Teen who cares for disabled mum in council flat wins Eton scholarship

A schoolboy who cares for his disabled mum in their council flat has been awarded a £80,000 scholarship to go to Eton.

Ilyan Benamor, 15, won a place at one of the world’s most prestigious schools following a gruelling three-day assessment.

He’ll join the children of the elite at the Berkshire school, which has been attended by the likes of Princes William and Harry as well as current PM Boris Johnson.

In contrast to the lives of luxury many of his classmates have enjoyed, Ilyan has been the sole carer for his mum Lalia since she was diagnosed with cancer when he was nine.

He’s done all the cooking, cleaning and shopping at their home in Stratford in east London, one of the most deprived areas of the city.

Lalia fled war torn Algeria just before Ilyan was born, leaving behind his father who is now in a permanent vegetative state following a hit-and-run accident.

While Lalia survived the cancer, she now suffers from a debilitating condition called Functioning Neurological Disorder (FND) which means she struggles with her mobility and has to use a wheelchair.

When Ilyan attends the school, the family have organised for Lalia’s brother to come over to the UK to take on the teen’s caring responsibilities.

She also has a carer provided by Newham Council who comes every day for three hours.

Ilyan said: ‘It is an incredible story. Maybe I will write a book one day. It is certainly triumph over adversity because it has been very difficult at times.

‘I am so excited about Eton but at the same time of course I am worried about being away from my mum. I said it when I was 12 and I still feel the same.

‘The fact my mum’s brother will be coming over will make things much easier because I will know she is well looked after.

‘I am so proud of my mum. Everything she has been through. 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.

‘It is hard to put into words how grateful I am to my school as well. They have helped me and my mum so much. They even bought me a printer so could print out my work at home. They have gone above and beyond for me so many times.’

Ilyan was born in France before moving to Spain. His mum eventually got a visa to the UK when he was aged three.

Lalia, 49, was overjoyed when he received news of his scholarship.

She said: ‘I am so happy and relieved. Living in East London you worry when they get to teenage years something may happened, 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.

‘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.

‘I don’t want him to worry about me, he has already worried too much. He has already done too much for such a young person.

‘He is the kindest, most gentle and loving son any mother could ask for. It is now his time to focus on his life and fulfil his potential.’

Ilyan secured his Eton place thanks to the Community School Trust’s (CST) prestigious colleges programme which helps disadvantaged pupils win places at top fee-paying schools.

They run four schools including Ilyan’s, Forest Gate Community, and Cumberland Community School, which is also in Newham.

Students are assigned a mentor who supports with applications, entrance exams and interview preparation, as well as paying all administration fees.

The scholarships are funded by the private schools.

Ilyan is the fifth student from either Forest Gate Community or Cumberland to win a place at Eton.

He added: ‘Eton is incredible, it is the number one school in the world. 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 of my homeland and help them fix the problems that still plague the country today.’

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