#GetDyl2Cambridge – UCL alum Dylan Kawende needs your support

‘I’ve received an overwhelming amount of support’

The UK education system is not a meritocracy – and the #GetDyl2Cambridge campaign proves it. Dylan “Dyl” Kawende is the British-born son of Rwandan genocide refugees and grew up in a low-income household in West London. Having completed a prestigious UCL degree and – amongst other achievements – earned a Stephen Lawrence Scholarship to fulfil an internship at elite law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, he was accepted into the University of Cambridge to study a post-graduate Law degree. So why the campaign? Didn’t Dyl already get to Cambridge? Dylan is stuck in a paradox reminiscent of ‘need experience to get experience’ – he needs privilege to get privilege. Dylan’s grateful response to his Cambridge offer means nothing if he can’t reassure the university that he has £60,000 in the bank – all of which he’s ready to spend on his studies.     

Dylan received his offer in January 2019, and he’s been working to secure the funds for his Law degree ever since. Dylan puts it bluntly: ‘I’ve met the requirements and all that’s left is for me to have money.’ Unfortunately, he doesn’t face a unique problem. Many underprivileged students have been forced to fundraise for their university fees; in fact, Dylan was inspired to launch #GetDyl2Cambridge by his friend and fellow UCL alum Isaiah Wellington Lynn, whose successful campaign #StratfordToHarvard raised £64,000 in less than a month to pay for his place on Harvard University’s Visiting Undergraduate Student Class of 2018 programme. Wellington-Lynn was himself inspired by University of Oxford graduate Fiona Asiedu, whose #SW2Harvard campaign raised £12,000 for her Masters degree at Harvard Graduate School. Overcoming academic and socio-economic barriers, these students have worked hard throughout their entire academic lives to achieve places at the world’s best universities. But – unlike their privileged peers – they can’t celebrate. Instead, they have to frame their education as a charitable cause – and not one everyone warms to either.

The response to Dylan’s campaign has been largely positive (‘I’ve received an overwhelming amount of support’). But there have been harsh criticisms from onlookers. First and foremost: why is he asking for so much money? Dylan responds reasonably: ‘It’s not like it’s me demanding this money. I’d much prefer the fees were much lower.’ The criticisms go further still. Dylan recalls, ‘I think a lot of people were a bit confused as to why I needed to crowdfund in the first place. They’d seen my résumé. [They’d] thought, ‘this guy could work for a really good company and just fund his way through Cambridge, so why is he relying on the public to support? [But] the idea I could work and pay for my fees assumes that Cambridge would hold my place and that I could find a job that could support me and also fund this degree. I’d have to take two [or] three years out working at a pretty good company paying [me a high salary every] year. It’s just not really realistic and it’s a lot to ask of someone.’  

Here, Dylan deals with negativity surrounding the campaign with maturity and tact. It seems this enviable skill has developed with experience. ‘My campaign’s kind of different in that it’s had two phases. I started last year, didn’t raise enough. Then I re-started it this year, having learnt from my first attempt at it, and I’ve done a lot better this time.’  So, near approaching his £60,000 target, what has he learnt? What advice would he give to future education crowdfunders? ‘There isn’t a magic bullet. But it starts with knowing your ‘Why?’. You really need to understand what’s motivating you. Having a very clear and strong narrative is absolutely important. Also letting that ‘Why?’ carry you through the ups and downs. Remember the end game, remember why you started and what you hope to achieve. And be grateful for any and all the support you’ve received. Don’t focus on the people who might object to what you are doing, focus on the people who believe in you, who have invested in you and who are willing to vouch for you.’

As of writing, Dylan has raised £51,395. To help Dylan reach his target by the deadline at the end of July, donate via the link below – please help get Dyl to Cambridge! https://www.gofundme.com/f/getdyl2cambridge?fbclid=IwAR2Q8IsLMlDlKz14LTpEQkYFi6kIXD3jAwucf7m3lABPkE8NJVEhwL8o5VE

I'm an Assistant Editor for the Music Section of London Student, Europe's largest student magazine. For London Student, I’ve written features and reviews for artists including The Japanese House and Jorja Smith. I’ve also written for GQ South Africa, Rapzilla.com and Spindle Magazine.

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