Inspiration in Education nominee – Nargis Baig
When Nargis Baig moved from Afghanistan to Stoke-on-Trent for an arranged marriage she didn’t know her new husband, had no friends and couldn’t speak English.
Now Nargis, who lives in Middleport, speaks fluent English, has a physics degree and teaches maths at a high school in the city alongside raising her four children.
Nargis, 40, is also supporting and inspiring other Afghan women who have moved to the UK including helping someone who arrived as a child bride in an arranged marriage to access education and then go on to university.
She has been nominated as an Inspiration in Education in the Your Heroes Awards by her friend Dorothy Black.
Dorothy said: “Nargis isn’t just a good and dedicated teacher, she is also an inspiration to other Afghan women who have arrived here. She gives advice on education and women’s rights to them, she provides temporary accommodation to them and friendship.
“She provided meals to neighbours who were stuck at home during lockdown, she cleaned a local elderly lady’s house, she went to Poland to get her elderly parents out of Ukraine at the beginning of the war and she always provides a listening ear to her friends. She is so caring to her children, providing enrichment and educational support.
“Today I texted her friend in London, who came to England as a child bride in another arranged marriage. She told me she has started university, having been inspired by Nargis. She really is an amazing inspiration to all women.”
Nargis studied physics at Keele University followed by a teacher training qualification and is now a maths teacher at St Thomas More Catholic Academy in Longton.
This is despite being forced to stop her formal education in Afghanistan at year 10 because girls of that age were no longer allowed to attend school.
“My brothers could still go to school but my sister and I had to stop,” she said. “My dad educated us at home instead. I often tell my students that many of the things taken for granted here were denied to me in Afghanistan.
“My dad is my hero and my role model. It affected him badly to see my sister and me not allowed to attend school or go out for an ice cream or for a day out. He always used to tell us that two plus two equals four no matter where you’re taught it, whether it’s in school or at home.”
Nargis says her husband is very supportive of her career and will often do the cooking and cleaning at home so that she can work.
“Sometimes I find that women from areas like Afghanistan have been kept away from knowledge and their rights. I have a friend who wasn’t allowed to access mental health support for her depression.
“If you’ve been told you have to stay at home and look after the kids then that’s what you’re going to expect. It’s a really sad thing but some women have been denied an interpreter and a voice.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman in a family. We’re all equal. We should be treated equally – it has nothing to do with faith.”
Nargis says she is very happy with her life in the UK and the fact that her children, aged five, 13, 15 and 16, have equal access to education and opportunities regardless of their gender.
She added: “I remember sitting listening to the radio in Afghanistan, hoping they would say that girls could go back to school.
“I love my life here. I do miss my country but my life there was ruined. Here I got what I always wanted to have – education.”