Foster inclusivity, recognise privilege and give back – goals for 2021 Student of the Year Best Devotion to School winner

Clara Ki Lu
  • Zareen Tasnim, head girl at King George V School (KGV), explains the importance of building community and encouraging a love for volunteering among her peers
  • After a petition was raised on last year by a former KGV student regarding racism at the school, Zareen has been working to create a more inclusive environment
Clara Ki Lu |

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Zareen Tasnim, from King George V School (KGV), is the winner of the 2021 Student of the Year Best Devotion to School award. Photo: Handout

Zareen Tasnim, winner of the 2021 Student of the Year Best Devotion to School award, has been a student leader since she was in Year Four.

Now, at age 17, Zareen is head girl at King George V School (KGV), chair of the community service committee there and leader of multiple non-profit initiatives at the school.

For Zareen, being a student leader means being like “glue” for the student body, by bringing the community together and ensuring that students are happy and engaged.

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“Being [one of the head prefects] this year has meant that we’ve tried to be responsive and adaptive to the things that we’re seeing,” she said.

With a petition raised on last year by a former KGV student regarding racism at the school, Zareen has been working hard with other student leaders to create a more inclusive environment.

“We definitely have accomplished [this] ... [based on] what we’re hearing from students in our school,” the head girl said.

Read about the petition here

She invited guest speakers to talk about inclusivity at her school and organised activities to help students reflect on their identities.

However, being head girl was not only about bringing the school together. It also meant inspiring students and encouraging their growth.

One of the most memorable moments for Zareen during her tenure as head girl was when she talked to Year Nine students about community projects.

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Many students did not understand the joys of community service, the student leader said. Rather, they saw it just as something they had to do.

But Zareen wanted to shift their mindsets, so she hosted two talks to encourage other students to find an issue relevant to their lives and then invest time and energy in it.

During her free time, the head girl teaches English to local primary school students through programmes like Kids4Kids and other volunteer opportunities offered through her school.

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When she was in middle school, Zareen helped organise workshops to encourage her school community to get involved with Enrich, a Hong Kong charity that promotes financial literacy to domestic workers.

“We ... tried to encourage students to get their parents ... to sign up their employees [domestic workers],” she explained.

When asked why community service was so important to her, Zareen explained, “Going to a school like mine ... a lot of us come from privileged backgrounds. So knowing that, we have the responsibility to be a bit more socially aware and try to do what we can to help [people] outside school, not just within.”

Now in its 40th year, the Student of the Year Awards recognises the achievements of secondary school students, with 11 awards across nine categories.

The results were announced earlier this year. It is organised by the South China Morning Post and sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

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