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16th August 2018

A brave Bristol student who suffered 19 years of looming violence and danger is celebrating her A-level results today and finally looks towards a bright future.

Benedicte with Principal Michael Jaffrain and Vice Principal Marian Curran

Benedicte with Principal Michael Jaffrain and Vice Principal Marian Curran

Benedicte Kabibi, 19, a student at St Brendan’s Sixth Form College, celebrates today after securing a B an a C in her A-levels; enabling her to study Learning Disability Nursing at Keele University from September.

Benedicte has an incredibly heart-breaking story to tell: she was born in the Congo to a mother who tragically died during childbirth and so she was raised by a woman who she was told was her birth Mum.  Surrounded by violence and corruption, Benedicte’s carer fled the country to Britain and years later she herself was smuggled into the UK.

In February 2014, at 15 years old, the young teen applied for UK asylum and that same year began studying at St Brendan’s Sixth Form College. “We are proud to be an official College of Sanctuary, and so we are committed to being a safe and welcoming place for people whose lives were in danger in their own country.” said Michael Jaffrain, Principal at St Brendan’s. “Although Benedicte didn’t have the qualifications we usually look for, we accepted her onto our Access to Level 3 Programme and have been watching her grow ever since. We wanted to provide that stability and safety she so desperately sought and I’m so proud that we could help her on her journey.” The College’s Access to Level 3 Programme is designed to support students who need a year of additional support at GCSE level before studying their A-levels – Benedicte is one of hundreds of students who successfully progress through the programme each year.

At the beginning of 2018, just 5 months before she was due to take her A-level exams, Benedicte received the devastating news that her asylum application had been denied and she must return to the Congo. Suddenly told she could no longer continue studying in the UK, the teen was faced with the reality of having to return to a country where she had no family, nowhere to live and where her life would once again be in danger.

St Brendan’s supported Benedicte throughout her journey with them and helped her to navigate a traumatic 2018. The College helped find a solicitor and supported the teen in fighting her battle. Benedicte bravely took the Home Office to court and on 26th April was allowed to take up her studies again. Thursday 5th July was a day of huge relief and celebration for all involved; after 6 months of upheaval, heartbreak and uncertainty, Benedicte won her appeal and right to asylum.

One month on and the teen now faces a bright future in the UK. Laura Howe-Haysom, Head of Student Support at St Brendan’s said, “I am so incredibly proud of Benedicte and all that she has achieved. Her experiences since birth make for the most traumatic story and it was so hard to face the reality that she may be forced to leave us and return to such danger and destitution. Today is a momentous day for Benedicte, a tale of true determination, and I am thrilled to see her now planning her journey ahead and looking forward to a settled life here in the UK.”