The following blog is written by a young woman who was brought to the UK when she was still a young child. Despite the fact that she has lived in the UK for the vast majority of her life, she had extreme and extended difficulty in obtaining her leave to remain in the UK and, in addition to this, is now unable to access student finance for her university studies. Here she talks about how these experiences and this knowledge – that she would not be able to attend university – impacted upon her secondary school studies.
My mum brought me and my brother to the UK because she wanted us to have a better life. I went to nursery, primary school and secondary school in this country. Then, at the age of fifteen, I was taken to a detention center with my brother and father by officers from UKBA. They came to our house early one morning while we were getting ready for school, like every other day. At this point I had just begun my GCSE studies and considered the UK my home. Why wouldn’t I? I had been here since I was two years old.
During my time in detention I changed. Previously I had been outgoing, ‘bubbly’. I was in the school debating team and performed in school plays. I remember playing ‘a loiterer’ in the Little Shop of Horrors, and I even won a Jack Petchey award for my contributions to the school. But now, in the detention centre, I became withdrawn and I lost a lot of this confidence. I struggled to understand what was happening to me, not because I didn’t understand where I was but because I didn’t understand WHY I was there. The UK was my home.
After seven weeks, and two failed attempts at deportation, we were released. Throughout this time my brother and I had continued to be ‘educated’ in a detention centre classroom, with about fifteen other children and young people of all different ages. Some of them were waiting to be deported. It was a very, very strange situation.
I returned to school and, despite this disruption, a year and a half later I went on to complete my GCSE studies. I was relieved to find that I had passed ‘with flying colors’. However, I still had a feeling of uncertainty for my future. Starting my A-levels in September 2011, I was excited but apprehensive about the new chapter I was about to begin in my life. My immigration status was still unresolved, despite years of applications and appeals.
As a result, I found it hard to keep myself motivated and dedicated to my work. I kept thinking to myself, “Is there really a point in what you’re doing? You’ve been applying for status in this country for years and still haven’t received it”. Still, I powered through. What other choice did I have? My life was here, in this country that did not want to accept me.
Then, I learned that there was to be another barrier. I found out that, even if and when I did finally receive my leave to remain in the UK, I would be unable to access student finance and so would be unable to take up any place that I had earned at university. All of this was happening when I was being told to focus solely on my studies and upon my future prospects.
When the time came to study for my exams, the knowledge that I would be unable to attend university definitely started to affect me. It was a real struggle to study and to concentrate fully. In the end, although my final grades weren’t the best I could have ever achieved, I believe it was the best I could have done in the circumstances.
My experience has given me the belief that, when you are unsure about where your life is taking you, you have to be positive and know that you can do it. You must push through any pain you may feel, push through everything that is an obstacle in your life and you will achieve.
By anonymous guest blogger, aged 20.