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Manor Park school engineering club takes off with help of inspiring teacher

Engineering club leader Famida Noor Mahomed of Ilford Little School. Engineering club leader Famida Noor Mahomed of Ilford Little School.

Saturday, April 19, 2014
1:00 PM

Despite her youthful looks, Famida has proved to be an inspiration for the pupils at her school where she planted the seeds of engineering curiosity.

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Engineering club leader Famida Noor Mahomed of Ilford Little School.Engineering club leader Famida Noor Mahomed of Ilford Little School.

The result, some eight years later is that a group of budding engineers from Little Ilford School met Prince Andrew at NEC Birmingham as they showcased their projects.

The students are all members of the school’s engineering club and meet on Saturdays. They comprise as many girls as boys.

The driving force behind the club is Famida Noor Mahomed who began the club in 2006 with just six girls in the group. Now there are 40 in the club - 20 girls and 20 boys.

Famida, who grew up in South Africa, has been at the Browning Road, Manor Park school for 14 years, was bitten by the engineering/science and technology bug as a child.

She said: “My earliest recollection was when I was about six or seven and my parents bought a VHS machine (now an antiquated device for playing videos). I wanted to find out how it worked so I took it apart. My mother went off on one but I Put it together again and it worked they had it for many years.”

Famida, who was the youngest of four daughters, also spent many years watching, and learning, as her father looking after the second-hand cars he bought.

She also learnt to put up tiles - a skill that has come in handy recently with home renovation- from her father.

Famida also developed a passion for model cars and spent time constructing her own karts from pieces of wood and string.

Her interest led her to major in science and technology with the result that at university she received many awards and was rated as an outstanding student.

Her uncle suggested she pursue a career in teaching as she was always “thinking outside the box”. Although her 250 applications for teaching posts in South Africa proved unsuccessful, Famida was spotted by the head teacher from Cumberland School in Plaistow who was in South Africa on a recruitment drive.

Although Famida impressed them so much they offered her a job straight away, she was allocated Little Ilford School where she began working in January 2001 as a science teacher.

She said she made an impression on the students straight away because she was different. She wore no headscarf and did not have an Asian accent. She told her students she was from South Africa and although she was strict, Famida said she built good relationship with her charges.

When her first group of girls joined her Saturday engineering club she encountered resistance. “They (the girls) said their parents would not allow them to do this. When they (the parents) realised I was Muslim and a female they gave them permission to spend the Saturdays with me. Even when we have residential stays, as long as I was going to be part of the group the parents would agree to them going because they know I appreciate the cultural and educational needs.”

Under Famida’s leadership the club won the Best Club of the South East at the 2009 Young Engineers Club Awards. In 2008 the club won the Gender Equality award due to Famida’s work at encouraging and maintaining the large number of female students that attend club on Saturdays. At the 2010 Big Bang Fair in Manchester, Famida and her students received the Teamwork award. At the 2009 Big Bang Fair the team won a special Merit award. Since 2008 the club has been participating in the Green power races and have won the Best New Comer award 2008 as well as proving that under all odds they can complete races.

The September 2009 edition of Teachers Magazine featured Famida and some of the girls who are part of the club. In the article the girls talk about the inspiration that they get from Famida. The girls use her as a role model because being female and Muslim can be a barrier but Famida has shown them that anything is possible with perseverance. Famida is seventh generation South African Asian descendent. Famida was educated at Crystal Point Secondary School in Kwa Zulu Natal and went to the University of Natal, Edgewood College where she graduated with a Degree in Higher Education (Teaching). During her first Year at University Famida made history by being unanimously voted in to represent Oppidani students and set up the first every Muslim students society in the University. She has recently completed a Bachelor of Science with Honours with the Open University (UK).

Famida is currently the Pastoral Achievement Leader for Year 8 and has been involved in pastoral care of students at Little Ilford since 2003.

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