RARE  RISINGSTARS 2014 The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
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No. 3



Queen Mary, University of London
Business, Charity and Arts
Andile Justice Mkonto

A genuine self‑starter, Tapiwa has always set out to do things her own way. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, when the predominantly private school she attended made it deliberately difficult for black students to start societies, she went ahead and forged on without any support from the academic staff.

As President of the school debating team she founded, she trained and coached the team herself to great success. They first won their national heats, before being victorious in the continental competition in Botswana and achieving a respectable fourth‑place finish in the international finals held in Italy.

Tapiwa also enjoyed notable success as an individual, gaining the highest A‑level grades in her country amongst her cohort. This success allowed her to think about applying to some of the best universities in the UK. Not fancying the cold weather of Durham nor the relative quiet of Oxford or Cambridge, Tapiwa opted for Queen Mary and set about having an immediate impact on the life of the London college.

"Don’t let people project their fears and failure onto you. Believe first in yourself and everyone will catch on. Be undeniable."

She went on to preside over the transformation of the African and Caribbean Society (ACS) into more than just one big party: whilst she threw a number of successful events, she also received individual accolades for her ‘outstanding contribution’ to the university.

"When you sit all day talking about a problem, you become a part of it. Realise it and forge a path to solve it – you don’t need a predecessor."

Not content with her academic success, Tapiwa has also proven herself to be a successful entrepreneur – making £6,000 profit from a solo retail venture selling clothes on Facebook to cover her living expenses at university – and to be committed to charity work. Her sister was recently diagnosed as being autistic, a condition that suffers from a lack of recognition and a degree of social stigma in Zimbabwe. Tapiwa is pouring her energy into a range of exciting initiatives to raise awareness of the issue. These include preparing to return to Zimbabwe this summer to shoot an upcoming documentary called ‘Our Hidden Children’, and launching an autism charity.

Her plans for the charity include setting up a college where autistic children can be taught how to make the best use of their hands, given that manual dexterity is a particular challenge of theirs. Tapiwa’s sister is currently training as a chef, which has transformed her quality of life. Tapiwa hopes to help others experience this positive change through the college, and her ultimate aim for the project is to open a salon in Zimbabwe staffed exclusively by autistic hair stylists.

"My home is 10,000 miles away: it is a privilege to be here, which l must, in turn, be accountable for."

When she is not trying to improve the world by representing others around her, Tapiwa also finds time to express her own views through her writing. She has begun performing spoken word poetry around the issues faced by black women in society and is also a prolific blogger.

‘Cultured Love’ is a about the interplay between sex and her Christian religious beliefs, and how this affects her day‑to‑day life. The blog currently has over 2300 followers, which one might expect: when a woman as strong, as intelligent and as accomplished as Tapiwa is speaking, it is little wonder that people sit up and take note.

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