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LONDON: An Algerian boy who works as a caretaker for his wheelchair-bound mother in their east London flat has won a scholarship to 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 Ilyan Benamor, 15, will join this elite club.
While many of those at Eton come from the British and international elite, Benamor took a different path to join the school.
He has cared for his mother Lalia Amal Chikhaoui, 49, since she was 11, spending her time cooking, cleaning and shopping.
Chikhaoui fled Algeria just before his son was born, and Benamor’s father died soon after in a hit-and-run car accident in the North African country.
She was diagnosed with cancer when Benamor was nine and now suffers from a debilitating chronic health condition that limits her mobility.
But despite these obstacles, Benamor made it through days of grueling tests, assessments and interviews to earn a full scholarship to Eton, where he will rub shoulders with the kids of Britain’s elite.
Eton costs almost £50,000 a year ($65,804), but the huge price tag seems worth it for the children of those hoarding the funds. Twenty former British Prime Ministers have studied at Eton, not to mention the current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Both Prince Harry and Prince William were in attendance, and countless other business leaders and politicians are among the old school boys.
Benamor said he wanted to join their ranks and become a politician.
“Eton is amazing, it’s the number one school in the world,” he said. “I’m so excited to be a part of it. It’s almost like a dream that I’m going there.
“I want to be a politician so I can make a difference (for) my homeland and help them solve the problems that still plague the country today.”
He continued: “It’s an amazing story. Maybe I’ll write a book one day. It’s definitely (a) triumphing over adversity because it’s been very difficult at times.
“I am so proud of my mom. Everything she’s been through,” he added. “If it hadn’t been for his fight to bring us to the UK, I would never have had this chance. I love him so much and am so happy for his pride.”
The youngster won the 2017 Newham Carers Award for helping his mother, and went on to successfully apply to Eton thanks to a scheme which offers exceptional disadvantaged young people the opportunity to study at the best UK schools.
Her mother told the Daily Mail: “I am so happy and relieved. Living in East London, you worry when they get to their teens, something might 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’s like a gift from God, all my prayers have been answered.
She added: “It gives me peace because I know that if something happens to me, he’s on the right path in life, he’s in the right place.”