Tag Archives: NIACE

Black History Month 2013 – Interview with LASS’s very own, Rachael Ng’andwe

Rachael-Award

Rachael N’Gandwe receiving her NIACE Certificate

As part of NIACE’s blog series to mark Black History Month, Rachael Ng’andwe – a 2013 Adult Learners’ Week award winner – is sharing her story. Rachael is a Women’s Project Coordinator atLeicestershire AIDS Support Services, working with HIV positive women to educate and empower them through training and other opportunities.

Tell me a bit about yourself and early years.

I was born in Lusaka, Zambia. I grew up there and attended primary school through to college, where I studied Travel and Tourism. I qualified as a travel consultant, which is what I did for a living in Zambia before I came to the UK. Since coming to England in 1997 I haven’t been back.  It’s been difficult being away- part of it has been immigration and it was not possible until a couple of years ago.

What are you doing now?

I’m a single mum to an 8 year old beautiful daughter. Her dad passed away in 2009 and I have been on my own raising her as a single parent, which takes up a lot of my time as I‘m very hands on. I’m also currently enrolled in a Level 2 Diploma in Health and Social Care Course – which started September 2013.

What inspired you to get involved in learning and education?

Originally, I gave my time up for volunteering as I wasn’t allowed to work due to my immigration status. Through that, I got involved in the training opportunities available for volunteers.

My love for working with people still carried on and having left my job where I did IT with the travel consultancy job, but I didn’t get a chance to practice since I moved here. I knew I needed to do something, so with the help of the Lass the voluntary organisation I was attached with I took the ICT Level 2 and passed.

I then took every opportunity that came along, instead of being idle at home. I just got lost in studying while volunteering and this gave me a break from other personal problems.

I was also involved in family learning classes at my daughter’s school. I did maths Level 1 and went on to do Level 2 with Leicester College. I knew that I needed to improve my maths to be able to help my daughter with her homework.

Were you faced with any barriers and if so, how did you overcome them?

I had barriers getting into mainstream education because I didn’t have the right immigration status.  Although being a voluntary sector, Leicestershire AIDS Support Services (LASS) provided me with the opportunity to learn and created a platform for me to use my learning. Even after obtaining my leave to remain in the United Kingdom, getting into university has not been easy because of the conditions on my status. I like many others whom I have come across, still struggle to meet up with financial demands to get into higher education. Passion is there but the reality always knocks us down and leaves us with the option to only do short college courses.

What was particularly helpful in supporting you to progress and achieve?

The management at LASS, in particular the CEO Jenny Hand and my line manager Juliet kisob. They have been there with me pushing me to achieve. They saw the potential which I did not see in myself to go for bigger things –they were my backbone and all that I had. I have close friends who have supported me in my journey to achieve better for me and my daughter.

What impact has winning an Adult Learners’ Week this year had on you?

It’s had a huge impact on me, especially with the women I work with. They see me in that position from the picture on my desk and they ask me questions like “How do I get onto a course? How can I get such an opportunity?” I see a change in them and they want to do better for themselves.

My daughter is also very proud of me. She asked me, “Mummy did you graduate?”

With significant strides in race equality over the last 30 years, what do you think the barriers for BAME learners are today?

It depends on where you go, but language is still a barrier when it comes to learning. If you don’t have English how will you understand the person who is teaching you? Without 1:1 support learning is very hard for people whose first language is not English.

It’s the same for children – language is a problem and they need extra support to achieve in class.

Refugees and asylum seekers also face barriers as there is stigma attached to them. I experience this myself – people look down on you because you apply to stay in the country on these grounds. They don’t see your potential – they only see the status so you always have to challenge and speak out or get taken for granted.

I also feel that the welfare cuts have hit people in a big way – women didn’t need to work in the same way before, but the cuts will mean everyone has to work and no more stay-at-home mums.

For some it will be very hard especially if they have not worked before. Where do they start and who is there to support them? Until there are some changes in the way the system works, this will remain a problem in our society.

I still believe the Equality Act has created more opportunities for BAME background. People just need to be empowered to challenge inequality when things are not right.

We know that there are significant differences between particular groups and sub-groups of minority ethnic learners. What can practitioners and providers do to support them?

Black learners sometimes have to do extra to get the same credit as other learners. The expectation from black learners is higher because their proficiency levels are not recognised – this is a barrier because they have to achieve exceptionally high grades in order to compete on the same market level. There will always be a gap in achievement between ethnic groups until they change the criteria in which enrolment and provision of educational materials is awarded to individuals regardless of ethnic back ground.

What would you like to see changing over the next 30 years for BAME learners and what role do you want to play in that?

Provision of a wide range of courses for different skills to match the employment requirements should be offered to BAME on quota basis. We should learn from what skills people are bringing into the country and increase the variety. I also think people should be afforded a future based on their capability – not on their status. Too many highly qualified people come to this country and end up stacking boxes in factories.

Organisations such as accounting firms that offer different routes into tertiary education such as articles should open this route to all individuals especially the BAME communities. Apprentiship courses should be offered to BAME communities at level 5 and 6 for those exiting secondary school educations.

How do you see your role as a BAME learner and the impact this may have on BAME learners, aspiring leaders and the wider community?

First and foremost – for single mums; be a role model giving hope to achieve anything you want to achieve. I want to be an advocate for under achievers by signposting them to relevant agencies and inspiring them to have a sense of self belief. My role as a BAME learner should inspire aspiring leaders and the wider community to engage in learning regardless of age, gender and ethnicity.

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LASS Secures Funding To Help Make The Big Society A Reality In The East Midlands.

LASS has secured funding of £49,000 from the Skills Funding Agency as part of the new Adult and Community Learning Fund, to help people living with HIV to get back into training, volunteering and work through personal development and skills and confidence building.

The Adult and Community Learning Fund, from the Skills Funding Agency and managed by NIACE, will contribute to the Government’s aspirations for Informal Adult and Community Learning. The fund will help build the Big Society through learning to support independence, personal development, mental/physical health and well-being, digital inclusion, democratic engagement, social cohesion and stronger families and communities.

The BOLD (Better Off Learning Directly) project at LASS will work with 32 people in the city, county and other regional centres. It will provide intensive eight week courses to help people build skills and confidence, as well as knowledge, to help them re-engage in education and work. Skills in managing their HIV status will also be a key part of the programme. After the eight weeks participants will also have the option to go on to further training as mentors, ‘expert patients’ (people who have enhanced knowledge as to how to manage their long term condition) and even to train as trainers of expert patients.

Jenny Hand, Chief Executive Officer of LASS, comments:

“LASS is delighted to be the only successful bidder locally for this funding. The opportunities BOLD presents for local people living with HIV are very exciting. Often people become isolated and experience significant loss of confidence when they are diagnosed with HIV. BOLD will help them regain their confidence and realise that today, with the proper care and self-management, they can live normal, healthy lives for many years to come.”

Geoff Russell, Chief Executive of the Skills Funding Agency, said:

“Each project that has secured funding from the Adult and Community Learning Fund will make a tremendous difference to the lives of individuals and to the communities they are part of. Skills and lifelong learning should be at the heart of every community and the Government is committed to making that happen with its vision for the Big Society.”

Carol Taylor, Deputy Chief Executive of NIACE, added,

“NIACE is proud to have the role of supporting Skills Funding Agency in managing the Adult and Community Learning Fund. The response to this bid has been staggering – we received over 2400 bids. Deciding which of the projects should receive funding has been incredibly tough, however this means that the very best projects will be starting work soon and transforming the lives of local people and local communities.”

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