Teen who grew up in poverty with no space to do homework offered place at Oxford

A teenage girl who grew up in poverty and had no space to do her homework has been offered a place at Oxford.

Thamima shared a cramped council house with her parents and three siblings which was so overcrowded she struggled to do her schoolwork.

But the youngster was determined to educate her way out of the poverty trap and has been rewarded by being offered a place at one of Britain's top universities.

Thamima, 17, was born and bred in Poplar and Limehouse in east London – the area in the UK with the highest level of child poverty.

Her story comes after the Mirror launched our Give Me Five campaign in a bid to end the scourge of child poverty in the UK.

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Our Give Me Five is calling on Boris Johnson to hike child benefit by £5 a week to help struggling parents. Without action the number of kids in poverty in the UK is set to rise from 4.1million to 5.2million in the next two years.

Despite Thamima excelling at school, the A-level student says growing up in poverty is a stressful experience for youngsters with cramped, overcrowded conditions exacerbating the issue.

Thamima said: "The stress a child feels living in poverty does affect them mentally. They see their parents stress over money and the bills.

"I grew up in a two-bedroom council house with six people (mum, dad and three siblings) so overcrowding is normal to me.


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"We've been on the waiting list for a bigger house for seven years and it hasn't worked out. It's a similar situation for lots of families here who have been on the list for years and years because there is such a shortage of housing."

Thamima said she aims to educate her way out of poverty but it can be a struggle for other children living in a similar situation.

"I applied for a £400 education maintenance grant last year which helped me to buy stationary and text books" she said. 

"It has now been axed and that's a slap n the face for poorer students.

* Read more about our Give Me Five campaign

"For some it's make or break if they can't afford to go into higher education. If you don't have the money to buy your text books when you get to do your A-levels that makes a massive difference and puts you at a disadvantage.

"It's the small things that can make a difference. I didn't have a desk that I could sit at and do my homework, there just wasn't that space."

Last year, Tower Hamlets Council launched a £6.6million poverty fund to help the poorest residents in the borough with £1m being allocated to Universal Credit claimants waiting for their payments.

Thamima said: "The council are trying to tackle poverty but because they rely on Government funding there is a limit to what they can do.

"The Government is out of touch about child poverty and how it affects people. They can't penalise a parent and not expect it to affect their children while they talk about tackling poverty – it's illogical.

"Funding needs to be given back to local governments as they know their communities and where the money is needed."

Tower Hamlets deputy mayor Rachel Blake told the Mirror that rising rents and Universal Credit were the biggest issues for poor families in the borough.

She said: "We need to have a social security system that is generally supportive rather than penalising people.

"Universal Credit is driving people into further poverty and debt plus they face rising housing costs.

"We have seen more and more people having to use their own cash to make up their shortfall in rent.

"Thats why we have a residents outreach team which supports people moving on to Universal Credit."

A Department for Works and Pensions spokesman said: “Nobody has to wait five weeks to receive money with Universal Credit as urgent payments are available.

“Universal Credit provides a vital safety net for people who are out of work or on low wages, with more than 2.8 million getting support.”

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