RARE  RISINGSTARS - The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
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No. 9


Varaidzo Kativhu

BA Classical Archaeology and Ancient History
University of Oxford
Academics and Social Media

Varaidzo Kativhu

Varaidzo, otherwise known as ‘missvarz’, has become the voice for the black youth of today who dare to dream big in what might seem to be an uncomfortable space. Varaidzo has innovatively transformed the initial negative connotations of ‘the media’ into powerful metaphors which represent role modelling, inspiration and motivation. From Youtube to Instagram to Twitter, ‘missvarz’ has been initiating pivotal discussions surrounding educational inequality and institutional racism. She has been on a mission to make sure that talented black pupils do not miss out on the educational opportunities that they deserve.

Born in Zimbabwe, Varaidzo moved to the England when she was seven years old. Tragically, she lost her father who passed away before she made the move. Before the start of her secondary school studies, she moved to Wales with her mother where she immediately noticed the lack of racial diversity. This was further highlighted since there were only three black students attending the same school as her. On most days, she would leave school in tears because of the very explicit racism received while attending school. Varaidzo moved back to England in Year 8 and after her GCSEs, attended Dudley Sixth Form. Although she enjoyed her experience at the school, her desire to apply to Oxford University wasn’t well received by some staff members.

Towards the end of Year 12, Varaidzo received an email from the Social Mobility Foundation which mentioned the Lady Margaret Hall Foundation Year at Oxford University: she would be able to study there for a year and apply to Oxford during her time there, but wouldn’t be guaranteed a place at the university. After successfully gaining a place on the Foundation Year, she became a part of the first ten students to start the initiative. For Varaidzo, it felt like a year-long interview but it also provided her with invaluable academic teaching and experience. In the end, it was all worthwhile – she received an offer from LMH to study Classical Archaeology and Ancient History. Variadzo has gone on to excel in social media presence and influence, while being an inspiring ambassador for all those coming from similar backgrounds to her.

“There also needs to be more media representation of ethnic minorities who are genuinely prospering at top firms and universities to debunk the notion that we only gain places by ‘luck’ or to fill a quota.”

Known as ‘missvarz’ on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, Varaidzo has over 2,000 subscribers on Youtube and close to 3,000 followers on Instagram. She uses these platforms to discuss educational issues as well as to document her experience as a student at Oxford University. She connects with students from all over the world and her YouTube channel has been praised publicly by LMH Principal, Alan Rusbridger, MP David Lammy, and the Director of Harvard University, Paul Reville. She has also interviewed high profile educators on her YouTube channel, including Malala Yousafzai and Afua Hirsch.

Varaidzo has been interviewed and featured on BBC News, ITV News, The Times Newspaper, The Economist, TRT and GQ, discussing issues of diversity, racism and access into elite spaces for ethnic minorities. She was the youngest guest speaker at She Festival, where she spoke about leadership in front of over 500 influential women. Varaidzo has also collaborated with Oxford University on several occasions: she has been able to set up her first ‘Meet and Greet’ event in September which sold out in less than 24 hours. This will be taking place at Lady Margaret Hall where she will be giving mini workshops on A Levels, UCAS and CV building as well as conducting a more general session. She also recently featured on Oxford University’s Facebook page answering questions sent in from prospective students about studying at the university. So far, over 21,000 people have watched the video.

Varaidzo is an Ambassador and Mentor for The Social Mobility Foundation and is also an Ambassador for the Lady Margaret Hall Foundation Year. She is an LMH Student Ambassador which gives her the opportunity to organise further Q&A sessions and presentations on demystifying Oxbridge. She has shared the stage with the likes of Nick Clegg and the CEO of the Social Mobility Foundation, speaking on issues related to diversity.

The powerful voice that Varaidzo has given to those who share similar experiences to her is currently echoing faster and louder than ever. Varaidzo has reminded us of the value and importance of role modelling and staying true to yourself: just look how far you can get when you put your mind to greatness.

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