Dubbed the Syrian Malala, 17-year-old Muzoon Almellehan and her family fled the Syrian war four years ago only to bounce around between refugee camps. When she left her hometown, Muzoon was told to just bring essentials, and when the bags were eventually unpacked, her parents realized why they were so heavy – instead of clothes, she had filled her bag with dozens of books.
Late last year, the family was fortunate to be one of nine other families as part of the first wave of 1,000 Syrians allowed to resettle to the UK. Upon arrival to Newcastle, Muzoon and her family were given refugee status with five-year visas and employment guidance for her folks.
Muzoon is one of nine Syrian refugee children currently studying at Kenton School, a local multicultural school with a motto of “different but all equal.” “We are really committed to this,” says teacher Sarah Holmes-Carne. “It’s about supporting the Syrians but also doing a lot more for our community.” Muzoon is learning English, taking ESOL classes, as well as advanced classes in Math and Media Studies, and is planning to take GCSE Arabic.
Muzoon met Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai in Azraq refugee camp. The two became good friends, and are in constant touch now that they live in the same country. “It was the happiest moment of my life when I heard Muzoon was here because I remember the refugee camp and the situation in which she was living there,” Malala told the BBC. “Now we can work together.”
Work together, indeed. Muzoon is already hard at work, talking about girl’s education, especially in the refugee camps. “I met a lot of girls in the camps whose ambition was simply to get married,” says Muzoon. “I would say to them that it’s fine to get married and have kids but the most important thing in your life is to get an education. Girls in my culture get married so young, but not all relationships work. If your marriage isn’t working, education can be a weapon to escape. If you are not educated then nothing can protect you.”