To be treated differently

The following blog is from Let Us Lean campaigner, Sharon. Sharon was brought to the UK when she was 8 years old but is blocked from taking up her place to study History at university. Here she describes why she joined Let Us Learn and why she is backing the campaign for an Office for Citizenship and Integration.


Sharon, far left, with members of the Let Us Learn Outreach Team

I was brought to the UK when I was 8 years old, when I was still in primary school. By the time I reached the later years of secondary school, I’d lived in the UK for so long that I felt no different from any other teenager. But since this time I have been forced to accept that, in the eyes of the government and of policymakers, this is not the case. I am in fact different from my peers.

I was not be able to celebrate my A-level results like they did, for example. I worked hard to get the grades I needed and I secured my place at Kings College London, conditional on my A-level results. It was a moment of sheer exhilaration. I planned my freshers week, the modules I would be taking and even the societies I would join. Then came the news that I would not be eligible for student finance, because I was not born in this country. I really don’t know how to describe how this hurt.

Only now, a year or so later, am I able to reflect objectively on what happened to me. I believe I was deceived, by a system that painted a picture of success. Success required hard work and a university degree. But the truth is that no matter how hard I had worked, I would not have been allowed to access student finance and to taste this success. Because I was always going to be treated differently.

We are all of us capable of identifying injustice; many of us in the Let Us Learn movement see it every single day. But when it comes to standing up and fighting these wrongs we become dormant. I too was like this but joined Let Us Learn because I saw a chance to be part of something that could bring change, for myself and for others like me. I’ve become a voice for the campaign, I helped establish the Outreach Team and now I do everything I can to help other young people in my situation.

Genuine change, the type of change that can improve lives and fight injustice, is elusive. Tonight, on Thursday 28th April 2016, we have a chance to achieve genuine change. At the Copperbox Arena in front of 6000 Londoners, we will share our story with the next mayor of London. We will tell them what it is like to be treated differently and to experience injustice. We will ask them to commit to establishing an Office for Citizenship and Integration, to help children and young people in the future avoid what we have faced.

By Sharon Akaka