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East London Hijabi Selina Begum Becomes First State School Student to Win Eton Debate Contest

Stop what you’re doing and extend a digital high five to Selina Begum, a teenager from Manor Park, Newham who recently became the first state school student to win the individual prize in an Eton debating contest.

The 16-year-old was crowned best debater at the prestigious Eton Autumn Invitational, after she defeated 200 other competitors – most of whom represented private schools like Winchester College, Westminster and Eton itself. Must have felt extra good to beat that last lot on their home turf.

Selina’s stance on subjects like junk food, rights to privacy and the abolition of the death penalty saw her claim victory over her rivals.

Selina, whose family settled in east London after emigrating from Bangladesh in the 90s, hopes to secure a place at Oxford University following her time at Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre. Her debate victory, coupled with the fact she’s likely set to ace her A-levels in maths, economics, politics and history, suggests she’s well on her way to achieving this goal.

Selina was initially intimidated by the level of competition: ‘’The students from Eton and the other independent schools were so confident. They got up and spoke without notes and seemed like they had been doing it all their lives.’

However, her debate coordinator, Jerome Singh, imbued her with the confidence to take them on: ‘But Mr Singh told me not to be scared, that my arguments were just as well thought out.’

Take note of what Selina said after her victory: ‘It makes me so happy to realise that, despite my background, I can compete with pupils at these types of schools…Being at this sixth form really opens your eyes to the world outside east London. The things that you didn’t think you could do, you quickly realise you actually can.’

Damn straight.

Big congrats to Selina. You make us want to be better.

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