Ferzende Khallo




After escaping war and taking a perilous journey across Europe, Ferzende saw incredible success in his GCSE English with Birmingham Adult Education Service (BAES) and went on to receive an MA in English Literature. He now looks forward to a PhD and further opportunities to support other refugees in the UK and abroad. 

When, at the height of the Syrian war, I walked away from everyone I had ever loved, what kept me putting one foot in front of another was my dream that one day I would study English at an English university.   

When I arrived in Birmingham in 2017, the fear, hunger and months living in a refugee camp in Calais had all taken a terrible toll on me. GCSE study, with its structure and targets, gave shape and meaning to those dark days. I learned far more than the correct use of the semi-colon: I learned to trust in the essential goodness in humanity and to believe in myself.  

I later volunteered as a learning support assistant with BAES. I was applying for university at the time and proud to demonstrate how adults and overseas students can access the British university system. It was something which a number of our learners had considered impossible; I’m proud to have helped so many others fulfil their dreams too.  

Emboldened by my success in GCSE English, I continued my studies and was awarded an MA in English Literature from the University of Warwick in January 2023. My academic achievements are my way of saying ‘thank you’ to all those who believed in me.

Lucy Ellenor, Programme Manager for Functional Skills at Birmingham Adult Education Service, said: “The circumstances in which Ferzende embarked on that initial GCSE English course would have proved unsurmountable to all but the most resilient of learners. He is now applying for PhD funding while working with refugees in Birmingham and we wish him every success.”