"Hi. My name is Harneet. I am 18 years old. I arrived in the UK on 11th November 2019.
Like many asylum-seekers, our journey in the UK started in Croydon. We then moved up north and stayed in a guest house in Birmingham for around two weeks. Finally, my family and I moved to an accommodation in Wolverhampton.
Finding a school and getting back to normality was a priority for everyone in my family. We were registering for the GP and searching for schools at the same time. It was very busy and very uncertain.
Unfortunately, the schools I visited refused to take me in for the 2019-20 term because it was already November. I felt a bit confused at first because the schools would give me the application form, but I realised that it was for the next term!
Helen Grimshaw, Senior economist, Head of Strategy & Analytics at the Financial Reporting Council, expressed a similar sentiment:
“I was keen to attend the dinner to hear stories from people from around the world with different experiences, and I was set up to give them some hints and tips. What actually happened was that the Fellows were the ones doing the learning. We heard lots of inspiring stories, the challenges young refugees face and what they have done so far. The truth is that they are already leaders, in their careers and their communities. I wanted to share the benefit of my experience, but actually, it was the other way around.”
It was incredibly valuable for the young people in attendance to hear from senior leaders how they are inspired by them and to hear how grateful the Fellows were for them being here in the UK.
To hear this vote of confidence from individuals who have been highly successful in different positions of leadership was incredibly powerful. It was also deeply inspiring to hear the story of another Fellow who commented that her journey in leadership took time. When she started out in private investment, ‘I tried to be like a white male to fit into the environment, but I’m not. I decided to be myself. If you treat people a certain way, they will treat you that way back’.
So, my options were narrowed down to the college and an online training academy which offered an employability and personal development course. By the time I got into the college, it was already January 2020!
My family and I collectively decided that I should go to college since it is a bigger institution and more opportunities might present themselves there, but I was keen to take the course too."
“It was only natural to feel a bit anxious and awkward, but I was glad that I had finally become a part of the British education system!”
'How it started vs How it's going': Harneet's education journey in the UK
Refugee Week 2021
Refugee Week is a shared moment in our year in which we celebrate the contributions, creativity and resilience of those seeking sanctuary.
Education is inherently collective. Whether it’s teachers, classmates or friends, we learn and grow by coming together.
Never has this interconnectedness been so clear than during the Covid-19 pandemic. REUK is proud to be providing education services and programmes which help young people stay connected - to their peers, to their teachers and to their own progress here in the UK.
Refugee Week is held every year around World Refugee Day, which is June 20th. It may be difficult to imagine that in 1960, dozens of governments, NGO’s and the general public supported and participated in an entire World Refugee Year. Our hope is that the voices we hear this week and the platforms on which refugees share their experiences, perspectives and achievements are extended to every day, in every year.
This years theme is #WeCannotWalkAlone. The idea is simple: when we choose to walk side by side, to share networks and resources, or make space for others to lead, we create deeper and longer-lasting change than is possible alone.
Refugee Week is a wonderful opportunity to overcome barriers, labels and preconceptions as we affirm what we already know to be true: that our friends who are seeking sanctuary enrich our communities and that refugees are welcome here.
This week we are sharing three education stories which have been created exclusively by young people. Harneet wrote the photo blog on his education journey since arriving in the UK less than two years ago.
Despite living in different cities, Ftoun and Salar created a video about Ftoun's education story: how she learnt English quickly but faced discrimination online, and her hopes for an equal world and education system. B also showcases his film ‘Midnight on Wood Street’, which features a collection of his paintings and drawings. He edited the entire video himself.
Promoting their creativity and learning from their stories is a genuine privilege for us as an organisation. In our programmes and in the way we communicate, we walk together.
"The focus of the training course was to get more work-ready by looking at our strengths and weaknesses, building a CV, presenting frequently, along with functional skills like Maths and English.
One day in the start of February 2020, I found a poster which said ‘Maths GCSE revision sessions’ on a door of a classroom in college. I went as soon as I could to show my willingness to do Maths GCSE. “Asking a teacher whether the possibility existed to take on the GCSE course could do no harm”, I thought to myself.
To be very honest with you guys, I was a little bit disappointed by the course. I had suddenly gone from being a student in normal education to a class where not everyone took the studies seriously. The functional skills course was not as challenging as I expected; I wanted things to progress faster because I had already experienced so many delays with my education. Therefore, I kept looking for opportunities.
When I arrived at the first session, the teacher gave me an old paper to check my level there and then. The exam was challenging as I was a bit rusty and consisted of some topics I had never learnt. Nevertheless, I was able to get a grade 5 on the paper. I was a bit worried about my performance at first but was really pleased that I was able to get a grade 5."
"I was obviously very happy about this news, but I was also really nervous. For me, there were so many unknown factors. What was the environment going to be like? How will people react when they realise that I have a different English accent?
Before I decided which school was best for me, we asked acquaintances and I attended a virtual ‘Induction week’ of one of the schools. I was particularly keen on going to one school: St Peters Collegiate School, the environment there felt welcoming and not very stressful.
Additionally, the teachers were really helpful and encouraging, even before I was a student at their school.
On results day, I experienced one unexpected, big obstacle. It turned out that my Maths predicted grade came out to be 5. I needed a 6 at the very least to be able to do Physics A-Level, and a 7 for Maths!
After calling the manager of the GCSE department at the college on the results day itself, I realised that they had enrolled me for Maths Foundation Tier instead of Higher Tier.
When I told the manager that I achieved a 7 on the mock exam, she agreed to appeal for a correction. Since getting the revised grade back usually takes weeks, the manager proposed to write a reference to the school. This is how my place was secured at St Peter’s Collegiate School."
"As the 2019-2020 term neared its end, I had to start thinking about applying for A-Levels. I applied to 3 different schools for Maths, Chemistry and Physics A-Levels with the help of Bryony from REUK (formerly called RSN).
Fortunately, I got conditional offers from all three schools. One school asked me to submit the bridging work over the summer. Happy with the standard of my completed tasks, they decided to change my offer to an unconditional offer. I did not actually know what the difference between a conditional and an unconditional offer was. Later, I realised that it was a really big deal and I was relieved that at least one place at school was secured."
"Finally, when I got the news that my place was confirmed at St Peter’s. I let out a huge sigh of relief. I was confident that I would get in because I had worked so hard, but the sudden discrepancy had worried me a lot.
Where am I now? My transition to A-Level was a success and I am already starting to apply for UCAS! I aspire to become a mechanical engineer. I want to do this not really to make a lot of money, but because this is what I would enjoy doing the most!"
"There is no limit to what you can achieve, no matter what your religion, gender, colour or ethnicity. Everyone can achieve success in education."
Despite living in different cities, Ftoun and Salar have created this film together for Refugee Week. It tells Ftoun's education story: how she learnt English quickly but faced discrimination online. Their message of hope is hugely inspiring for everyone involved with REUK.
Power of Education
"Passing that exam served as a ticket to doing my GCSEs in 2019-2020 term! Although, there was not much time to prepare for them: merely 3 months!
What I actually learned from my time practicing for Maths GCSE was not Maths itself, but the structure of Edexcel Maths GCSE papers and how exams look and feel in the UK.
After I did the test, the teacher talked to the GCSE manager and I was successfully enrolled on the English and Maths GCSE courses! I started attending GCSE lessons along with my employability course.
Finally, I got my Maths grade based on a mock exam I sat before the first lockdown was introduced. The English GCSE grade was based on the standard of work submitted during lockdown."
B was one of the partipants on a Digital Storytelling Action Research programme, facilitated by Jessica Oddy at the University of East London). 6 young people met once a week for six weeks to develop their research and storytelling skills. Here, B tells his education story through a walk in his local area and the paintings and drawings he has created over the past year. He created and edited the video himself.