Forest Gate teacher returns to school a year after being given weeks to live

Sham Uddin, right, with Newham Council's director of children and young people's services, James Tho

Sham Uddin, right, with Newham Council's director of children and young people's services, James Thomas - Credit: JPF

If the doctors were to be believed, Sham Uddin wouldn’t be here now.

Diagnosed with incurable stomach cancer a year ago, Forest Gate Community School’s assistant headteacher was given weeks to live.

But a year on, she is still fighting – and returned to her job at the start of the school year.

She said: “I should be in a hospice preparing to die but instead I have an office, a classroom and a load of pupils depending on me. I can’t let them down.

“If you listen to the doctors then, no, I shouldn’t be here right now. But I am and if I can teach one more child, change one more life, then it is all worth it.”

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Sham’s dedication to her students saw her nominated for a Jack Petchey Award for outstanding leadership, which she received at the O2 earlier this month.

She found out about it while lying in a hospital bed, and said: “I was overwhelmed. It was an incredible feeling that even though I wasn’t at the school they still valued me.”

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Sham, 38, also praised the support of the Forest Lane, Forest Gate school’s headteacher, Simon Elliott.

She said: “[He] puts people before anything else. He sees me not as someone who is dying or has a disability and who doesn’t have value but as someone he needs to help make this the best school it can be.”

Simon added: “Sham isn’t just a one in a million teacher, she is a one in a million human being.

“She has taught the young people something that no textbook could ever teach them – about indomitable spirit, the capacity for love and joy in the face of true adversity and most of all giving a purpose to life.

“She will stay here for as long as she can because I need her, these children need her and the school needs her.”

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