who we are
Fírinne Ní Chréacháin
BA (Hons) French and Irish, Trinity College, Dublin
MA Comparative Literature, University of Texas at Austin
PhD African Literature and Film, University of Birmingham
I am Irish. As a founding member of OYA, is this an anomaly?
I spent over 20 years of my life in Africa, mainly Nigeria. I taught at Ahmadu Bello University, but I learned far more there than I taught. I have degrees from Ireland, England and the USA but ABU is my true alma mater.
When I landed in London in 1988 after all my years in Africa, I felt like an alien. Being part of the founding team who set up OYA in 2000 has paradoxically helped me to feel more at home in Britain.
Has OYA and all the work it entails really made a difference over the past 20 years?
When I compare 21st century African diaspora kids here with my daughter and her friends growing up in Nigeria in the 1980s, I feel sorry for many of our young people here, with their lack of focus, their endless consumerism, their lack of exposure to that day-to-day struggle with real life which turns young people into real men and women in Africa.
Hopefully, OYA is doing something to change this. Our old students, who come back to teach and volunteer, are the living proof.
PGCE primary education with specialism in SEND
Mr Chris joined OYA! in 2020 as a Year 6 teacher and is notorious among his students for his sense of humour. He is a British West-Indian, from Grenada and Jamaica, with a degree in Drama and Theatre Arts with Creative and Media Writing, a background in acting, and a passion for playing chess. He has settled effortlessly into OYA! working in tandem with Miss Annie-Ray. He enjoys watching the kids grow in pride of their roots and social skills before they take the leap into year 7.
BSc Chemistry University of Aberdeen 2017
As an OYA student, Elshaday was known for winning the annual competitions – Spelling, Mental Maths, Times Tables – for Ethiopia. Her degree is in science, but she is an all-rounder, equally gifted in language and literature as well as maths. She speaks Amharic (as a 2nd generation immigrant, this is much to her credit), and is currently teaching herself French.
‘I started teaching Year 6s at OYA in February 2019. It was my first time at the front of a classroom as I had previously only taught one-to-one. But I soon found my stride and now I really enjoy prepping the little ones for their KS2 SATs. My favourite time with them is during the breaks when I can get to know them and they talk to me about school dramas, family and weird TV shows and games they’re into.’
BSc Biochemistry Queen Mary University of London
MSc Microbiology Birkbeck College
Marian came to Britain from Somalia via Sweden. She joined OYA in 2001 and was part of the first set to get their GCSEs in 2005. She is trilingual (Somali, English, Swedish) and is an academic all-rounder, having excelled in English at OYA, although her specialist subject is Science.
BSc (Hons) Maths and Business Management
Queen Mary, University of London
Eighteen years! That’s how long I’ve been part of this organisation (and no, I won’t be leaving for a while yet!) It was after my first Year 7 sleepover with one of my good friends (who happens to be Miss Alexis’ daughter) that my mum found out about OYA. The next weekend, I found myself in my first OYA lesson and I haven’t looked back since.
OYA has been a big part of my life in many different ways. Firstly as a student, where I was encouraged to strive to be excellent in everything that I did. Secondly as a trainee, where I went through the most rigorous training program with Dr Firinne as my supervisor. Thirdly as a member of the Culture Group where I found my dancing shoes and gained my confidence. And finally as a teacher, who wants to pour everything that OYA has given to me into the kids that I meet each Saturday. What’s amazing is that I’m still learning from the teachers who I now call my colleagues (but most times I still call them Sir, Miss and even Aunty lol).
BA (Hons) Business Studies and Event Management, University of Hertfordshire, 2013
MSc Management, University of Hertfordshire, 2018
Annie-Ray has many strings to her bow. She joined OYA as a Year 8 student in 2002, was awarded an OYA Traineeship as soon as she got her GCSEs, and proved herself so well organised, such an excellent communicator and so mature in her grasp of human relations that she was soon promoted to Trainee Manager, responsible for the practical nuts and bolts of the Saturday School. By 17, she was also running her own hair and beauty business. She hadn’t really planned to go to university, but just happens to have found time to pick up a BA (2:1) and an MSc (Commendation) as well as a Dean’s Award along the way. She also has several years’ experience of mainstream primary teaching and is loved and highly respected by her large brood of Year 6s at OYA.
BSc Physics Southampton University
MSc Physics Southampton University
I’m an Ethiopian, born and bred in London. I’ve grown up through OYA all the way from Year 7 to year 11, after which I was an OYA Trainee. I then left to do my undergraduate and masters in physics, gaining a 2:1 in 2020. OYA was and has continued to be a big part of my life. After graduating, I returned to teach Maths and have been doing so for nearly a year. I am so glad to be a teacher at OYA: it’s a great way to give back to the community that helped form me so well as a child.
BSc Biomedical Science, University of Hertfordshire
Hi. My Name is Aron Fisahaye and I come from Eritrea, a small country situated at the Horn of Africa.
Having come to this country at the age of 8, I had initially found it difficult to settle in. Moving from one school to another didn’t help matters also. In 2004, having entered OYA!, this helped me immensely in my academic performance but even more my confidence, and I felt reassured in my identity and background. This, coupled with the relentless drumming in of a strict work ethic and high standards set by my parents, helped me to gain excellent GCSE results. I moved on to Woodhouse college and subsequently Mill Hill County High School to complete my A levels (Maths, Physics , Chemistry) and have stayed with OYA! throughout.
In the summer prior to me entering oya, I visited my beloved country, and loved every second of it.
I’m all for self enhancement and achieving up and beyond one’s potential. I am a trainee and teacher at oya! And I’d like to think (as well as being a decent teacher), I instil these values to whoever I come in contact with.
"Thank you OYA for your amazing hard work for our children. My daughter joined OYA 2 years ago, the amount of support and encouragement that she is getting from you guys is countless. It is helping her both academically and to believe in herself. Thank you Thank you Thank you."