Last summer, 19 year-old Chrisann Jarrett, top student and head girl at Clapton Girls’ Academy, was thrilled to be offered a place at LSE to study law.
However her delight soon turned to anger as she realised that, due to her immigration status, she would not be accepted as a home student and would have to pay £16,000 in tuition fees a year without any support from student finance.
Many young students, whose parents cannot afford to pay the fees independently, are left with no choice but to turn down university places they have worked hard to secure.
Chrisann, who arrived in the UK from Jamaica when she was eight years old, has Discretionary Leave to Remain (DLR) and therefore is not eligible for student finance. Despite being aware of her immigrant status, she did not know it would prevent her from going to university.
When she found out, Chrisann was shocked. Undeterred, she deferred her place and secured an internship at Just for Kids Law, a charity that provides advocacy, support and assistance to young people in difficulty.
Fortunately, when Chrisann informed LSE of her situation, the university offered her a full scholarship allowing her to take up her place on her course starting this September.
Let us learn
Other young students who manage to secure a scholarship at a Russell Group University might sit back and start planning how to spend Freshers’ Week.
But speaking to the Hackney Citizen, Chrisann said that her experience ‘”ignited the campaigning fire” and she is now determined to help other migrant teenagers who are in the same situation. Together with a group of other young campaigners she has started Let us Learn, a project that aims to raise awareness and act as a support network for those who find themselves barred from higher education.
“The campaign focuses young people who are legally and lawfully resident in the UK being unable to take up their places at university as they are not considered eligible for student finance,” explains Chrisann.
With first-hand knowledge of how it feels to find your future thrown off track, Chrisann believes that many young people become withdrawn and feel embarrassed about telling their friends why they can no longer go to university.
“Most of these young people have been here since they were very young,” she says. “They haven’t returned to their country of origin and so completing their educational aspirations, which have been shaped and moulded by British institutions, is something that is of key importance to them.”
“We are raising awareness for those with DLR. We want to get people together and to spread the word, to go into schools and to let people know that this is an issue.”
Effectively prohibiting those who have been brought up in the UK education system from continuing on into higher education is “policy that doesn’t work for anyone”, says Chrisann.
“People who have great moral character and are really contributing to British society will continue to contribute once they are at university and in their future careers. Inclusion policies allow you to go to school and to work but they are also discriminating in the same breath. Policymakers need to think about these people and how it will affect their progress,” she says.
In setting up Let us Learn, Chrisann hopes that change will be brought about through peer-to-peer support and that the campaign will enable “youth to support youth”.
She highlights the case of Yashika Bageerathi, the teenager from North London who was deported to Mauritius two months before taking her A Levels as evidence of how campaigning can raise awareness of migrant issues.
The campaign is starting small with a blog on the Just for Kids website and platforms at various events, but it has already received interest and support from different avenues. Chrisann has big plans – the long-term aim of Let us Learn is to “influence policy”.
She says: “Even if we don’t have instant change then at least they might look at it, go back to the drawing board and look at people who were affected. It may be small, we don’t think that change will be instantaneous, but that made us more determined to go out and speak to people about this.
“If you shout loud about something, someone has got to listen.”
To contact Let us Learn:
E-mail: LetUsLearn@justforkidslaw.org/ 10 September, 2014