Illustration by Catherine Repko http://catrepko.tumblr.com/
"We really are facing a lost generation," said exiled Syrian professor Dr Amal Alachkar about the devastation of the conflict on the country’s students and education system.
Hussein, 19, is one of these.
Hussein arrived in London without his family towards the start of the Syrian conflict and was recognised as a refugee by the UK government. Having completed his secondary education in Syria, Hussein already had the qualifications and aptitude to progress to university and was eager to do so. This was easier said than done.
He’d fled Syria without proof of his education so far and was struggling with his level of English and understanding of the British education system. He came to RSN’s Access to Higher Education Programme for advice about how to move forward. Our specialist advice worker helped him to understand the different options he had; from access courses that would lead to university, to vocational qualifications that would equip him for the workplace.
But the challenges for Hussein don’t stop there. After just 2 years in the UK, he’s still adapting to life in a new culture and second language, is dealing with the trauma of leaving Syria, and is worried about his family who remain in that conflict-ridden region. Unlike British students of his age who generally have the support of a family and the stability of a home, he has to pursue his education alongside a part-time job to pay his rent and bills. Working in a coffee shop, he has little time to make friends and get involved social activities so he often feels lonely.
Hussein doesn’t know where his long-term future will be: maybe he will be able to return to Syria and play a key role in rebuilding his nation; maybe he will have to remain in the UK and will be able to invest in society here. Either way, RSN recognises that for Hussein, as for many young asylum seekers and refugees, education is something which brings hope. We’re committed to seeing him access and progress in education and want him to know that his life is worth investing in.