A teen born in Bangladesh who lives in a council flat will follow in the footsteps of Princes William and Harry after winning a place at Eton.
Maheraj Ahmed, 15, will rub shoulders with the elite when he takes his place in the hallowed halls of Britain’s most famous school on a £76,000 scholarship.
It is a far cry from the three-bedroom council flat he shares with his dad Sharif Uddin, 48, mum Rani Begum, 46, sister Sanzida, 14, and brother Tanzir, seven, in Barkingside, East London.
Maheraj, who currently attends the Cumberland School, in Plaistow, will join the sixth form to study A-level in history, chemistry, biology and physics next September.
He won his place after coming through a gruelling three-day assessment at the Berkshire School which included three entrance exams, seven interviews and a public debate.
He added: “People would not think that I would have much in common with the boys at Eton but I did not find them stuck up at all, they just want to do well in life, that is all I want.
“The only difference is my motivation is maybe stronger than theirs. My family and I have had a hard life, going to Eton will give me a chance to make our lives better.”
Maheraj was aged just five when he and his family left their homeland of Bangladeshi to escape civil unrest, settling in East London in 2007.
Despite living in hardship with both his parents unemployed, , Maheraj and his family are grateful for the life they have been given in the UK.
He said: “East London is a tough place to grow up. There are lots of problems here. My mum will not let me go out after dark because of the social problems we have here.
“We have had to move around a lot, to different parts of London, sometimes a long way from my school, which means a lot of travelling.
He added: “I do feel very grateful to this country for allowing my family and I to come here. I want to repay that by becoming a hard-working member of society who can contribute in a positive way.
“That is why I want to study medicine, hopefully at Oxford or Cambridge, and then become a heart surgeon. I want to give something back.”
Maheraj was mentored throughout the application process by his East London school’s executive headteacher Simon Elliott.
Maheraj said: “The second I knew I had been accepted by Eton I knew my life had changed beyond all recognition.
“What Mr Elliott and my school have done can never really repaid.
“I can’t imagine any school in the East End or any state school where you have your own mentor, who works with you every day, who pushes you and is willing you to succeed.
“It has been hard at times, balancing all of this with my revision and studies. Every time I feel tired, I think of how much Mr Elliott has helped me. I did not want to let him down.”
His mum Rani said: “We are so proud of our son. Ever since he was a little boy, he has always been so smart.
“Even in Bangladesh he was top of his class and never even revised. We are very lucky because Maheraj goes to the best school in the area.
“They have changed our son’s life, we are very grateful to Mr Elliott.”
The Cumberland School executive headteacher Simon Elliott said: ““As a headteacher in this part of the country the biggest challenge is to raise the ambitions and aspirations.
“In becoming the first student from Cumberland School to win a place at a top independent fee-paying school graduate Maheraj has set the bar for others to follow.
“He teaches them that these kinds of opportunities are not out of their reach. If he can do it, they can do. The impact of that on a school and a community is transformative.”
By Tom Barnes