Having just lost his sight, 20 year old Ali Amasyali had to leave his homeland and come to the UK as an asylum seeker.
Initially staying with his sister in Haringey, Ali spoke no English whatsoever and spent his first few months depressed and unable to imagine what to do next.
It was the persistence of a tutor from The College of North East London that persuaded him to begin thinking about his future.
CONEL lecturer Sara Tarling met Ali in a shop on West Green Road. As a tutor in the ESOL Department, (English for Speakers of Other Languages), Sara set out to persuade him to come to classes.
With the help of the shopkeeper, who translated, Sara refused to take no for an answer when Ali said he didnt want to learn English.
I kept saying: I cant. She just kept on and on at me, saying: Yes, you can. Eventually, I gave in.
This set Ali on an incredible path that saw him develop a voracious appetite for learning that surpasses anything his lecturers have ever seen before.
In between, he trained with registered guide dog Potter now his beloved and trusted friend who accompanies him everywhere, including all classes and lectures. Ali, of Tottenham, jokes that Potter now has almost as much knowledge as him.
Far from allowing his visual impairment to get the better of him, Ali has set out to smash any obstacle. Now married with a young son, Ali has just achieved a first in a law degree he recently completed at Middlesex University and is due to begin training as a solicitor in Central London.
He records all lectures and puts tutors and professors through their paces with a barrage of tough questions until theyre sick of me!
His individual achievements are too numerous to name in detail, but suffice to say that Alis formidable determination, wicked sense of humour and refusal to be treated as a second class citizen have brought him a huge distance.
On his journey to the present day, Ali has blitzed through ESOL and humanities courses at CONEL, achieved a first class degree, learned to touch type, taught himself Braille, tutored other visually impaired students and staff in how to use computers, travels all over the UK as a trainer for a software company, acts as an official translator and has achieved various awards, merits and commendations for his dedication to learning.
He continues to battle for himself and others by barracking anyone or any organisation that tries to stand between the right to education and the provision of it.
His most recent targets include such giants as the Lawyers Central Application Board to whom he had to apply to register on the legal practitioners course.
I asked for their application form in alternative format. The woman at the other end said they didnt supply such a thing. I said: I dont think you understand the law. Read the Disability Act, Part 3, Section 21.
Within a months time, they had sent me several different formats.
ESOL Learning Support tutor Alison Meek said sometimes she feels their roles have been reversed. There are times when I feel I have learned far more from Ali than I have ever taught, she says.
I just love learning, says Ali. I have got a lot of blank lines in my head and I want to fill them in.
I accept Im disabled. Not because I am blind but because of my brain. I need to learn too much. I can never stop!
- Last Updated: 24 June 2003