Let’s Celebrate a Lifelong Learner!

Hey lovely people,

Today we have a guest post from the fabulous and highly inspirational lifelong adult learner, Zahida Azam. Zahida was asked to take part in the Learning and Work Institute’s 100 Year Birthday event this week which was attended by Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal. A huge congratulations to Zahida!

You can watch the recording here. Zahida first answers a question approx. 15 minutes into the video.

Here is the guest post. Enjoy!

I started my learning journey in 1988 at a local community centre in Blackburn. When I enrolled for my GCSE English Course with Blackburn College, my course tutor Jane was impressed with my level of spoken and written English and asked if I would like to volunteer in her ESOL classes for women. I took this opportunity with enthusiasm and was eager to embark on my ‘back-to school’ adult learning journey. It was such a great experience!

After completing my first teaching course- the RSA in Teaching English as a Second Language recommended by Jane – my ESOL teaching career began in April 1990, in the same community centre where I studied and passed my GCSE in the English language. This gave me the confidence to carry on with my learning journey.

I became a sessional ESOL teacher at my local Adult Education Centre in Blackburn in April 1990. After a short while, another opportunity presented itself in the neighbouring Accrington & Rossendale College. They were looking for a bi-lingual ESOL female teacher, to teach ESOL 12 hours a week, especially for Asian women. These women had recently arrived in the Hyndburn and Rossendale Borough with little or no English. I happily applied for this position in September 1990 and I got the job!

I enjoyed teaching ESOL and helping my ESOL female learners to learn essential English language skills to help them with their daily lives to function independently in the UK. (I would teach them vocabulary about shopping, health and schools etc.) I had made a huge difference to the ESOL department’s enrolment, retention and achievement rates that my line manager, with agreement from the College Principal, offered me a full-time contract in September 1992. I was delighted that I was allowed to use my free time in such a priceless way and earn money too. (It fitted in perfectly with my children’s school times and holidays.)

After one of the main college buildings for the FABW (Foundation Access For Bilingual Women) was closing down in Accrington, I worked very hard to set the FABW up again and established the full-time course for bilingual women in an under-used community centre. This meant that the bilingual women could still have a safe and calm place to study away from the mainstream hustle and bustle of the college environment. This course was very popular as there were many activities for the women to do every week such as sewing, typing, numeracy as well as literacy and ESOL classes. It was a very successful venture indeed.

During this time, I continued my learning and teaching journey throughout my time in Lancashire.

However, all good things must end! And there comes a time when one has to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of their current situation and look for new opportunities.

That’s when we decided, as a family, to move to London in the late 1990s. Since then, I have worked in several different FE institutions such as Newham College, Redbridge College and Leyton Sixth Form College.

And then we had quite the adventure when we took a break from the UK and I decided to teach full time in the UAE from 2011 to 2014!

When we came back, I worked part-time at Elatt before joining RIAE as a full-time English and ESOL Teacher in September 2016. In this time I have fully appreciated being part of a wonderful Ofsted-reported ‘Outstanding’ team!

I have come a long way since then and feel it is the time to share my learning journey with other women to inspire them!

I believe that your dreams can come true if you work hard enough and are committed and dedicated to your lifelong learning goals. I did all this whilst working full-time and bringing up four lovely children. All blessings are from God Almighty, indeed.

Above is my photo when I graduated as an FE teacher from the University of Lancashire in 1994.

The story continues when I came to London because I then went on to gain the ESOL Subject specialist Qualification too. I also had the opportunity to complete my BA Honours in English Language with the University of East London in 2008.

So, if you’re thinking about adult learning, I’d like to encourage you to just go for it! Don’t overthink it, just take that first step and the doors will open for you.

I wish you well on your journey. It’s never too late to learn. Good Luck!

May God bless you all abundantly,


WOW! Thank you, Zahida, for a wonderful message and your personal story which comprises such an inspiring journey!

Zahida is currently the Co-Director of a family-run business, called Love Learning Online. As well as ESOL and digital skills, this platform offers all core subjects National Curriculum. Check out the website now for more information!

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