Craftwork built self-esteem
Momotaz Begum is the first to admit she was nervous about what to expect when she took up a widening participation course organised by her children's school.
But that was three years ago. The single mother of three now has an IT qualification and new craft skills to her name, and has just been honoured by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace) as one of the winners in its Adult Learners' Week.
Since her early experience at the school three years ago, Momotaz has been continuing her studies at the Mary Ward Centre in central London. She is one of more than 90 people around the UK honoured as part of the annual week of celebrations, which ended today.
"Going to the parents' group at my children's school was the best move I could have ever made," she said.
"I did short arts and craft courses, and I made loads of friends, hopefully for life. I learnt lots of skills from the group and built my self-esteem. I now know I can achieve anything I want to if I just put my mind to it."
Momotaz was born in Britain but has now gone on to study aspects of her Bangladeshi heritage. She has learnt how to make a palki (a traditional marriage chair) and a nouka (a type of fishing boat). With a group of women, she has made examples of both artifacts to exhibit at the annual Bangladesh Mela Festival in London on July 27.
She added: "I didn't know as much about my culture as I would have liked to. Adult learning was a chance to find out more about it."
Her new skills have also allowed her to find paid employment on community art projects, and to work as a volunteer supporting art and craft workshops for families during the school holidays.
Rachel Thomson, senior campaigns officer at Niace, said: "In spite of the fact that this is the 17th annual Adult Learners' Week, we continue to be amazed by the quality of the nominations we have received.
"Momotaz's story is an indication of how learning can transform lives completely.
"All of this year's winners have shown a huge commitment, passion and creativity throughout their learning journeys."
Adult Learners' Week is supported by organisations including the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, the European Social Fund, the Learning and Skills Council, and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.
David Lammy, skills minister, said: "I never fail to be inspired by the stories I hear about learners' achievements. Momotaz's hard work confirms my belief that improving your skills can be a life-changing experience.
"The benefits better skills bring to learners and those around them are wide-ranging. On a personal level, people become more confident and have higher self-esteem, and individuals can develop better job prospects."