LONDON: An Algerian boy who works as a caretaker for his wheelchair-bound mother in their East London flat has won a scholarship for Eton College, one of the most prestigious schools in the world.
Eton counts prime ministers and members of the British royal family among its alumni — and soon 15-year-old Ilyan Benamor will join that elite club.
While many of those at Eton hail from the British and international elite, Benamor has taken a different route to reach the school.
He has cared for his mother Lalia Amal Chikhaoui, 49, since he was 11, spending his time cooking, cleaning, and shopping.
Chikhaoui fled Algeria just before her son was born, and Benamor’s father died in a hit-and-run car accident in the North African country soon after.
She was diagnosed with cancer when Benamor was nine, and now suffers from a chronic debilitating health condition that limits her mobility.
But despite these odds, Benamor succeeded through days of grueling tests, assessments and interviews to win a full scholarship to Eton, where he will rub shoulders with the children of the UK’s elite.
Eton costs nearly £50,000 per year ($65,804), but the huge price appears to be worth it for the children of those stumping up the funds. Twenty former UK prime ministers studied at Eton, not to mention the current prime minister, Boris Johnson. Both Prince Harry and Prince William attended, and countless more business leaders and politicians are among the school’s old boys.
Benamor said he wants to join their ranks and become a politician.
“Eton is incredible, it is the number one school in the world,” he said. “I am so excited to be a part of it. It feels almost like a dream that I will be going there.
“I want to be a politician so I can make a difference (to) my homeland and help them fix the problems that still plague the country today.”
He continued: “It is an incredible story. Maybe I will write a book one day. It is certainly (a) triumph over adversity because it has been very difficult at times.
“I am so proud of my mum. Everything she has been through,” he added. “If it was not for her fighting to get us to the UK then I would never have got this chance. I love her so much and am so happy at how proud she is.”
The young man won the 2017 Newham carers award for the help he provides his mother, and later was successful in his application to Eton through a scheme that provides exceptional young people who are disadvantaged with opportunities to study at the UK’s top schools.
His mother told the Daily Mail: “I am so happy and relieved. Living in East London you worry when they get to teenage years something may happen, because of gangs and knife crime.
“But Eton is not a place where you have to worry about these things. He can have a new life. It is like a gift from God, all my prayers have been answered.”
She added: “This gives me peace because I know if anything happens to me, he is on the right path in life, he is in the right place.”