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16 October 2014

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Education and Me

By Sughra Muhammed
September 2002, Newport
A digital story from Capture Wales

New beginning

Sughra tells us how she learned English. She now helps others within her community that are in the same situation as she was.

"When I came to this country from Pakistan I was totally uneducated, no English whatsoever and until just over six years ago, I was unable to read or write.

Surely one of the scariest situations to experience is needing help in a country where you do not speak a word of the language... add to that, when I arrived here I was 15, recently married and pregnant.

The only way I could learn English at that time was to watch a programme which meant 'New Life, New Beginning'

With three small children it seemed all I did was to handwash nappies. The fourth one came much later.

I started my education at Pill library. After just one month I was told to move on to Charles Street college through a support service, where I did very well and gained some qualifications and confidence. I soon became group leader on a personal development course and was able to help many more women back into education.

I obtained many more pieces of paper and I got a job helping people from ethnic minorities.

That was many years ago. Now I am a happy 51 year old who, a few years ago, plucked up enough courage to divorce my husband of 34 years. I am teaching literacy to others through Ta'aleem Alnyssa. Nobody could stop me educating myself because I am stubborn.

I am grateful to everyone for supporting me. Now I hope I'm inspiring other women to do the same."

Sughra Muhammed

In your digital story you attribute some of your achievements to your stubbornness ...
Where I grew up there was nothing for a woman like me to do. I lived in a small village not far from Karachi. My father was a farmer, I had two over-protective brothers who were very precious about me. I wasn't even allowed to do the housework and even though there was a school opposite the house my father forbade me from being educated ...

So what changed?
One day, around 1966, I woke up from a coma to find my father and one of my brothers were dead. They had been attacked in a feud over the farm. My mother had passed away when I was 14 so I went into the care of my sister in law. My surviving brother thought this best and everyone agreed I should be married into a family settled in England, so I could prosper.
I think all this gave me the inner determination to right my life.

Why did you decide to tell the story of learning to read and write in English through this Digital Storytelling workshop?
Learning is what has given me control over my own life. I want to motivate other women to do this. There is a growing Asian community in Newport and I want to speak to that community. My own children are doing so well now it's an inspiration as to how education can transform lives.

What do your children do?
My son experienced Pakistan for nine months but he's back here and on his feet now. My oldest daughter has passed her A-Level maths and is now thinking about going to college. My middle daughter works for a good building society - a very good job. I'm proud of them all.

Would you want to work with digital storytelling again?
It was a great experience. Especially using the computers. I found the software absolutely fascinating and I'd love to learn more about it. It shows you that there are no boundaries to our imagination.

Your comments

"Awe-inspiring and amazing! Sughra, having met you the other week, reading your story and the accompanying interview made me think how rich and deep people's stories are, and how, unfortunately, we only scratch the surface most of the time. I'm full of admiration for you for all your achievements. May you inspire many more people and especially women. " Stephani Mok, Cardiff, Wales, Sept 2007.

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