Marlborough College's summer scholarship scheme for young refugees
Marlborough College's School of English and Culture runs alongside the annual Summer School (July 8 to August 4), offering both English language tuition and an Open Minds course that welcomes British teenagers. This year they are offering a number of scholarships for refugee teenagers living in the United Kingdom.
The scholarships are named the A-Rashid Scholarships - and Ahmad Al-Rashid is the scheme's patron. He played a large part in the inaugural year of the Open Minds course.
A refugee from Syria, he visited Marlborough to share his story and made a tremendous impact on the School of English and Culture students. He studied English language and literature at Aleppo University before he had to flee Syria for the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
He worked there as a volunteer teaching English in Syrian refugee camps and later joined the UN to work for both the Syrian Refugee Response and the Iraqi Displaced People Response after Mosul fell to ISIS. Later he was forced to flee Iraq and set out on the perilous journey to Britain.
He has now been granted asylum here and since his arrival has been working with various grassroots and volunteer groups - as an advocate for refugee rights and child refugees. He recently completed his MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development at the University of London, and is now working as a consultant for the International Organisation for Migration.
The Director of the School of English and Culture, Sam Ponsford, saw how Ahmad made a 'tremendous impact' on last year's students: "We are delighted to be working in collaboration with Ahmad to develop a scholarship scheme in his name that will create a life-changing experience for all students attending the course."
Finding candidates for the scholarships is quite a task. Sam Ponsford has attended a conference organised by STAR (Student Action for Refugees) and believes contacts made there will be fruitful. STAR is campaigning to make sure British universities are open to young refugees.
The Open Minds course is designed for those "...looking to improve their critical-thinking skills and develop a love of learning for its own sake."
"Against a backdrop of education systems ever more focused on exam results and the memorising of content, this course looks to provide a richer, broader and ultimately more rewarding educational experience for its students."
The course focuses on a diverse range of thematic topics designed to challenge an incredibly wide range of academic skills, including critical-thinking, collaboration, research and analysis, project management, independent learning and creativity. The course consists of four modules, each one week long and students can choose to do the first or second two week block or all four weeks.
The School of English and Culture's Learn English sessions use grammar and vocabulary to underpin a programme of interactive classes that challenge the students to think and express themselves in new ways whilst using and developing their English. Unsurprisingly, these courses are described as 'intensive and challenging'.
Students have the advantage of one-on-one access to special guests - that's how Ahmad Al-Rashid came to be involved with the School. Guests have included groups of actors, musicians - and a magician. This summer, Ahmad will be returning to meet the course students.
The other main guests will be performance poets Zena Edwards and Annie Rockson who will be giving a performance and then an interactive workshop. And Sean Tucker, who is a professional photographer, videographer and You Tube star. He will explain and demonstrate his creative process and the importance of achieving authenticity - and will hold a workshop so students can advance their photographic skills.