The following blog is from Tashi Tahir. Tashi was born in Pakistan and brought to Scotland when she was 8 years old. Here she describes why she wanted to help Let Us Learn and how she produced our new short film, soon to be launched as part of our #younggiftedandblocked scholarship campaign.
When I applied to university, I didn’t realise that my immigration status would bar me from furthering my education. I couldn’t comprehend why this was the case. I had achieved perfect grades, constantly challenged myself academically and outperformed my peers. Yet they were going to university and I wasn’t. I researched every opportunity I could find, phoned every funding agency and university. Each time I received the same response: “No”.
Having already been in the immigration process for ten years, I couldn’t see an end. I couldn’t see a future for me or my mum. How was I meant to support her when I couldn’t work or continue my education? A few months passed and I received unconditional offers from all five of my university choices. But I was classed as an international student in every one. And then, just as I was beginning to lose hope, my mum and I were finally granted leave to remain in the UK.
Because I lived in Scotland and we had sought asylum in the UK, this opened up many doors. I was still denied a maintenance loan, but my tuition fees were paid and I won a scholarship from the Robertson Trust to help with my living costs. Yet, although I was now able to take up my place to study Maths at St Andrews University, I knew that many others like me were still blocked. The problem was at its worst in England. There, even with my leave to remain, I wouldn’t have been eligible for any funding at all. That’s why I wanted to make a change.
I contacted Just for Kids Law, and we decided that we needed to raise awareness of this issue with as wide an audience as possible. I would produce a short film and we could use this to increase awareness, especially with universities, in a way that was compelling and relatable. But I needed funding to make this film. I applied for a “Self-Development Award” which is also funded by The Robertson Trust. This award “allows students to give back to the community whilst developing their own philanthropic potential”. My application was successful and I was granted the funding I needed to make the new Let Us Learn film, Young, Gifted and Blocked.
The young people are at the very heart of the Let Us Learn campaign and so the film had to be about them. I wanted to help empower the young people to tell their story to the world. We were able to film eight ambitious, motivated young people sharing their stories in their own words. We kept the film bright and full of hope so it reflected the positivity of the young people and of the Let Us Learn campaign.
Creating the film was an amazing experience and I am humbled to have been able to do it. I was welcomed into the campaign group as if I’d been a member from the start. Listening to everyone’s experiences and stories made me even more hungry for change. These young people are precisely the type of candidates that universities should be looking for. They remain optimistic and their thirst for knowledge never ceases.
I’m extremely pleased with the end product. Please do watch and share Young, Gifted and Blocked when it is released shortly. It will form part of Let Us Learn’s #younggiftedandblocked scholarship campaign that seeks to create more scholarships for those who are still ineligible for student finance. We need as many universities and decision makers to see the film as possible, so they can understand what incredible young people they are missing out on.
By Tashi Tahir, age 20