Educating Sita From Sylhet to Sandwell

Posted in Latest Events



Educating Sita from Sylhet to Sandwell has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to enable volunteers to work together to create a short DVD about the Educational experiences of the Bangladeshi Community in Sandwell. The volunteers have been trained to use professional video recording equipment, interviewing techniques and confidence building in order to carry out the oral history interviews. A selected number of Sandwell residents, who arrived in the United Kingdom since the early 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s from Sylhet were interviewed to capture their educational experiences. In addition, experiences were also collated from those that went through the UK education system who were born and/ or raised in Sandwell.

The main purpose of the project is to capture educational experiences of Sylheti’s who came to the UK in the early 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s which if not captured now may otherwise be lost. This information can be used to educate and inform those who are unaware of how education was perceived at that time and also the struggles and barriers that were faced by individuals who migrated from Bangladesh to the UK.


Some of the views from the interviewees:

“I wasn’t born in Tipton, I was actually born in Bangladesh. I came to tipton when I was 6 years old. I went to the primary school in tipton and then secondary school. I mean when I come here English wasn’t my first language. I spoke in Bengali and I needed to learn to speak English and that was the first thing I did when I went to school. We were in a situation where we had to learn in terms of survival. In terms of our parents I think they didn’t know much about education and they weren’t very interested in our education so we had to do it all ourselves. For myself I didn’t go any further at that time because my parents actually took me to Bangladesh at 15 and I was asked to get married so really I didn’t have any choice and I didn’t complete my GCSE’s at school. So at that time I couldn’t continue and since then I haven’t gone back to education. The only education I have is through my job and training from my jobs. When I come back to England I was 16 and already married. I couldn’t go back to my education because I was pregnant and I was expecting my first child. I opted for looking for work and even looking for work at that time was difficult. I think in our times it was a lot harder, education was very difficult. For parents to understand it was strange for them. They were like; why do you want to be educated when you get married anyway. For girls particularly, our parents were like you’re going to get married and then why do you want to be educated.”

Syeda Amina Khatun


“When I came here I went to primary school, obviously I was too old for nursery so went to primary school so after that I went to secondary school both in Lozells. The education we had back then, first of all we were limited to resources and we didn’t have exams in modules. You know how now teenagers have exams in modules spread over the year and can re sit it if they don’t do well. Back in our time GCSE’s were introduced just after O levels. I did GCSE’s so we had to sit the exams right at the end of the year over 2 weeks. Back in our days we were more careful and much committed when it come to revision as we knew we had one shot whereas these days youngsters tend to get lazy because they know they can re sit. I’d say education was definitely different back then. I wanted to go into Law as it really interested me and I was very good at English so anything along the lines of English and Law. I wanted to do A level English. Like i said i got married at 17 so no i didn’t go on to any further education. But I did well at my GCSE’s, as well as expected. I come from a traditional family I think I forgot to mention. The only expectation that they had of me especially my mum as she’s very traditional and she got married at a young age and her views on education especially girls being educated were very different to the views that mothers would have now. She felt that girls didn’t need to have an education and they were just going to get married and be a housewife and have children and that’s it. So there were no expectations of me academically, very different to nowadays. People value education more plus they were first generation and we’re second generation so value education more. So the only expectation from me I guess was just to be a good girl and just do as they say I guess, which I did.”

Rehana Begum


“Because we were immigrants, we were really concentrating on learning the language. The English language because we could not converse because our mother tongue being Bengali. I think I left at 15 and then later on I attended college. College was much better than secondary school. Education is now in our community, Bengali community is much more acceptable. More passionate. It is given more value. In those days in 1970/1980 it was different. Parents were like, they were looking forward that my child reaches 15/16 leaves school and goes to school. Now the parent’s aspiration is that to encourage children so they go to higher education, college, university and they get all the encouragement from parents and relatives. In our days no encouragement at all. Now I see that the parent’s ambition is that my children go to school and then college or university and get graduated and get a degree and then build their own future. My father wanted me to leave school and go to work. Their primary expectation was I come here work hard and earn lot of money and go back. That was the first generation, that was their main objective. The first generation came to this country worked hard, earned lots of money as much as possible and say goodbye but that didn’t happen unfortunately. We came and now our children. England is our country.”

Bambul Miah


“First of all we went to a grammar school, a private grammar school and being from a small town I think the education was a bit more focused on the ethical side of it, the cultural side of studying and the scholastic side of studying. In that time unless you were at a private type of school you wouldn’t have provisions such as that. My parents Alhamdulillah were very even to this day, although they are strict in education, they have never said that you must become a lawyer. In terms of their expectations they just wanted us to be educated. When I was doing my GCSE’s I remember vividly my dad would take me to the takeaway and he would basically, there was a little section of the takeaway and it was not lit. My dad he basically purchased a light that you plug in and took the wire all the way across and he would light the room up. It was strange that he would take me there from 5 o’clock to 11 o’clock and he would make me study. The side of corporate banking I deal with is lending. What happens is majority of my clients are middle east based so I tend to go either far east or middle east to do either air craft financing or corporate lending from a million to a billion lending arm. I do a lot of work for Downing Street at the moment where I advise the government on issuance of bonds. I do a lot of work with the UK government and also ministries all round the world. Depending on where it takes me touch wood let’s see how it goes.”

Kazi Rahman


“I went to high school after high school I did metric. That time everybody come to work not for education. Everyone come to work in this country. Earn money, send money, build a house, get the kids educated. Buy land. We haven’t got the opportunity to get educated that time because we come from a poor background. We come to earn money in this country. There wasn’t any system for education like now. Our ambition was to earn money for a few years and go back home.”

Mohammed Hiron Miah


“Father had basic reading and writing as I remember him telling me stories when he used to write letters for everybody when he first came here in 1963. Read their letters and the day he had off he would do paperwork for other people so he had his basics but he’s got no degree or anything. Mother was a housewife. She supported and worked also on the sewing machines at home to make ends meet.”

Waliur Rahman


“My father had very little education in Bangladesh, were originally from Bangladesh. He came during the time of the British empire. He arrived in UK on something called a boy voucher. My mothers fairly educated but that was obviously in Bangladesh but education stopped because during those periods’ people from the Asian backgrounds got married quite young.”

Luthfur Rahman


“My father, he doesn’t know how to read or write English, he wasn’t very good at mathematics and my mother was likewise the same. They didn’t even speak English. I remember my mother telling me the best education they had was on a black slate with a chalk.”

Mohammad Sultan Uddin


“My daughter was educated in Bath University, my son in Oxford University; my other son is a manager at an IT company. He was educated as a lawyer. I used to finance them myself, I used to work and do a business and everything I used to put for my children to educate them. Second marriage, I got 3 girls and a boy. My eldest daughter here got educated in college and I got another 2 girls still going to college. My son was also educated in college but he didn’t go to university.”

Achab Ali


“For my children they were born here, they went through the education process from a very early age, nursery, primary, secondary education, went to college and then obtained their degree up to MA. Right, that’s an achievement for my children, it’s an achievement that I’m proud of and it’s an achievement that they’re proud of. It’s also an achievement my parents are proud of.”

Khurshid Ul Haque


“First of all I would just like to say that the project you are doing is definitely good. It’s something quite innovative. I haven’t come across any other project like yours so it’s quite unique in that sense. I think I have said almost everything. We are late comers, first the Sikh community, Hindu and Pakistani. Because we are late comers into this country we appear to be late in everything. There are a lot of gaps I hope these gaps are filled you know and that the community realise and there is a general realisation that we work together wherever we are and that our future is our children and they’re children. We give them good advice, we give them encouragement and that their aspirations are fulfilled. The time we came we didn’t get that encouragement or that support. Now I think what we have missed we should give to our children. So their childrens and their future is prosperous, flourishing and strong.”

Bambul Miah