The struggle of a Coventry-based, disabled and wheelchair-bound asylum seeker to raise tuition fees for his PhD in the UK is continuing with no end in sight.

After applying for admission to five UK universities, asylum seeker Dickson Tarnongo was offered a place by a Midlands-based university. The university gave him an offer with a home fees status, which means he will pay much lower fees than if he were treated as an international student.

But he still needs to raise £4,407 for the first year of his tuition and he has set up a crowdfunding page to try to achieve this. With just one week left, he is almost £3,000 short of his target.

Dickson has an undergraduate and postgraduate degree in Law and is planning to study for a Law PhD. He has already developed a PhD proposal on the subject “Disability Rights and Citizenship”.

“As a person with a disability who has experienced discrimination on the basis of my disability, I intend to use my PhD research work to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities – the idea being to promote the rights of disabled citizens to be on an equal level with other citizens,” Dickson said.

Currently living in Coventry, Dickson is originally from Nigeria and contacted Polio when he was 9-years-old, leaving him confined to a wheelchair ever since.

Dickson Tarnongo needs to raise £4,407 for the first year of his tuition but is almost £3,000 short of his targetSupplied
Dickson needs to raise £4,407 for the first year of his tuition but is almost £3,000 short of his target

Yet, his disability didn’t stop him from studying law and campaigning for disability rights in Nigeria, where he studied for most of his early life. When it became unsafe for him to stay in Nigeria, he sought sanctuary in the UK where he had previously studied and had a community of friends to help him.

Now aged 40, Dickson hopes to continue his studies, gain a PhD and use his skills to help others along the way.

However, his passion and drive for academia and disability rights has recently encountered several obstacles.

Since January, he has been living in temporary accommodation for people seeking asylum and as he is not allowed to work, so has been volunteering with the British Red Cross, Migrant Voice and Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre.

As an asylum seeker, he has had to survive on less than £40 per week during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, but for Dickson there are additional challenges of mobility and isolation.

Dickson’s vision is of an egalitarian society where persons with disabilities are integrated into the mainstream and have a sense of belonging and participation in all areas of human endeavour.

“As an asylum seeker, my PhD research will serve as a means of promoting the rights of asylum seekers into the higher education since people seeking political asylum who intend to further their education in the UK are being held back by many enormous and daunting challenges in their efforts to gain access to higher education,” Dickson said.

Dickson Tarnongo is a disabled asylum seeker hoping to raise funds to cover student fees and gain his PhD Supplied
Dickson Tarnongo is a disabled asylum seeker hoping to raise funds to cover student fees and gain his PhD

Some asylum seekers may find that their existing qualifications aren’t recognised in the UK or that the language barrier is too high – but the biggest obstacle is often the fees, as most asylum seekers are treated as international students and are therefore faced with huge costs.

“Even though there are some few charities, institutions and universities working very hard to promote the education of asylum seekers who desire to enter into higher education, the chances of an asylum seeker to take advantage of such opportunities are very much limited due to lack of adequate funding,” said Dickson. “In this way, the education of asylum seekers in UK is a matter of a ‘privilege’ and never a right.”

Dickson added that since asylum seekers are people who fled their home countries for fear of either war or persecution as a result of their political opinions, religion or sexual orientation and are seeking international protection, any opportunity that would enable them to get into higher education is very much appreciated.

When asked about the efforts that he has been making to raise the tuition fees for his PhD studies, Dickson explained that the past few months have been a very difficult period for him as he is anxious to commence his studies but is finding it difficult to raise the fees since he is not entitled to public funds.

“I have applied for some scholarship and grants from some charitable organisations. I have been getting some rejections, but I am still hopeful that I may be lucky,” he said. “I also intend to talk to friends and the general public to be able to raise funds for my education. I will appreciate any donation towards realising the total amount of £4,407.”

If you’d like to help Dickson Tarnongo with funding for his student fees, you can do so here.

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