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First women graduate from creative English programme at Barking women’s centre

PUBLISHED: 16:00 01 February 2018 | UPDATED: 16:00 01 February 2018

The graduates and teachers at the Excel Women's Centre in Barking

The graduates and teachers at the Excel Women's Centre in Barking

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The Excel Women’s Centre in Barking saw their first cohort of Creative English students graduate today.

Kokila (left) and Dr White used role play, actions and dressings up to improve the student's conversational EnglishKokila (left) and Dr White used role play, actions and dressings up to improve the student's conversational English

The Excel Women’s Centre in Barking saw their first cohort of creative English students graduate today.

A group of 24 women from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds have been attending weekly classes for the past year to learn conversational English in unusual ways.

The programme, designed by Faith Action, aims to get non-native speakers comfortable talking in everyday situations, like at the doctors, hairdressers or job centre.

One of the programme’s teachers, Kokila Civagnanam, said: “It’s not a theoretical way of learning, we have much more fun than that.

Graduates were given lessons for real world scenarios like going to doctor and job centre appointmentsGraduates were given lessons for real world scenarios like going to doctor and job centre appointments

“We use role play, dressing up and actions to teach women how to deal with real world scenarios.”

Zahra Ibrahim, director of Barking and Dagenham Somali Women’s Association who are based at the centre, said: “It’s needed in this area, but it’s also something that the borough can be proud of.

“We have more and more people who are BAME move here, wanting to improve their communication to be able to get on with people.

“We had a smashing time and the women have formed friendships and a new family.

“Before, these women before didn’t know each other and now they’re like sisters.”

The sessions were headed by Dr Anne White from Faith Action, who’s lived in Dagenham for 15 years.

“Barking’s a great place to do it because there are opportunities for women to move on to the next step. For some that’s employment, for some it’s something more social,” she said.

“It’s really important that the programme runs somewhere where the sense of community and belonging exists.”

One of the graduates, Nabila Qasim, is from Pakistan and has lived in Dagenham for almost six years with her husband.

She said: “I can speak a little better but I can understand so much more now. I’m able to face people.

“I’m alone here – I have my husband and his family, but mine don’t live here, so these women have become like my sisters.”

Somalian born Deqo Yusuf lives in Dagenham with her husband and two children.

She said: “It’s changed my life because it’s built my confidence, but also because I feel like I have new friends.”

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