1. ITV Report

A-level success for Derby student who fled Syria with brother and beat cancer

Zaher (left) and Nasr (right) are celebrating their A-level results Photo: Allen PR

Two brothers who settled in Derby after fleeing from Syria are looking forward to a bright future after achieving top A-level grades.

Zaher and Nasr Ali came to the UK in 2007 because they faced being arrested, along with their mother and father, by the Syrian Government over their father Mahmoud’s political beliefs.

Now they are both off to university after achieving a string of As in their A-levels at Saint Benedict Catholic Voluntary Academy in Derby, despite coming to the UK with no English.

Zaher was also diagnosed with blood cancer last August and has managed only 60 per cent attendance at school after being extremely ill while undergoing chemotherapy.

He said:

I started to cough and had difficulty breathing and after visits to the GP and hospital I was diagnosed with blood cancer, which was a shock.

I was very sick while I had the chemotherapy. Some days I could not even get out of bed and I couldn’t talk. I worked at home and the school was very supportive so I’m extremely grateful for that.

I’ve just been told that I’m cancer-free now too and the chemotherapy has worked which is more great news.

Nasr, 18, said he was thrilled with his results and was now excited about his future – which could have been very different if he had stayed in Syria.

He said:

I would be dead if I had stayed in Syria.

A lot of my family members have been killed in the conflict out there. There was one village where many of them lived which was completely wiped out.

In the area where we were living there has been a lot of fighting and bombs have been dropped so I have no doubt that I would have been killed.

If we had stayed in Syria our whole family would have been arrested, not just my father, we had to leave.

Mr Ali was a member of the Palestenian Democracy Union, which was in opposition to the Syrian Government.

Nasr, of Normaton, said that one day armed soldiers sent by the Syrian Government knocked on their door looking for their father.

He said:

My dad knew who it was, he knew by their knock, and he went out of the back door. The soldiers searched the house, they were carrying guns, and we told them we hadn’t seen him for a long time so they left. We didn’t know what was going on.

He was gone for weeks. Then my mother’s brother came and took her away so we were alone for a long time. We were very frightened.

Then my dad’s brother, who lived next door to us, came and took us to where our father was, in hiding. Our father said we would be leaving Syria in two days time and we had to pack all of our stuff.

It was scary but my father had been to the UK before and assured us we would have a good life there. He had applied for us all to be asylum seekers.

I really wanted to come here but I also wanted to see my mum, we didn’t know where she was and we haven’t seen her for seven years, we still don’t even know if she’s safe.

The brothers could not speak English when they arrived in the UK Credit: Allen PR

Zaher, 20, said that when the brothers arrived in the UK they struggled with the language barrier.

He said:

We were picked on a bit at primary school because we couldn’t speak English but we had lessons and our language soon improved.

Our English got better and better at Saint Benedict and we felt like we were really welcomed here. We’ve both worked hard for our A-levels and are really pleased with our results.

Zaher achieved an A in Maths, an A in Arabic and a B in Further Maths and has a place to study Actuarial Science at Kingston University in London.

Nasr achieved an A an Maths, an A in Further Maths and an A in Arabic and will go onto study Mathematical Science at City University London.

KevinGritton, Deputy Head teacher at Saint Benedict, said:

This achievement is exceptional by any standards and we are so proud of the boys particularly given their story.

We wish all of our students all the very best for the future. Our thoughts and prayers go with them.

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