New English and computer skills mean a new job on the horizon for 2 Millionth Learner Award winner Tasweer

31 Jan 2017

When she first moved to the UK from Pakistan over 30 years ago, 49-year-old Tasweer Bi quickly realised that she’d need to learn English if she wanted to find a job. It took Tasweer many years to finally convince her mother-in-law about the importance of learning English and now, thanks to the support of Online Centre GOAL_Saltley, Tasweer has been able to get online, learn English and look for work.

Tasweer started the English My Way programme back in 2014 - a community-based English language project developed by Good Things Foundation in partnership with the BBC and The British Council to support adults with no or low levels of English language skills. Before starting the programme, Tasweer had no previous experience of participating in formal or informal learning opportunities, as well as no experience in using computers or speaking English.

Tasweer explains: “Before I came to GOAL_Saltley, I had no experience with computers whatsoever. I had no English - nothing. I heard about the Centre because my friend told me that she goes to the English classes and they are very good, so I decided it would be a good idea to come here too to learn English because English is everywhere and it’s something that I really need to know.

“The first time I came here it was very hard, but since I’ve been coming here, again and again, it’s gotten easier for me. I found English My Way very hard the first time I tried it, but slowly slowly is the way.”

Tasweer was really enjoying the lessons at her local Online Centre, but, unfortunately, both her father-in-law and father fell ill, and she had to give up her classes to look after her family, spending some time in Pakistan.

When she returned, she didn’t come back to her classes. Instead, she began working in her husband’s Asian clothes shop. Tasweer says: “In the clothes shop I didn’t use the till but when people came in I asked them what size of clothes they needed and helped them decide which clothes they wanted. I’d tell them which ones would look nice on them. But it was very important to me to find my own job.”

With the help of her daughter she applied for a dinner lady job in 2015 and she was successful with her application, but, unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Tasweer explains: “For one and a half years I did the job as a dinner lady where I served food to the children, made sure they ate all of their meal and cleaned up afterwards. I was very happy there but they told me that I didn’t speak enough English and even when I said I’d learn to speak more they said I wasn’t good enough.

“After that, I decided to come back to the English classes at GOAL_Saltley to learn more English, do the computer classes and help myself to find a job.”

Since she first attended the classes two and a half years ago, Tasweer feels her speaking and understanding of English has come a long way. Tasweer says: “My English is coming along very well and my tutor is very nice and helps me. I’m very happy coming here and speaking English.

“Before coming here I’d never used a mobile phone. Now, I’ve been able to buy one and use it myself. I come here, I use the computers, I use my mobile, and it’s made me better at doing it myself.”

Tasweer feels a lot more confident in herself and is attending the additional speaking classes at GOAL - specifically concentrating on the spoken element to help her improve her verbal skills. She now feels that she doesn’t need to always rely on her daughter - which she previously did - and can do things independently.

Tasweer says: “My daughter used to help me a lot but she doesn’t have to now. I told her that I don’t need her help as much because I can speak English now. She is a teacher and now she doesn’t have to miss her job because I can go places myself.

“Not so long ago, my foot was very swollen so I went to the walk-in centre. I told my daughter that I would be able to go myself and she was very happy for me. She said: “What are you doing mum?” And I told her I’d been learning and using English My Way. When I went, I told the Doctor that my foot was very sore. I was able to speak myself and that made me very happy and my daughter was so proud of me.”

Tasweer was also able to attend her Jobcentre appointments on her own, makes doctor’s appointments and even uses the computer to do online shopping. With the support of her daughter and access to a number of GOAL’s sessions, including computer sessions, ‘Let’s Talk’ and her normal English classes, she’s improving her skills in all three elements: reading, writing and speaking.

“I find computers really useful and I am very happy and confident to use them on my own,” says Tasweer. “I have used them to do a CV so I have something to show employers.”

Her new-found confidence and new CV meant Tasweer found a part-time job in a local shop - but she’s not stopping there. She’s still looking for full-time work because she wants to be able to support her family.

Tasweer says: “I want to get into work to support myself and my family. It’s hard work looking for jobs but I’m happy to do anything. I think it’s important for women to work because a job is important to bring in money. My family is very supportive of me with my learning. My daughter is very supportive and my son. They’re proud of me and that makes me happy.

“If there was someone else who was in my shoes before I started learning English I would tell them to try their best and to go to the English classes. I came back to learn more after I lost my job and if that happened to someone else, I’d tell them to come back as well. It is important never to give up. You must keep trying your best.

“I feel very happy to have won a 2 Millionth Learner Award. When Yasmin called me she said I was an award-winner and I was very shocked. I told her to repeat what she’d said and she said: “Congratulations, you’ve won the award!” I was so happy. I told my daughter and my family and everything and everyone was very happy for me. I’m so proud.”