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Schoolboy who fled civil unrest in Bangladesh 11 years ago wins a place at Eton

PUBLISHED: 11:36 17 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:24 19 December 2018

Maheraj Ahmed with Cumberland School executive Simon Elliott and headteacher Gillian Dineen. Pic: Mark Soanes.

Maheraj Ahmed with Cumberland School executive Simon Elliott and headteacher Gillian Dineen. Pic: Mark Soanes.

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A talented teenager who came to the UK aged five after fleeing civil unrest in his homeland has won a £76,000 scholarship to study at Eton.

Maheraj Ahmed with his mother Rani Begum, sister Sanzida and brother Tanzir. Pic: Mark Soanes.Maheraj Ahmed with his mother Rani Begum, sister Sanzida and brother Tanzir. Pic: Mark Soanes.

Maheraj Ahmed, who currently attends the Cumberland School in Plaistow and lives in Barkingside, will be following in the footsteps of Princes William and Harry by studying at the prestigious school next September.

The 15-year-old won his place after coming through a gruelling three-day assessment at the Berkshire School which included three entrance exams, seven interviews and a public debate.

He said: “People would not think that I would have much in common with the boys at Eton but I did not find them stuck up at all, they just want to do well in life, that is all I want.

“The only difference is my motivation is maybe stronger than theirs. My family and I have had a hard life, going to Eton will give me a chance to make our lives better.”

Maheraj Ahmed has won a scholarship to Eton. Pic: Tom Barnes.Maheraj Ahmed has won a scholarship to Eton. Pic: Tom Barnes.

Maheraj was just five when he and his family left Bangladeshi to escape civil unrest, settling in East London in 2007.

Despite living in hardship, Maheraj and his family are grateful for the life they have been given in the UK.

He added: “I do feel very grateful to this country for allowing my family and I to come here. I want to repay that by becoming a hard-working member of society who can contribute in a positive way.

“That is why I want to study medicine, hopefully at Oxford or Cambridge, and then become a heart surgeon. I want to give something back.”

Maheraj Ahmed with his mother Rani Begum, sister Sanzida and brother Tanzir. Pic: Mark Soanes.Maheraj Ahmed with his mother Rani Begum, sister Sanzida and brother Tanzir. Pic: Mark Soanes.

Maheraj was mentored throughout the application process by his school’s executive headteacher Simon Elliott.

He said: “The second I knew I had been accepted by Eton I knew my life had changed beyond all recognition. What Mr Elliott and my school have done can never really repaid.

“I can’t imagine any school in the East End or any state school where you have your own mentor, who works with you every day, who pushes you and is willing you to succeed.

“It has been hard at times, balancing all of this with my revision and studies. Every time I feel tired, I think of how much Mr Elliott has helped me. I did not want to let him down.

Maheraj Ahmed with his mother Rani Begum, sister Sanzida and brother Tanzir. Pic: Mark Soanes.Maheraj Ahmed with his mother Rani Begum, sister Sanzida and brother Tanzir. Pic: Mark Soanes.

His mum Rani said: “We are so proud of our son. Ever since he was a little boy, he has always been so smart.

“Even in Bangladeshi he was top of his class and never even revised. We are very lucky because Maheraj goes to the best school in the area. They have changed our son’s life, we are very grateful to Mr Elliott.

Mr Elliott said: “As a headteacher in this part of the country the biggest challenge is to raise the ambitions and aspirations.

“In becoming the first student from Cumberland School to win a place at a top independent fee-paying school graduate Maheraj has set the bar for others to follow.

“He teaches them that these kinds of opportunities are not out of their reach. If he can do it, they can do. The impact of that on a school and a community is transformative.”

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