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GKT forgets about Eid: How King’s can show us they truly value the students who put the ‘d’ in ‘diversity’

GKT Eid

Roar writer Dania Quadri on what the GKT School of Medical Education can do better to help its Muslim students celebrate Eid.

A day or two before Eid, my WhatsApp is flooded with questions about whether the moon has been sighted in Saudi. An exciting time for me. Eid is celebrated after 30 days of fasting during Ramadan, or a day earlier depending on the sighting of the moon. As this is declared very last minute by mosques, those who work or study tend to take both days off when planning for Eid, just to be sure they are able to spend the day with loved ones.

This year, an important GKT teaching session for second-year medics coincides with Eid. The session is scheduled to last half a day in the morning, the same time special Eid prayers are held to mark the day. When contacted by students about the clash, the session coordinators responded saying that they “are constrained by the time given to us by the Medical Education and the Midwifery department”, adding that they would “see about an alternative session”.

To me, this incident depicted a shocking lack of awareness on the part of GKT for its Muslim students and the shallowness behind GKT’s use of words like “diversity” and “inclusion”. It is totally absurd that a university with such a significant Muslim population is unaware of one of the most important days of the year for us.

Three departments were involved in the planning of the session, and not one person thought to accommodate in accordance with the diversity of its student body? It is a shame that those of us who celebrate Eid will be missing out on important teaching, but it is even more shameful that staff members have put us in this position.

I can anticipate the response: we have a diverse student body, follow the Gregorian calendar and with all the cultures that we house, an ordinary day to one is a special day to someone else. I completely agree with all of that; in principle these things are good. I am not asking GKT to declare a university-wide holiday and suspend all teaching for one student community. I am only asking for a little support.

A fellow King’s student told me, “since King’s prides itself on being multicultural and diverse, it should take into account different religious obligations when planning for [teaching] events.” In this context, her suggestion would mean GKT would be aware of Eid and its significance; it would expect that most Muslim students would not be able to attend and so would have some sort of safety net available so that we would not miss out on valuable teaching. I shouldn’t have to spell out something so basic.

Another student highlighted the size of the community, saying: “Bearing in mind that a large number of KCL medics are Muslim, they could have accommodated for us and just made it easier”, going on to suggest that a second session to catch up with the missed curriculum would be useful.

Not only has it been our second socially distanced Ramadan away from loved ones, but this year we have been left behind by those who we have lost to the pandemic. Many of our dearests are fighting for their lives and basic humanity across the Muslim world and beyond. With all the loss we have experienced and continue to experience, this Eid may be more significant and challenging than any other.

If GKT really cares about us, now would be the best time to show it.

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