You may not know of Paul Ntulila, but in the deaf community his name is one that will go down in history. This year, 26 year-old Paul became the first deaf person to awarded a fully funded scholarship to study a Master of Science degree (MSc) in Diplomacy, Statecraft and Foreign Policy at Loughborough University in London.
In his short career (including a degree in Politics and Deaf Studies) Paul has worked tirelessly to change the lives of deaf people in the UK – helping to break down barriers and challenge stereotypes. Now he has overcome the odds to break down his own barriers – successfully applying for a scholarship at one of the UK’s top Universities.
Paul’s fantastic achievement makes him a beacon of hope for deaf people everywhere, and he’s determined to make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity to show the world that anyone, of any ability, can achieve great things and make a difference.
In this exclusive interview, Paul tells us about his passions and dedication to the deaf community, and what his future holds with a newly awarded scholarship under his belt.
Making an impact
“The Inspiring Success scholarship by Loughborough University and London Legacy Development Corporation has completely changed my life. In being awarded this scholarship, my dream to be on this course has come true.
“The MSc in Diplomacy, Statecraft and Foreign Policy is a three year course that will enable me to develop my interest in International Relations. It will also give me a greater understanding of how to interact professionally with others. After completing the MSc, I would like to pursue a career in Politics and International Relations, hopefully working with either the European Union for the Deaf or the World Federation for the Deaf, influencing policy decisions and contributing to discourses relating to deafness and disabilities.
“I have experienced a lot of barriers as a deaf person, and what I have achieved would’ve once been considered impossible for a deaf person. This scholarship is an opportunity for me to prove myself by studying hard and inspiring others – especially young adults who are deaf and from ethnic minorities. I want to encourage them to aim for better and greater things. If I can do it, so can they. If it has happened for me, it can definitely happen for them too.”
Growing up with deafness
“I became profoundly deaf when I was eight months old in 1989. I used to wear hearing aids (I don’t anymore) and went to a mainstream school in East London which had deaf instructors and teachers of the deaf. I can remember my teachers telling me “you can achieve anything” which inspired me to be more determined and focused on doing well in my studies to achieve a higher level of education.
“It was while I was at this school that I started getting involved in community projects. I realised I wanted to help make better services for deaf people, and my father encouraged me to get involved in politics. But I decided not too because of my deafness. Then, on 4 November 2008 Barack Obama was elected as America’s first black president. Suddenly I had a new source of inspiration and I turned my attention to becoming a politician and diplomat.”
My early career
“I’ve dedicated my career to helping and supporting the deaf community. After I left school, I spent time promoting the inclusion of deaf and disabled people in Devon County whilst working with NSPCC, where I was instrumental in helping the charity to understand deaf needs. In the 2009 Annual Council Meeting (ACM), I was made an Honorary Member of the Council in recognition of this important role and was the first young person to receive the award.
“I also worked with the Diversity Board and Co-Chair of Youth Panel at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. In my role with the Diversity Board, I worked to encourage young people to become more involved in the Olympics, for example making sure they were volunteering and were excited about the challenge. I was involved in an Olympic volunteering project, recruiting young children from all schools in UK.”
Working for Newham Deaf Forum
“Newham Council in East London recruited a hearing person to manage the deaf forum, but this was unsuccessful. I made them realise that the service needed to be managed by a deaf person because the previous three years saw the forums failing – with too many people dropping out, and few drop-in service users. I took over the role of Chairperson and was able to turn the trend around.
“With my involvement, there’s been an increase in deaf participation, and the drop-in service has become a success. I have also helped to set up a new Health Watch in order to improve access to GP Surgeries and clinics in the Newham community. Furthermore, I’ve provided deaf awareness training and delivered motivational sessions to professionals in Newham. This has greatly impacted the social and economic inclusion and development of East London.”
The importance of better access for deaf people
“I would like to see more deaf people and disabled students study at any University (including mine) because this will help them to get better jobs and change their lives through academic experience. However, lots of organisations, businesses, industries and academic institutions need a clear understanding about how to improve access for deaf and disabled people who are looking for employment.
“Several of these learners and graduates face challenges and discrimination. Increasing austerity cuts affect essential services and compounds these challenges. Deaf people need to look up to positive deaf role models because such individuals can provide an inspirational influence and this can have a positive impact on their lives.”
Anyone can achieve great things
“If you’re deaf, you can apply for a scholarship. Anything is possible, but it will involve a lot of hard work proving to others what you can achieve through education and work experience. Universities will look at your background education. It’s very competitive to get a scholarship, but as I’ve shown, it can be done!
Don’t let anyone say “you can’t do it” or ‘it’s impossible because of your deafness’. If someone says that to me, I tell them “I can do it! I will reach my goals.” Ask questions, talk to your teachers and learn from others and deaf role models. The real world is tough, so be prepared for challenges.”
“Deaf people can do anything, except hear.”- King Jordan (Former President of Gallaudet University).
If you’re deaf or HoH and looking for careers advice, take a look at our careers section for more information.