In support of the British Institute of Human Rights’ campaign, Chrisann Jarrett, blogs about the importance of the Human Rights Act to the Let Us Learn campaign.
This past year has been an amazing rollercoaster.
At times this rollercoaster made me a little scared as there were many lows, but I must say it all has been worth it.
The year of 2014 began with me not knowing whether or not I was going to be able to take up my place at university, despite getting the grades I needed. Like many young people, I had thought there would be a swift move from A-levels to degree. I had never thought that there would be a law which excluded me from getting student finance in the country where I have lived in since I was 8 years old. Now, thanks to the Human Rights Act, that law has been overturned to a large extent.
For me, it was a shock to discover that despite being lawfully resident in the UK, regulation changes made by parliament in 2011 meant that I was not eligible for a student loan. I was classified as an international student – and therefore had to pay international fees, which are much higher than the maximum £9,000 charged to home students.
But I was not the only young person in this situation.
This is when Just for Kids Law’s Let Us Learn campaign was born. Having spoken to some of the UK’s most impressive youth, paced the room numerous times. Vented our frustration at this situation which had unfortunately constrained our university aspirations, we wanted to do something about it.
The LUL campaign deals with the issue of young migrants who are unable to take up their places at university because of the immigration status. Our aim was to influence a change in government policy. We started small, speaking to those who sympathised with us. As the campaign snowballed we didn’t quite realise how much of an imprint we had made, as we shared our stories with the media.
When the Tigere Case came to the Supreme Court, we knew there was a chance that the Human Rights Act would mean things could change. On 29th July, I along with around 40 other members of the campaign was in court to hea judgment in our favour: it was held that the current law preventing us from getting student finance is discriminatory and has to be referred back to parliament to be changed.
I could not stop smiling, the joy was overwhelming. To think that we started this campaign with little sense of direction but our ambitions meant that we had to continue to speak out. Knowing now that when the law is finally changed many young people will not have to have their studies interrupted or divert their plans meant a lot. For all the members of Let Us Learn, higher education is an opportunity which we want to take in order elevate ourselves. The Tigere judgement will pave the way for so many migrants who will come after us who want to boast in their graduation gowns and hats one day.
For my part, I am now in my second year of my law degree at the London School of Economics. I was one of the lucky ones. Early 2014, even before the Tigere judgment, I was granted a full scholarship from the London School of Economics and in October 2014 I officially started my course.
For me, this was the beginning of an era, and I am so delighted that, thanks to the Human Rights Act and the Supreme Court’s decision, others will be equally lucky and able to take up hard won university places.
I smile looking back at the past year, all that I have learnt and how much I have grown. A law degree is no easy job. ‘Read up to 40 hours a week’ my lecturer advised and ‘you will pass your first year exams’. I listened to this advice and worked extremely hard. Being at an international university, it was great to meet people from different walks of life. University for me was to ‘experience’; experience different people, discourses and most importantly experience the development of me.
Chrisann Jarrett is a student and has won multiple awards for her work on the Let us Learn campaign.