Rinad Tamimi Won the Scholarship But Does She Deserve It?

I'd like to officially congratulate my friend Rinad Tamimi on winning the 2012 AMP People's Choice Scholarship! Thank you to everyone who voted and supported her. It really does mean a lot to her and her family and they are very grateful to each and every one of you. On a less exciting note, Rinad has been receiving personal attacks about her rallying "Muslim votes" and "Palestinian votes" and as her friend I have to say something to the people who have been doing so. 

First issue. I'm really curious, how many of you who say Rinad doesn't deserve the scholarship because "she isn't going to save lives" have studied at a university or a tertiary education institution? Do you know what's the percentage of students who change their major after the first year? Roughly 50% of students change their major at least once , especially those undertaking a science major. Yes, these are American studies but they're good indicators for the Western world in general and you know why I think the statistics are realistic? Because I changed my major after my first year at uni too.

Studies have found that roughly 40 percent of students planning engineering and science majors end up switching to other subjects or failing to get any degree. That increases to as much as 60 percent when pre-medical students, who typically have the strongest SAT scores and high school science preparation, are included, according to new data from the University of California at Los Angeles. That is twice the combined attrition rate of all other majors. Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It's Just So Darn Hard), New York Times, 2011

Furthermore, do you know how hard it is to get into medical school in Otago University? There is no guarantee Laura is going to be a medical student and then become a cardiothoracic surgeon (to all those who have been saying Laura wanted to find the cure to cancer, go Google what a cardiothoracic surgeon does). I'm not doubting or undermining her intelligence, passion and skills at all. I can't do that because I don't personally know her and you can't do that to Rinad if you don't know her and her abilities. Though I'm not saying it's impossible for the contestants to achieve their goals, my point is we should stop talking as if any of the contestants' career choice were set in stone the moment they submitted their "thing" to AMP.

The second issue I would like address is the fact that we live in a society that teaches us a career in the science field is more socially beneficial and prestigious than one in the arts. Now, I realise Rinad's aim is to become an IT engineer and help the elderly and that's considered a science major but it's not as "cool" or "important" as being a medical doctor right? Wrong. We don't get to decide these things because each and every job and field plays a role in this world.

Let me confess something. I respect and appreciate cleaners. Here's one reason why. I studied at Otago University and I am appalled at how disgusting the bathrooms at Central Library are most of the time. Otago University students claim to be so "educated" and yet they can't even keep bathrooms clean after they use them? God knows what those cleaning ladies go through on a daily basis. If cleaners can make a positive impact on our lives, so can social workers, IT engineers, food nutritionists, architects, and the list goes on. I implore you to think twice if you look down on anyone just because they aren't saving lives or making billions.

Sir Ken Robinson is a world-renowned author, TED speaker and international advisor on education and he is constantly saying that we need to seriously review education systems around the world. He says that schools are killing creativity and that is not only detrimental to individuals but also communities.

"All kids have tremendous talent and we squander them pretty ruthlessly." - Sir Ken Robinson

Creativity keeps people sane and it can save lives. Whether Rinad comes up with a life-changing software or not, that's beside the point because nobody can predict the future. But I know Rinad personally and she is a creative, intelligent and hard working person and she deserves the scholarship based on these things alone. Nobody can tell what lies in her future but it's likely that she's going to do something that will help people to live creatively, especially if IT is her passion. I've read how playing with an iPad has helped improve the condition of autistic children. Who's to say Rinad won't improve someone's life as an IT engineer? It doesn't matter if they're young or old.

The intention of this post isn't to argue and prove that art is more important than science. Far from that. Art is science and science is an art. I believe a medical doctor can and will save lives but I also believe anyone with the intention to help people can and will save lives too, maybe not medically but perhaps psychologically, financially, etc. Oh, and the last time I checked medicine and IT go hand in hand. The AMP 'Do Your Thing' scholarship is about helping Kiwis in whatever field they choose to be in. The scholarship is about believing in people's talents and determination.

Third issue. I think it's crucial for people to know that Rinad also received votes from her friends who aren't Muslim, Palestinian or Arab. Let's not forget she's a high school student in New Zealand and there was an article about her aiming for the scholarship in a Dunedin local newspaper called The Star. The fact is, people are going to vote for different reasons - you can't stop them from doing that. Do you think everyone who voted for Laura even knew what a cardiothoracic surgeon does? I don't think so, judging by the many comments people wrote about Laura wanting to find the cure to cancer. Rinad is a permanent resident of New Zealand now but she is also Arab, Palestinian and Muslim. So if Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians (who are, by the way, not just Muslims but they can be Christians or Jews or atheists) vote for Rinad because they want to see her succeed and they believe in her, that's their right. You can't condemn them for wanting success in the life of someone they can relate to, for whatever reason that may be. If you're dissatisfied with the voting guidelines by all means raise your concern to AMP but there isn't any need to say negative things about Rinad or her goal in her chosen field.

And need I remind you that Muslims are among the poorest people on this Earth and it's partly due to colonialism and imperialism? Do I have to play this card? I hope not. So give this young girl a break. Rinad and her family have been through things most New Zealanders can't even imagine. Let her have her win and if you really cared about Laura and have faith in her you would do something productive and start a fundraiser to help her achieve her dreams instead of being a bully and spreading hate across the Internet. Rinad could have come up with a really impressive blurb about wanting to find the cure to AIDS or HIV but she kept it real and sincere and I give mad props to her and all the contestants who did the same.

I believe Laura and all the other contestants have noble intentions and they certainly have the ability to do great things (There was a guy who will be competing in the upcoming Winter Olympics - that's very admirable! And another girl who wanted to become a doctor as well, why isn't anyone else defending her right to the scholarship? )  I sincerely wish them all the best and hope they won't give up because of this one setback. There are other AMP scholarships up for grabs that are NOT awarded based on votes, so that's an option. To all those who have been slandering Rinad and her chosen field, if you've read this post and you still can't look at the situation from a different perspective, then a) your school killed your creativity or  b) you might be a racist and/or bigot and you don't even know it.

P.S. To those who have left comments on my blog, saying I don't support cancer research because I didn't vote for Laura, you can stop now. Thanks.


Anonymous said…
Alhamdulillah, i voted for Rinad :). Happy to hear that she won the scholarship :)
Magz and Mez said…
Alhamdulilah she won, good people deserve good things!
aishah amin said…
well said Sha! :)
Wan Melissa said…
Love this post! Well said Shahirah. I hope Rinad's passion and determination have inspired people around the world to believe in their dreams and to never give up :)
Anonymous said…
Computers do go with medicine:
- medical imaging (e.g: MRI)
- hospital database system
Rosie said…
This is ridiculous! How many ignorant people in the world! What about the engineers and architects who build hospitals (my job) so that doctors can do what they do? The civil engineers who build the roads so that you can get to the hospital in time? Yes they can be doctors at home, but who built the home?

I had an aunt who passed away while pregnant (her child passed as well) because she lived in a rural area of Dominican Republic and the car could not drive through the road to get to the hospital.

Not just engineers, but everyone has an important role to play in society to help build a proper infrastructure. Doctor's, in my humble opinion, should not be held above all others. We are not in an age where being a doctor is the most prestigious job, it's a bit archaic to have those types of ideals. If we were all doctors who would farm our crops, or build out towns or even give us the internet? I usually don't comment but I was livid after reading what people had to say. It blows my mind how small minded people still are, in the year 2012.

Sorry, this was a rage rant! And good for her, she deserved it! Everyone deserves a chance at something, why not a minority?
Unknown said…
She deserve. No worries at all.
Aifa said…
Thank you Sha..everything you said is spot on and I agree 100%. Btw, happy to hear the news. If any of them 'contestants' got it..I seriously wouldn't mind it too, because everyone has a good purpose.

I believe the AMP body had scrutinized each of their contestants well.(those who complain now is somehow, questioning the AMP body too?? why?If you win...so then you won't complain? Don't be a sore loser)

And Votes are INDIVIDUAL rights...I thought we live in a DEMOCRATIC world..why should anyone be questioning and criticizing other people's rights?

In a capitalist system, there is always unfortunate people despite the abundance of wealth in the world. MANY people need help...but there are other ways. It's just Rinad's luck and also her EFFORT and help from friends and family to have got it.

If you believe in 'destiny'...then this scholarship has her name all over it. So people should get OVER it. -I'm sorry for being emotional but I just can't stand sore losers. I believe I'm quoting everything what Sha said. I'm not taking credit..lol. Thanks again Sha. :)
Anonymous said…
Seems awful that people would complain when a young person wins an award.

Do you have a link to all the complaints that were made about Rinad Yamimi??

Was it just a facebook thing?

A few people??

Or was it worse than that?
Shahirah Elaiza said…
So glad to see others feeling quite angry about what happened to Rinad! It's a good thing AMP was very understanding and did their best to control the situation on Facebook.

Anon 3, there were worse comments on Facebook and so, so many people were outraged by Rinad's win because she scored "religious" and "Palestinian" votes. They kept saying she didn't deserve the scholarship as much as Laura. AMP actually came out with a statement saying they encouraged all participants to reach out to every avenue they could in order to get votes and there were still many people who couldn't accept it. Glad the whole thing has died down now. I think!