyday life for students at the university, what would it be and why?
Really I would like to change the extracurricular activities. I feel bad that I can’t join any club in the school because I have to pay. I wish it was free and that when you finish paying your fees, that’s it – you can join all of these extracurricular activities and feel good. There’s a saying – ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. So when you learn you need to at least relax. But those places for relaxation you need to go and pay and it’s kind of bad in my opinion.

Sum up your manifesto in roughly 10-15 seconds
The first one is improve communication. I have had dialogue with the students and I’ve also had personal experience and the forms of communication are a bit confusing, so I would improve the dialogue with management to make it a bit more straightforward. The second one is about moderating housing. I’ve realised that most students are in private accommodation and going private means more money. And they also come with some inconveniences. Sometimes there are people in your housing who go out and get drunk and they come back and disturb you and you can’t say anything. So what I intend to do when I’m in that position is to dialogue with management so that some people can come in both hostels and halls for school and some can only accommodate the students and no private persons. And they will only run the halls with the rules and regulations of the investors. So it will be an invested hostel and an invested halls but it is owned by a private person.

The third and fourth is an all-inclusive curriculum. There should be that part of exercising and relaxation included in the curriculum so that when you come into the school you can learn and then you can relax. You can join the dancing class, you can join the keep fit club, football club, all these clubs, they are there for relaxation. You just go and relax your mind and then you come back and learn. The last one is publicity and empowerment. If you know that I’m a student invested and that you are a student of the invested, there’s a bond. It’s natural. So there needs to be something that helps people see that we are equal or that we share something in common. That will bring about inclusiveness. And then it will publicise the invested as well. Just like I was saying earlier, I heard about Portsmouth three years ago. So if a lot of people are wearing this badge, more people will want to attend the university.

How do you intend to promote the union to our less engaged students?
I think one of the ways is the communication. Sometimes we are confused – we don’t even know where to look. You’ll be surprised to know that I just got information today to find out where I could buy this badge. So it’s the lack of communication that brings about all of these inconveniences to the student. If the communication is straightforward, people will know where to look and they will get the right information.

What do you feel is the top welfare issue facing the students at the moment and how would you use the role to support them?
From just the conversation I had with a few people, the two key issues that they talked about the most were the communication and the housing problem. For the communication it is easier to solve because it is about the dialogue between the management and it would just make things clearer for us. But the housing involves a third party which might take a bit longer. But I have that ambition that if I become the VP of Welfare that I will push for that.

Student safety is a big concern at the moment. If elected, how would you address the issue?
If you see safety, there are categories that come under the housing as well. They are not safe when they are in the private homes. So it’s a key area I’ve included in my manifesto that I’m trying to solve. And one thing that isn’t in my manifesto that we have to discuss is about transportation – especially during the night. So that students can come to the library and go out. I’ve realised that the transportation system is not as present during the night which leads to inconveniences for the students. So we’ll see how best that we can talk to the council on transportation. But if we get to know the specifics of the safety, then we can address them properly.

There can sometimes be tensions between students and those who live locally. What would you do to improve this and the view of the students in the city?
The first thing is the housing. If we are more confined to a place, we can have peace of mind and we can deal with our school issues. Because you can only give cautions to your students who are within. You can’t give cautions to people who are outside. So as much as possible if we are confined, we can keep to ourselves and keep our students calm. And when they go out it is easier to monitor them because most of them will be here. So when problems occur we can step and resolve it.

What are your values as a candidate and a student leader?
I’ve been in public service for six years so I have dealt with a lot of people, a lot of agencies and a lot of offices. It’s like the council – you deal with a big category of people. So I have that experience for six years. I also interact with third party people because we need to get things done just like politicians. This is a housing issue, we can’t build it like a school. It is never going to happen. But we can get a third party to come and build it and run it with the laws of the school. But talking to them also involves some form of diplomacy. I also have this Public Administration Master’s program which is building my professionalism. So I believe if I add the experience I have to the professionalism, then I can resolve a lot of problems and issues in the position of VP of Welfare.

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