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A GROUP of Afghan women, who were forced to flee the Taliban, are being taught how to hold a pen for the very first time in their lives as part of a pioneering new project funded by the University of Leicester.

The group, who arrived in Leicester last summer, say their lives have been transformed by the Bright Path Futures project, which not only teaches the women how to read, write and speak in English but also provides them with a space to express themselves, socialise and build new relationships.

Picture: University of Leicester

The Bright Path Futures project is funded by the University of Leicester’s English Language Teaching Unit (ELTU) which is working in partnership with the British Red Cross.

One of the women taking part in the project described the impact she felt from the support sessions:

“In my country my dream was to work and live in public but I never got the chance. I have spent more than 28 years of life in the dark. Before I started the classes, I didn’t believe it would be possible for me to start my education or learn. But the first time I came to class, I took a pen in my hand. It was the first time that I’d done that – I’d never done it in my entire life. I wrote the first letter of my name. People were kind and friendly, that’s why I wanted to come another day. Then I knew I could do it.”

“I only have one hope in future – that I can speak some English and I can write English. Then I will feel I am a member of society. Before I came to the class, I didn’t think I could ever get a job. Now, I can write my name and my surname I feel I have more power. I feel anything might be possible if I work hard.”

Philip Horspool, Director of the English Language Teaching Unit (ELTU) at the University of Leicester, said:

“Language is one of the many challenges facing those who leave their country. Here at the ELTU, we have the will and expertise to help those for whom English is not their first language.

“The University of Leicester has a proud history of welcoming refugees, asylum seekers and anyone who is seeking sanctuary. We offer a wide range of language courses and we’re committed to helping people to build brighter futures through higher education.”

Picture: University of Leicester

Jos Razell, Lead Facilitator on the Bright Path Futures Project, added:

“The English language classes have had a remarkable on impact on the lives of the Afghan women and their families. 

“The sessions focus on building relationships with other people as well as developing new language skills. They take place in a relaxed, informal environment and they’ve been designed to foster a growth mindset. This means that the women not only learn new skills, but are also confident enough to practice in their own time and gradually take a more active role in society. 

“We’re really pleased with the results that we’ve seen and we are now looking to roll the programme out nationwide.”

The University of Leicester was recognised as a University of Sanctuary in 2017 for its support in welcoming refugees and asylum seekers into the University community.

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