Listen to extracts from our interviews:
Management Committee Member, AIMHS
Duration: 45 seconds
আমি আসলে আপার মাধ্যমে কইতাম চাইলাম। আমরা আজকে এই স্কুল পাইয়া, যতটুকু ধন্য হইসি এটা ভাষায় প্রকাশ করার মত না। আমাদের এই এলাকাটা একেবারে নিম্ন অঞ্চল, একেবারে গরিব এলাকা। এই রাস্তাটা আসবে, আমাদের যে এখানে স্কুল হবে, এইটা আমাদের কোনদিন স্বপ্নেও ছিলনা। আমরা কল্পনাও করতে পারিনাই এইটা যে আমাদের হবে। যদি এই স্কুল না হত, তাহলে আমার মনে হয় শতকরা ৯০% ছাত্রই ফাইভ পড়ার পর আর উপরের ক্লাসে পড়া সম্ভব হইত না, কারণ এখান থেকে এই রাস্তাটা অনেক দূরে, হাই স্কুল এখান থেইকা ৫,৬,৭ কিলোমিটার দূরে।
আসলে আমাদের কপাল ভাল, উনি আমাদের এই যে আহমেদ ইকবাল, যিনি মারা গেসেন বা যার আত্মত্যাগ এর কারণে আজকে আমরা এই প্রতিষ্ঠান পেয়েছি, বা উনি। উনাকেও আমরা আগে আসলে চিনতাম না, ওই স্কুল করার পর থেকেই আর কি উনারে এলাকার মানুষে চিনে। উনি আমাদের এই উত্তরাঞ্চলের ভিতরে, এই ধরনের দাতা ব্যক্তি, আর আমাদের এলাকার জম্ম নিছেওনা, আগামীতেও নিবে নাকি সন্দেহের ব্যাপার আছে।
[Translated from Bangla] I can’t express in words how grateful we are for the school. This area of ours is very rural, very poor. That this road will come, and a school will follow, wasn’t ever in our dream. We could have never imagined this will happen. If this school didn’t happen, then I think it would have not been possible for 90% of the students to study above class 5, because the road is very far. High school is 5-6-7 kilometres from here…
The sacrifice of Ahmed Iqbal brought a blessing for us through this school. Due to the school, we got to know Ahmed Iqbal and her (Fatima). A philanthropic person of her stature was never born here, and won’t be in near future.
Mr Shamal Chandra Das
Mr Shamal Chandra Das has been head teacher at the Ahmed Iqbal Memorial High School in Bongoan, Bangladesh since it was first established in 1996. Here he explains the dedication and achievements of school staff to date.
Duration: 1 minute 6 seconds
‘We have a big dream. We think that the mother of Ahmed Iqbal lost only one Ahmed Iqbal. We try to do our level best to make a thousand Ahmed Iqbals for her… And this area is a rural area. And when I came here on the first day only one male had graduated. And only one girl was reading in class 8. Only one girl, a high school student, she was reading in class 8. And now there are many, many students reading in many kinds of university. And every family has a college student. And we feel proud [of that]. In college time there are many students going ‘A salaam alaikum. A salaam alaikum’. We feel proud. My heart is full of it.’
Ros Paito and other education professionals from the Longsight-Sylhet Link trip in 2003, made learning resources based upon their experiences of Bangladesh. Ros explains the use of such resources upon their return:
Duration: 47 seconds
‘But one of the things, we then said, ‘Well, we’ve got all these amazing photographs, let’s get them into a pack to work with schools with’. So we started to do that. I used the photographs with some children that I was able to go and see and work with, and in fact I’ve still got them now (which I use in my school now). And it’s not so much that –there’s only one Bangladeshi child actually there – but it’s just such a good talking point. You know, any picture is a stimulus for conversation, so they continue to be useful.’
Members of the 2003 Longsight Sylhet Link trip to Bangladesh
Duration: 19 secs
‘That’s where the school started wasn’t it? Teaching under that tree.’ [Barry Johnson, community activist]
‘The first lessons started under that tree.’ [Mutasim Billah, community worker]
‘And maybe it’s symbolic of what you were describing earlier, that it can somehow embrace a vast number of different cultures and people and religions.’ [Bob Day, URC Minister]
Dr Shireen Sobhani
Dr Shireen Sobhani is a founder member of the Manchester Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation which has supported hundreds of individuals during its 27 year history.
Duration: 1 min 44 secs
‘I think the major focus or aims and objectives of our project was that we wanted women to be more independent– to empower them really to face life…But I’m happy that although the time we spent [was substantial], it was quality time. It’s because we felt we had to support them. We had to meet their needs because some of the things weren’t catered for and they weren’t culturally sensitive as well (the services which were provided by the Council). So we always wanted that they should get the right service, which is their right as well. They’re also citizens of this country as well. And why face all those struggles because your skin is a different colour from everybody else? So I think that was something we felt, that hey had to fight their own battles in an integrated way. So the English classes helped them, sewing classes and mother and toddlers’ group…’
Sultana Salim is a former development worker at Ananna and remains a supportive member. Now in her 40s, she remembers helping her mother with the shopping as a child and notes the many social changes to have taken place during her lifetime.
Duration: 43 secs
‘Because my father used to work long hours, she used to take me and I used to do the interpreting for her. The shopkeeper used to look at me and then I used to say ‘This is what he’s saying’. You know, because there weren’t supermarkets in those days and all it was – for fish you had to go to the fishmongers; fish fingers weren’t in packets; you had to say how many you wanted. So everything was different. We didn’t have a fridge or a freezer; we had a larder. We didn’t have a telephone. We had a black and white TV; we watched everything in black and white. (Whereas we watch all these old programmes now and they were actually in colour but my father never believed in wasting money in that sense). So a lot of things have changed.’
Rev. Bob Day inspired the Longsight Sylhet Link trip to Bangladesh. Here Bob explains the success of the preventative mental health project which has been based at his Parish Church on Dickenson Road in Longsight for over 15 years.
Duration: 1 min 12 secs
‘It’s a small, grass roots [place], very involved and engaged locally. So I think the model for people with soma mental health problems and people who are vulnerable is very important. So the drop-ins provided that sort of social thing. If people were really trying to work at issues there, then they could access the one-to-one counselling but there were also sort of – more therapy groups. So the whole thing, the social, the group and the one-to-one interacted and helped each other. It was also a very diverse community so there were lots of interactions going on…so the idea of community cohesion, having a place where people could just be and explore themselves and their skills and what was happening to them was very important.’
Gerald Kaufman MP
Sir Gerald Kaufman is the Member of Parliament for Gorton. His constituency includes the district of Longsight where both the Greater Manchester Bangladeshi Association and The Manchester Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation (known as Ananna) are based.
Sir Gerald talks about discriminatory attitudes to race and religion.
Duration: 1 min 52 secs
‘Well, obviously, racism is utterly and totally obnoxious to me. Racism of any kind against anybody. And that’s why, for example, I feel very strongly about what Donald Trump has just said. Racism is a top issue and I’m always involved in [fighting] it…it’s personal discrimination, it’s exhibitions of hatred, it’s attacks on different sects in the Muslim communities (because I work with both the Sunni and the Shia Muslim communities). There’s nothing they don’t bring to me and there’s nothing I don’t respond on….it means a lot to me because my own background being what it is; I understand what it is to be a religious minority and to be discriminated against.
It’s essential that people feel part of the community. What’s interesting is that surveys show that people from Bangladesh and Pakistan feel more British than other people do. (I mean to say than the rest of the people do). They value their Britishness very much indeed and that’s great. That doesn’t mean to say that you reject your origins. Your origins are very important to you; your culture’s very important, your language is very important, your religion is very important, your cuisine is very important. But you’ve got to be part of the [wider] community.’
Jo Fee and Lois Miles
Jo Fee and Lois Miles were members of the Longsight-Sylhet Link group, a multidisciplinary team of health, education and community workers who wanted to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the local Bangladeshi community by meeting with counterparts in Bangladesh.
Duration:1 minute 4 seconds
Jo: And we all sang outside, do you remember?
Lois: Under the tree!
Jo: We did some singing under the mango tree.
Lois: Yes! [Laughs]
Jo: And it was fabulous, wasn’t it? The whole school.
Lois: We had a few songs ready to sing, didn’t we?
Jo: We had a few songs, yes.
Interviewer: What did you sing?
Jo: Well I sang a Woodcraft song. Do you know Woodcraft?
Jo: I sang an old Woodcraft song.
Lois: What was that one?
Jo: What was it? [Sings…]
“The river it is flowing,
Flowing and growing.
The river it is flowing
Down to the sea.
Mother Earth carry me
A child I shall always be.
Mother Earth carry me,
Down to the sea.”
And everybody sang it with us. It was a lovely song because it’s not about anything; it’s about everybody. It was a song that everybody could embrace.
Lois: And we played games with them: ‘ring-a-ring-a-roses’, I’ve put down in my diary and various other games like that! [Laughs]
Professor Lou Kushnick
Professor Lou Kushnick is founder of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre at The University of Manchester.
Duration: 1 minute 39 seconds
‘[By the early 1990s] There was a problem emerging – well being recognised. That is in Manchester, if you were from a black community you applied to The Poly (or MMU) because that was YOUR university. Manchester wasn’t YOUR university, that was the white people’s. And it was problematic. Here we are surrounded by the Asian community in Levenshulme and Longsight, Afro Caribbean community [in Hulme and Moss Side] and so on. And when did you see British blacks? You saw black people or Chinese, but they were foreign students. The greatest time when you saw black British people was 8’oclock in the morning when you came in early to your office, because the cleaners were still there.
[After securing funds to host a community event commemorating the 5th Pan-African conference in Manchester] I went back to [Martin] Harris (Vice Chancellor] and said “We want to create a centre based at the University, but open access. And the benefit for the University will be here – if we have people, Afro Caribbean – black people from the black community and they’re not coming on a tour, they’re coming to get a benefit. So if the University is funding or associated with a service that benefits people in the black community, surely that’s a way to break down still further this vision”.’
Joe Flynn was Head of Manchester City Council’s Ethnic Minority Achievement Service, which supported BME pupils in schools across the city. Joe helped the Ullah family to set up a charitable trust in Ahmed’s name and served on the trust’s committee as treasurer. In this excerpt he describes how Manchester people raised money to help build The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Memorial School in the family’s village of Bongoan, Bangladesh:
Duration – 1 minute 17 seconds
‘Whalley Range [girls’ school] ran a big fashion show; so the sari shops got involved, lots of different shops got involved. The girls modelled these various dresses and I think people were buying saris and buying all sorts of things. And they had tea mornings and they had bun days – cake days; they had all sorts of little events like that. A lot of other schools, they ran raffles. A lot of schools had collections for various things. (You know, they do things in schools like no uniform day and give – “Well this month our charity will be so-and-so”. So a lot of schools did that’; they made the Trust a focus of their charity fundraising.)
During Ramadan a lot of Muslim people give charity; so quite a lot of people gave us money during Ramadan, that type of thing. A lot of individuals gave money. And I was just looking at the various names of people who sent us cheques and some of them were quite substantial for the time; one hundred pounds and fifty pounds. Quite a lot of people in education as well, which is quite interesting. People who became involved through the [MacDonald] Inquiry; I noticed that some inspectors gave money and some local government officers, which I’d forgotten about.’