OBV Deputy and Acting Director Visits Rochdale School


On the 21st and 22nd of November, Operation Black Vote’s Deputy and Acting Director Ashok Viswanathan visited students in Rochdale Greater Manchester. Ashok worked with students in a range of citizenship classes, from religion, to history, politics, society, health, and education. While students ages 10-15 were the primary group which Ashok spoke with, there were also community ambassadors, support staff, and Rochdale's Head Teacher, Janice Allen.

I interviewed Ashok following his visit to get some insight on his experience interacting with the students and his takeaways from the visit. Ashok went through central contacts at Mayor Ali Ahmed’s office as well as contacts of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority Race Equality Panel. While this was his first school visit, Ashok expressed great interest in returning in future semesters to continue the work he did with the students and has aims to work in other areas of the school.

Ashok covered, health, employment, education, waste disposal, and recycling, which are all realms of citizenship and good citizenship awareness. While the classes were quite large, roughly rooms of thirty students Ashok felt as though he was able to get a good pulse on their feelings. “Students demonstrate that our future is in good hands” is one of OBV’s favorite quotes and the Deputy and Acting Director felt it was incredibly relevant in his time at Rochdale. Ashok stated “young people can make a huge difference” he experienced them to be “less cynical and more hopeful” in political conversation while also “frustrated that their voices go unheard.” I believe this sentiment of frustration with being unheard as youth becomes increasingly pertinent as most of the largely relevant issues both politically and environmentally will majorly impact the quality of their lives.

I ended my interview with asking Ashok what he personally gained from his visit. I think the most relevant takeaway of his was that he learned to “try and listen to ideas that are distilled in ways that are encountered by people that are different from [him] younger people, wanting influence but not having a voice.” Sometimes the things students demand or ask is not really within the remits of how the UK political system operates but you “have to debunk or rethink how the world has been shaped in your mind and see it through someone else’s eyes….or their prison.” This idea of seeing the world through the eyes of more than just yourself is incredibly important in politics and civil engagement as everyone does experience the modern world differently and inherently have different ideas on how to better it. Ashok stated that while young people share the same concerns and issues, they have distinctly different ideas on how to combat them and he believes that politicians should embrace the new approach that the youth come away with.

Ultimately, this collaboration between OBV and students seemed to be mutually beneficial. Both Ashok, and hopefully, the students walked away feeling enlightened and less wary of the future. The well-being of the world is in the hands of young people who will ultimately have to right any wrongs that are made ahead of them.

Espeana Green