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Award set up in memory of devoted Glasgow Children’s University worker

Students in graduation attire

The colleagues of a Strathclyde education worker who tragically passed away aged just 25 after being diagnosed with a brain tumour have created a special award in her honour.

Samia Afzal, an Educational Liaison Officer at the University of Strathclyde, was passionate about her work with the Glasgow Children's University.

Woman in graduation gown

After her premature death in 2019, her University workmates created the annual Glasgow Children's University 'Samia Afzal Award for Outstanding Pupil Achievement'. It reflects her love of the role and the opportunities the programme gives for additional learning experiences for children and young people.

Inaugural award

Inspirational schoolgirl Rebecca Kyle has now become the first recipient and the primary seven pupil from St Rose of Lima Primary in Glasgow was presented with the award by one of Samia's former colleagues, Manager of Glasgow Children's University, Aileen Wilson.

In an emotional ceremony at the school, more than 120 other pupils at St Rose of Lima were also presented with a total of 379 Children's University certificates.

Inner strength

Aileen Wilson said: "Samia had a love for life, new experiences and learning new things and was especially keen to live life to the fullest after her illness. She faced her diagnosis with an inner strength quite remarkable for someone of her age and throughout her treatment surprised the medical team, her family and colleagues by her determination to return to the job that she loved.

"A Strathclyde scholarship for a widening access student was made in Samia's name but we wanted to create something that related more to the Children's University. This award is for a pupil who has not just simply logged a high number of credits but one that has pushed themselves outside of their comfort zone to try new things, to learn new skills and to be an inspiration to others - just like Samia."

Celebrates learning

Rebecca, 11, is the first Glasgow Children's University pupil to reach the highest award of Gold Fellowship, having gained 1000 credits with the CU, which promotes and celebrate learning and achievement that takes place beyond the classroom.

Schoolgirl in graduation gown holding an award

Aileen Wilson added: "We are delighted that Rebecca is the first recipient and I know Samia would feel incredibly proud. Rebecca has been an inspiration with her determination to reach her Children's University goal and now has younger pupils following in her footsteps to reach 1000 credits by primary seven, as well as challenging herself to try out new things, like learning sign language."

When Samia was diagnosed with brain cancer in July 2018 she underwent challenging treatment, including surgery to remove the tumour, as well as radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but remained dedicated to her job.
When she returned to work at Strathclyde in November 2018 she suggested her follow up scan appointments could be scheduled around her work. As the Glasgow Children's University annual awards and graduation celebration event in June 2019 approached, she was feeling unwell but continued to work to help deliver a record breaking event.

Aileen added: "That was the last day we saw Samia. Sadly the cancer had returned and she passed away peacefully a short time later in St Vincent's Hospice."

Samia's mum Shameem said: "We are really humbled by the award and so pleased that Samia's name will live on through it. I know Samia herself would have been over the moon. She was passionate about her work and loved working with children, so it's very fitting."

Deputy Head teacher of St Rose of Lima, Mary Moore said: "We are incredibly proud of Rebecca's achievements. She highlights that she could not have achieved this without the wonderful support of our Children's University volunteers, Linda, Nicola and Geraldine. We also cannot ignore the encouragement and support from her much loved family, who I know could not be more proud of her.

"Her own sheer determination and commitment have also been central to her achievements and the achievements of others. I have no doubt Rebecca will go on to achieve great things - maybe one day she will be part of the Children's University Team or a mentor herself."

Set up in June 2013, Glasgow Children's University is a partnership between Curiosity Collective, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow City Council, schools and other organisations. Membership is open to children from participating schools in the Glasgow City area for children aged from five to 14.