Black Leaders Awareness Day: From Eldoret to Glasgow – the story of Tabitha Nyariki

Wed, 14 Jul 2021 16:19:00 BST
Tabitha's commitment to supporting others aligns perfectly with Black Leaders Awareness Day
Tabitha's commitment to supporting others aligns perfectly with Black Leaders Awareness Day

Sunday 18 July is Black Leaders Awareness Day and we’re shining a light on one of our own inspirational individuals here at GCU. 

Tabitha Nyarkiki first came to Scotland to study BSc (Hons) Applied Psychology and has never looked back. Since completing her degree, she’s been elected as GCU Students’ Association’s Vice President for the School of Health and Life Sciences (twice!) and is also staying loyal to her roots by carrying out inspirational volunteer work in KenyaThis is her story: 

Tell me a bit about your journey and how you came to study at GCU? 

I grew up in Kenya, in a little town called Eldoret, which is actually where all the famous runners are from - but I was too lazy to follow in their footsteps! 

A few years ago, I was approached by the African Leadership College to come in and join their programme in Mauritius. They were a new University, so I was the part of the cofounding class – it was all part of an idea around revolutionising leadership in Africa, specifically trying to create better leaders. 

The African Leadership College is actually paired with GCU, so that was the connection. I’d done my first year there which focused on entrepreneurship and leadership and basically I was going into my second year and my choice was Psychology, which was being offered at GCU - that’s basically how I ended up here.” 

Did you always want to study Applied Psychology? 

“I wanted to study law when I was in high school but I then changed my mind.  

In Kenya, you get a year off after high school to decide your next steps and do whatever you need to do. I never used to read the newspaper but one day I decided to have a look. I read an article about how soldiers in Kenya had been suffering with PTSD after protecting our borders in Somalia. Some of them ended up being dangerous to themselves and their communities and there was basically no support for them. I just wanted to help them and initially I wanted to go into psychology to become a counsellor in the army but life then gives you different formulas!” 

How much did you enjoy your time at GCU? 

“It was really fantastic because I came to GCU not really knowing what to expect. I was lucky because I had a lot of good flat mates and a good personal tutor and I was lucky to make friends quickly. I also started to work as an Ambassador through GCU Campus Life which built my friendship circle even more. I had so many opportunities and got to do the Student Leaders Programme and became involved with the Magnusson Award and Common Good Award – there are so many opportunities! 

At the end of your degree you were elected as GCU Students’ Association’s Vice President for SHLS – did you ever imagine something like this happening? 

“I actually never thought I would go down this route. I wanted to do my Undergraduate degree and masters, then maybe do my PHD, and from there progress into employment. Stuart Martin at GCU Student Life encouraged me to put my name forward for the role. I decided to do it and it’s certainly been an interesting year! I’m really looking forward to what the next 10 months has in store and I definitely have no regrets!” 

Do you feel this role helps you act as an inspiration to other black students? 

“When I was running for Full Time Officer, there was only two other black officers who had ever been successfully elected. I was coming into the role following a very small group of people from a similar background. I think it just shows you that anything is possible and it’s even possible to get elected again – which I’m really proud of.  

It’s also been good that I get to put in a voice that usually wouldn’t be in the room and it’s really important to be able to represent students of colour and speak on their behalf. I think sometimes people can speak for us without actually being a member of our community and don’t have a full understanding of our experience.” 

Tell me about some of your community work in Kenya? 

“If anyone has been on the GCU website or Facebook pages, then they’ll have noticed I got the Magnusson AwardThis is a project I’ve been doing for a few years now and I’ve always grown up being told that I should help those less fortunate. I was raised in a very giving family and it’s just been engrained in me ever since.  

When I was in Mauritius there were so many great leaders doing amazing things in their communities. Through one of my classmates I was introduced to Imprezza Academy, which is in the Western region of Kenya. I began to learn more about some of the issues they face and how they particularly focus on enrolling students from deprived backgrounds. For a lot of the young people school is home and home is school. I joined a project that pays for them to go to school and be able to do their exams. Their fee for exams is only $1 and to think that a student could miss out on finishing school because of that is crazy.  

In 2019 their library sadly burned down – and what is education without books?! So, we had to make something work and we decided to do some crowdfunding but there was then the challenge of the pandemic hitting in 2020, so it was all slowed down.  

This year, I managed to secure the Magnusson Award which allows us to give more books and give training to teachers around basic library management, because they’re only volunteering in the library. It’s been good to see the difference that’s had already on the students and their quality of education.  

I tend to go home to Kenya every year and in December - if Coronavirus restrictions allow - I will be returning to Kenya and I’ll be heading to Imprezza to meet everyone.” 

What are your own personal aspirations for the future? 


I do still intend to work in the psychology field. My main focus just now is cyber psychology, which we covered as an optional module during fourth year. This completely transformed my life because it brought together my two loves – psychology and technology.  

I plan to go into this particular field in a professional aspect, maybe Facebook or Google will hire me at some point! I would love to work on how humans interact with technology and how we can use that to improve society as a whole - particularly in developing countries. 

Find out more about Black Leadership Awareness Day here 

By Ross Clark   
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