Gower College Swansea ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and GCSE learner, Hisham Saeed, has won the Different Past - Shared Futures Award at the Inspire! Adult Learning Awards.
Hisham Saeed was 20 when he arrived in the UK in 2017. His mother had died when he was very young, living in a village outside the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq, he never had the opportunity to go to school. His grandparents encouraged him to flee Iraq and after a long and treacherous journey to the UK, he was placed in Swansea. It had always been Hisham’s dream to study: “I lived with my grandparents, and I had to look after the farm. My grandfather taught me how to read and write. But when the war came, we had to move and leave everything.”
“When I arrived, I couldn’t speak any English. I didn’t know anyone here and everything felt so strange. I didn’t know any Kurdish people, so I felt quite lonely.” He started learning English at drop-in sessions run by Swansea Asylum Seekers Support: “I joined a small group of people learning English, but they also gave me food and clothes.”
He was steered towards Gower College Swansea where he started an English as a Second Language (ESOL) course. Such is his determination, Hisham also decided to study GCSEs in maths and chemistry at the same time: “I said I wanted to do something more difficult and that I wanted to go to university. My dream is to work in medical science. I passed my ESOL and I got good grades in my maths and chemistry.”
Hisham continued his studies despite a period of homelessness: “I was living on the street for a while. I had no home.” Supported by the Swansea-based project Share Tawe, he was given a place to stay with host families: “I was very lucky, nice families took me in and I am so grateful.” He decided to take a further four GSCEs, now aged 25 he’s completing A levels and hoping to take up a scholarship to study Pharmacy at Swansea University. Giving back is important to Hisham. Providing Kurdish to English translation for asylum seekers and refugees, he attends medical appointments to help others register with a GP or explain health issues.
He volunteers at Matt’s Cafe which provides meals and other services for homeless people: “Swansea means so much to me. It was a place that saw me at my lowest. But so many people helped, I never gave up. It doesn’t matter where we come from if we give enough effort to something, nothing is impossible.” Sadie Evans, an ESOL lecturer at Gower College Swansea, nominated Hisham. She said: “We have all been so impressed by Hisham’s sheer determination and ambition. He has an incredible story and is a living example of how education can transform your life.”
This case study has been written by the Learning and Work Institute to celebrate Hisham Saeed, joint winner of the Different Past: Shared Futures category at Inspire! Adult Learning Awards.