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Dembo's Story 

Dembo shares his story about university and challenges, including immigration status. He gives his advice and views on education.

I’m studying maths and statistics at the Open University. I’m doing it part-time for financial reasons, hopefully over four years. I work in a cinema to pay for it. For me, the OU is a good way for me to study as well as working. You have to be really committed – I only see my teachers once every three months. Where I come from in Guinea, after a certain age you can’t go to uni. But at the OU some students are much older than me – they have families or are in their fifties and are still studying. I really admire it! It made me realise it’s never too late to study.

The biggest challenge for me was my immigration status. I had discretionary leave to remain but in 2012 the government changed the law so I couldn’t apply to Student Finance to fund my uni course. I really wanted to go to Southampton to do medicine but I couldn’t go to the interview because of my immigration status. The following year I applied again and two more unis gave me offers but I couldn’t accept them because my immigration status didn’t change.

This year I decided to go to uni whatever. My local authority said they’d pay but then changed their mind, so I’m paying for myself and continuing applying for funding towards my tuition cost. I’d say to others in this situation, provided it is in your care plan or pathway plan, if your discretionary leave is active, your local authority CAN fund your education, so do whatever it takes to get their support. They may say no at first – but keep pushing and hopefully they will review it.

You have to adapt to circumstances but you don’t have to give up on your dreams.

I still want to be a doctor. I’m doing an undergraduate degree in maths and statistics to get a job to pay my way through training to be a doctor. You have to adapt to circumstances but you don’t have to give up on your dreams.

I think education is seen as being primarily about numeracy and literacy. But for me it goes far beyond that. Education is the best tool any country can give to its children because through education we can tackle issues such as poverty, crime, racism, and homophobia. Education helps people look after their families and gives people independence.