'Teaching is not what I do, it's what I am'

17th February 2006 at 00:00

Primary teacher from Kosovo, five and a half years in Scotland

My family and I came to Britain during the war in Kosovo. We were told we had to leave or get divorced because we had a mixed marriage.

I'm Serbian and my husband is Albanian. The soldiers threatened us with guns and knives.

We landed in Dover and a week later they sent us to Glasgow, to high flats in Shawbridge. In London they told me that Scotland was a cold country full of wild people, so I was a bit worried. I couldn't speak English and it took two years to get my work permit.

We got a lot of help from people in the church. My children went to Shawlands Primary and Shawlands Academy, which are good, organised schools.

They felt secure and safe. I joined the PTA.

None of us spoke English at first but we picked it up quickly. I love languages and used to speak Serbian, Albanian and Italian, although I've lost some Italian since learning English.

I wasn't allowed to work at first, but I did some shadowing in Shawlands Primary, helping the teachers there. Then I heard about the Bridges Project (a specialist agency in Glasgow, which helps refugees find work experience). It got me shadowing in another primary. I was happy to be doing some teaching, even without getting paid.

Teaching is not too different here, but in my country the pupils show more respect. I wasn't used to teaching 5-year-olds either, because our children don't start school until they are 6. I got my first paid job last year, working with a child with special needs.

A week ago I was sitting in a restaurant when I got a phone call from Stewart (Simpson) saying my registration with the GTC had gone through. I was so pleased I shouted "Yes!", and everyone turned and looked at me.


Primary teacher from Zimbabwe, five years in Scotland

The opposition in Zimbabwe got a lot of support from teachers and I used to go along and speak at meetings. Then our MP lost an election and got very angry and started attacking the teachers. Soldiers would come into schools during assembly and beat them in front of the children.

Friends and colleagues were killed and I was told one day: "You won't be here tomorrow." I left the country, taking my younger daughter, who was just a year old. My husband and older daughter stayed behind and went into hiding.

We were living in Springburn. The people were friendly but I wasn't allowed to work at first. I joined women's groups and did courses at Anniesland College. Eighteen months later, my husband and daughter joined us. I met them at the airport. That was a great day.

I worked in an old people's home for a few years, but I was very frustrated and wanted to get back to the classroom. When I first contacted the GTC, they said I had a diploma but I needed a degree. I went to Strathclyde University, which told me that would take four years - on top of the four I'd already done at the University of Zimbabwe.

Then the University of Greenwich said they would give me some credit for my diploma. So, for two years I travelled down to Greenwich and back on the bus one day a week to get my BEd.

I'm so glad I came to see Stewart, because I am now a registered teacher.

I have already done some teaching in London, while I was studying at Greenwich, and that went well. The curriculum and the subjects were pretty much what I've been used to. It has been a long road but I am really looking forward to teaching in Scotland.


English teacher from Burundi, four years in UK, two in Scotland

My own language is French, so my English was not great when I came here at first.

I've been wanting to get back to my teaching career since I came to this country. I got a place at Glasgow university last year to do a PGCE, but had to defer it because my wife had a baby.

The first two years in London were hard, because I had teaching skills and experience but I couldn't use them. I was granted refugee status in eight months, but I have met people since who have been here five years and still aren't allowed to work.

I used to go to the library and read about teaching in The TES. I did the European Computer Driving Licence at college to keep busy. I worked for an insurance company, then a supermarket. That was tough.

I first came to Glasgow for a business and employment course for refugees.

Through the people I met, I was offered a job working with refugees and I moved my family up here.

I am now working with refugees and asylum seekers in the Gorbals Initiative. But since I met Stewart at Anniesland College, I am hoping very much to get back to teaching again.

A teacher is what I am.

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