The following blog was written by Ikram Farah, a GCSE student at a local academy, during her week of work experience at Just for Kids Law.
On the 9th of June 2015, I was invited to watch a talk on immigration at Hackney Migrant Centre (HMC). On the panel were two young Let us Learn campaigners as well as Helen from HMC, Roopa from Islington Law Centre and Tony, a man who had accessed support at HMC. At the event, we were given an insight into what issues HMC tackle on a daily basis, including that of young people being denied access to student loans.
I did not previously know much about this issue and I was bewildered by the number of teenagers prevented from going into further education due to the rules around student finance. It is so unfortunate that they are unable to attend the universities of their dreams. It’s alarming how one’s status prevents hard-working individuals from progressing onto further education.
Two bold individuals, Let us Learn campaigners Chrisann and Emmanuel, spoke out about this issue. They had both been brought to the UK at a very young age and grew up thinking of themselves as British. “As an 8 year old, you don’t ask your parents, do I have a passport?”, Chrisann pointed out to the audience. Emmanuel too grew up believing he was British until one day, the day when he applied to student finance. This is the day when he and many other young people realise that, unlike their peers, they are not allowed to receive a loan and are charged international student fees.
Both spoke about their emotions at being told that they would be treated differently, despite working hard and achieving the grades they needed for university. Chrisann also commented on her experience of speaking publicly about her situation, when some negative comments (as well as many positive comments) had been made under her article in the Guardian newspaper. “At first the troll comments made me think I don’t want to speak out about this issue”, she said. But, although she was furious at first, she didn’t let this faze her and she made a choice to continue to campaign for her peers.
Well done to both Chrisann and Emmanuel for their campaigning and to HMC for all the invaluable work that they do.
By Ikram Farah, 15 years old.