YOUNG VOICES

Shakira Martin Wins NUS President Election In Shock Defeat For Malia Bouattia

Shakira Martin is a 29-year-old single mum who took a centrist position.

26/04/2017 13:09 | Updated 26 April 2017

Malia Bouattia has been humbled in her bid for a second term as NUS president after a shock landslide loss to newcomer Shakira Martin in Wednesday’s election.

Bouattia, who has faced numerous accusations of anti-semitism, received just 272 votes to Martin’s 402 in the vote at the NUS conference in Brighton.

Martin, who campaigned under the tagline “Making education an option for everyone”, is a champion of Further Education (FE).

Martin, who is a single parent, herself attended FE colleges rather than going to university.

She studied courses at Lewisham College from 2005, including a diploma in education and teaching.

The 29-year-old also held the roles of college’s student union president, women’s officer and student liaisons officer.

She held the position of NUS Vice President for Further Education before running for the presidency.

Martin took a centrist position in the election campaign, between Bouattia and third contender Tom Harwood.

NUS UK Flickr
Shakira Martin has won the NUS presidency, beating off Malia Bouattia's bid for a second term

Martin said of her win: “I am honoured and humbled to have been elected as NUS’ National President. I take this as a vote of trust that our members believe I can lead our national movement to be the fighting and campaigning organisation we need it to be, representing the breadth of our diverse membership.

“Further Education made me who I am today and look forward to sharing stories of just how powerful all forms of education can be when we’re all given access to it. During my term in office, I want to spend my time listening, learning and leading.”

In her victory speech, she said: “Today students voted for an NUS that’s taken seriously in the sector, by government and society.

“Students voted for an NUS with fun and energy that brings the fire back to their campus.

“Students were fed up of hearing about change, and voted to see some impact for a change.”

The mother-of-two rose to prominence on the national stage with a unique style of passionate speeches invoking her own experiences in education.

The result is a shock since incumbents are usually successful in their bid for a second term of the NUS presidency - although Bouattia herself unseated Megan Dunn as she ran for another term.

Bouattia has been seen as strongly left-wing and a supporter of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Jewish students last year urged the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) to cut ties with the NUS over behaviour a motion described as “anti-semitic” - although this was later voted against.

NUS
Malia Bouattia received 272 votes in the 2017 election

Last year the union president was condemned in a Home Affairs Select Committee report into anti-Semitism for referring to Birmingham University as “something of a Zionist outpost in British higher education”, a comment the committee said “smacks of outright racism”.

Bouattia, who  also caused controversy during a 2014 conference speech on ‘Gaza and the Palestine Revolution’, when she said that “with mainstream Zionist-led media outlets... resistance is resented as an act of terrorism”.

In a blog on The Huffington Post UK, however, Bouattia said she was committed to challenging anti-Semitism and racism “in all its forms”.

On Wednesday, the UJS extended its “heartfelt congratulations” to Martin for her win.

The group said in a statement: “Shakira’s election demonstrates a rejection of the divisive rhetoric used by the current President, Malia Bouattia, whose past antisemitic comments have remained problematic for Jewish students for over a year.

“The overwhelming majority of Jewish students across the UK will be grateful that NUS will soon be led once again by a capable leader who is genuinely committed to ensuring that the student movement stands up for all its members.

“Following Shakira’s recent work with UJS, which included a trip to Poland ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day this year, we look forward to seeing her continue to prioritise the interests and welfare of Jewish students amongst all students as NUS National President. We wish her the very best in her new role.”

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