Aisha Alnajjar was born in 1999 in Homs city, Syria from where she and her family were forced to flee in 2012. Escaping their war-ravaged homeland, the family made it to Beirut where her father, who had been seriously injured as result of the war, died. She arrived in the north of Ireland with her mother and two brothers in December 2015 under the Relocation of Vulnerable People Scheme. As part of the first group of Syrian refugees to arrive in the north the family was first placed in the Belfast Welcome Centre.
Having only begun learning English whilst in Lebanon, Aisha enrolled in Malone Integrated College in February 2016, where she availed of extra tuition and began an intensive course of study. The teenager took one year to complete the standard two-year GCSE courses achieving remarkable results with the highest grades possible, A* in Double Award Science and Arabic, and an A grade in Mathematics. She also secured an incredible grade C in English Language having only begun learning the language after leaving her Syrian home.
Her brilliant academic achievements in the first year of her arrival, saw her awarded several school prizes and a nomination for the Barnardo’s UK Young Achiever of the Year Award, a top honour which she subsequently won. The award was in recognition, not only of her academic achievements, but for her strength of character and the positive impact she has had on other young girls arriving in the north through the Relocation of Vulnerable Persons Scheme.
Aisha continued to build on her academic success, transferring to Methody College where she sat three A-Levels: Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics, again achieving top results.
Having become part of Queen’s University Belfast’s Widening Participation Programme, she gained an understanding of student life and prepared for studying at a higher level and this year will begin studying for a degree in Biochemistry at Queen’s. She is aiming to become a doctor.
“My family and I are grateful to all the local people who have helped us settle and prosper in Belfast and I am so happy that I will be studying Biochemistry at Queen’s University Belfast this year,” she said.
“I will never forget the most important person in my life who prayed for me, made me do my best, work hard, be determined and confident and who supported me after the death of my father: my dear mother. I hope I can make her proud of me and I hope she will see me working as a doctor in the future.”