Oxford student with 3 A*s called unfit for tutoring job because he’s not ‘normal English’

The head of the tutoring company has since said it was a ‘misunderstanding’

A Black Oxford University student who achieved three A*s at A-level was initially described as unfit for a tutoring role teaching overseas students because he is not “normal English”.

Joshua Chima, a first year student at Oxford, was referred to tutoring service Gage International by his friend Izzy. Initially, the head of the tutoring company was interested in Joshua, so asked Izzy to send over his CV. Upon sending over his CV, Izzy claims the CEO, Grace Zhu, called her and mentioned Josh’s surname, saying: “This is why you need to send me their CV.”

Izzy alleges that Zhu continued to say that she was concerned he would not be an appropriate fit for the role because her Chinese tutees don’t like black tutors or those with dark skin, referencing skin lightening treatments used by Chinese people to prove her point. Zhu has since denied that she said this and said that her conversation with Izzy was a “misunderstanding”, and that she only mentioned his surname because she thought it was “funny”, or that he might be Chinese.

Joshua then called Zhu to ask if his race was a concern. Zhu said that it was only because her tutees preferred “normal English tutors”, reinforcing that she meant “English, English” tutors. Joshua was born in London.

black oxford students bullingdon club

Joshua and fellow Oxford students recreating the famous Bullingdon Club photo earlier this year

Zhu defended her comments and told The Tab: “Throughout the whole conversation I tried to tell him that he doesn’t have to worry about being black.” She continued: “He misunderstood, he needs to be more understanding. It’s not all about being black.”

Josh told The Tab: “I had a bit of free time so I thought I’d help with some tutoring. It’s so unbelievable. It was quite annoying because it felt clear that my only saving grace was that I go to Oxford.

“The worst thing is that me and Izzy go to the same college [at Oxford], we have the same grades at A-level and similar work experience so it’s not like I’m less qualified – it’s simply because I’m black. I’ve faced racism before but not like this, it’s ridiculous.”

Zhu denied her comments and said the conversations about race were a misunderstanding and that she has since offered Joshua the role. She told The Tab: “We treat everyone the same. I said to him you don’t have to worry that you’re black, but competition is fierce and they pick up the good ones. Once you’re picked up you’re fine. It’s very difficult because I’m matchmaking [tutors and tutees]. I did talk to him and I think it upset him, but that was because of [my concerns about] his GCSE grades and not his race.”

Zhu denied that her actions were racist and said: “The main purpose is to get a student to pick up a good tutor who is kind, understandable and patient.”

Izzy has since quit her role at the tutoring company because of Zhu’s comments.