Report by one of our lovely volunteer learning mentors, Keith
On a wonderful spring Saturday morning in Battersea Park mentee, Shabir and I joined a crowd in bright sports gear (and a dog which came dressed just as itself) to warm up for a 5K run. We had arranged to meet at the tube at 8 00 AM to travel together but Shabir was there at 7 30. So keen! We had decided in the depth of winter that Love to Learn was such a fantastic organisation it would be good (when it got a bit warmer) to raise some money to support the great work and to get a bit fitter at the same time. It was huge fun and made even better as Sophie came to support and take photos of us with medals and flapjack. So far we have raise £150, and its still coming in!
We are pleased to be able to share this report commissioned by Sir Walter St John’s charity, who fund our work with secondary schools. The report summarises some of the lessons learnt during the course of our work with refugees and asylum seekers about the challenges they face in British secondary schools in the hope that it will influence professional practice in this area.
This contribution is from our fantastic volunteer, Mery, when she started with us in September.
Firstly, I am very excited to be part of such a dynamic organisation that makes a big impact in many young asylum seekers’ and refugees’ lives. In the next 6 months I will be involved with Love to Learn’s mentoring programme and helping the team in general administrative support.
My refugee background not only led me to be aware of immigration issues that many people face everyday but, most importantly, I have learnt how vital any form of education can be to refugees and asylum seekers to live happier lives in their new land. I know it is easier said than done, but despite the up and downs in life, education opens future pathways. I believe education is an important and necessary step for integration. Due to the language barrier, cultural difference or religious beliefs, or feelings of inferiority when mixing with others, refugees often stay around people with the same cultural background as them.
Now I hear some of you saying “Education? So boring! What’s the point?” A few years back I asked myself the same question, but the people around me proved me wrong. Luckily I had wonderful mentors and employers who believed in me and gave me the right direction in life. I sometimes had difficulties taking their advice, and thought, what do they know about how I feel, or about how refugees feel in a new environment? But knowing what I wanted to do in life helped me to stay focused and motivated throughout my study years. Often refugees’ first priority isn’t really education, as they have to deal with loss of status, language difficulties, and homesickness, and in most countries only a few refugee candidates access higher level education.
So when migrants come to the West, they may not believe that they have any chance to go to college. Even if they want to and try, they may not be accustomed to independently searching and applying for college places. An adult raised in the West is more likely to have general understanding of how the education systems there works. If such a person wants to pursue higher education they are most likely to know where and how to start – such as identifying potential universities/colleges, listing means of funding his/her studies like family support or student loans. These opportunities are not immediately available to most refugees. To begin with, most refugees may not even know whether they qualify for loans or not.
For me personally, completing my studies at university has completely changed my life and given me the courage to challenge and be passionate about issues from race, gender to immigration.
I truly believe every refugee and asylum seeker deserves the chance of higher education and find out for him or her self what a huge difference education can make in her/his life. There is nothing worse than living an isolated life because of language barriers or lack of practical knowledge about the services around you, even if you are smart and want to integrate.
Love to Learn provide support and advocacy enabling young people to access educational rights and opportunities, enjoy learning, and have the confidence and aspiration to fulfill their potential. For advice, please call 02075850339 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions and phone number and we will get in touch.
My Family is Like was made by Musie, Sky, Noah, Isabella, Selam, Riyan and Yursa from our Wednesday Club for Poetry International. Big thanks to the Southbank Centre, Alastair Cook, Luca Nasciuti and Carolyn Jess-Cooke for making it happen.