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Educational and Inspiring Author Visit – Sufiya Ahmed

What a delight and absolute privilege to have Sufiya Ahmed, multi-award winning author, back in our school. We first met her in 2019 when she ran a “How to Campaign for Girls’ Rights” workshop for a small group of Y9s as part of the Crossing the Tees Festival. The students had been so engaged and inspired then, we knew we wanted to invite her back for a whole year presentation.

Then Covid hit and we couldn’t have visitors any more. Boo!

Now that we are running (almost) normally, we wasted no time inviting her to present to the whole of years 8 and 9. This was a special treat for Year 9 – they don’t normally have whole year author presentations, but as they’d missed out on having an author presentation when they were in Year 8, we thought it only fair. Sufiya was delighted to help us out. And we’re so glad she did.

First presentation of the day was to Year 9. From the moment the students entered the room, they were 100% engaged in this fascinating talk which covered, careers, aspirations, forced marriage (and how it is different from arranged marriage), reading and writing. There was a hilarious moment when four brave students were invited to attempt a little joyous dancing, acting out a Muslim wedding party, then Sufiya opened for questions. Despite their shyness, the students asked some great questions.

The second presentation was to Year 8 and was equally as fascinating. This time Sufiya discussed human rights, parliament, law, campaigning, the history of parliament and the history of people from India living in Great Britain. This brought us to the true story of the incredibly brave lady, Noor-un-Nissa Inayat Khan; a British Indian Princess who became a spy for Winston Churchill. Sufiya then went on to tell us about another amazing lady, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, also a British Indian Princess who became a suffragette. Students had fun dressing up as spies and suffragettes before Sufiya again opened the floor for questions, the hardest one being “if you had to stop reading or had to stop writing, which would you choose?”

Later in the day, after spending an enjoyable lunch with our student librarians, Sufiya delivered an inspirational workshop to a select group of Year 9 students, about campaigning for what you want. Students enthusiastically created campaigns around period poverty, equal pay, abortion, disability and LGBT rights.

The final workshop of the day was creative writing for a select group of Year 8 students who had to imagine they were Noor-un-Nissa Inayat Khan, trying to escape the Nazis in Paris. There were all sorts of problematic traps and ingenious escapes! The students thoroughly enjoyed planning, plotting and producing thrilling writing.

Throughout both presentations and both workshops, our students demonstrated exemplary behaviour and were a credit to our academy.

If you would like to read any of Sufiya Ahmed’s books, they are available in our library and our e-library.

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