Having fled persecution in Afghanistan as a trainee human rights lawyer, Aishah Saried turned to English FE so she could one day return to make a difference to others in need of help, writes Billy Camden.

Having a voice in places of war and terror can often lead to persecution — and that is what Aishah Saried found as an outspoken trainee human rights lawyer in her native Afghanistan.

She fled the country in 2011 and found asylum in the UK with her three children, Fatemah, Farzin and Mohammed.

But she said she “suffered from humiliation” when she had to bring an interpreter to school events such as parents’ evening because she could not speak English.

Determined to change her life from “happening behind a thick glass screen” and to one day return to her home country as a fully qualified human rights lawyer to fight social injustice, Aishah enrolled on an English for speakers of other languages (Esol) course at Birmingham Adult Education Service (BAES) in 2012.

She progressed onto level one and then level two before excelling in English and maths GCSE, meaning she could go on to study a degree in social work at Wolverhampton University.

Her journey is described as “incredible and remarkable” by BAES GCSE tutor Lucy Ellenor (pictured below).


“When Aishah first started she was nervous and timid with it being a new country, but the person I see today is completely different,” said Ms Ellenor.

“She has made great progress in her language and has her feet on the ground.”

Aishah’s achievements were topped off earlier this year when she won an outstanding learner achievement award at BAES.

Ms Ellenor said: “I am beyond words proud of Aishah and how far she has come, she has done incredibly well. She is the sort of student to really make the most about learning opportunity.

“She attended all of the support workshops we put on and was inquisitive in every lesson, showing absolute determination to achieve her goals.”

And Aishah cannot thank BAES enough for her progress.

“From that first ESOL course to my recent GCSEs I have been treated with nothing but respect and kindness by the staff at BAES,” she said.

“I’ve learned more, so much more than the English language and I have re-gained my self-respect.”

Aishah added that when she first arrived in the UK she felt “somehow less of a mother than I had been in Afghanistan”.

But her children are now “absolutely thrilled” by the changes they have seen in her since she became a learner.

“We now regularly settle down to our homework together and I love it when they ask for my help,” said Aishah.

“When my son, Mohammed, kissed me for luck the night before my GCSE English exam I felt I could look him in the eye, secure in the knowledge that, I’ve given him back the mother he deserves.”

Main pic: From left: Fatemah and Aishah Saried at the BAES end of year awards

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