Jane and Sofia - 30 years of friendship
We wanted to share this wonderful story about Jane and Sofia, a former Jacari volunteer and her pupil, who are still in touch today, over 30 years after they first met. Their inspiring story shows the impact of Jacari tuition in building confidence and giving children aspirations to achieve their potential as well as developing connections between diverse communities and forming long-term friendships.
While studying for a PhD in Biochemistry at Oxford in the early 1990s, Jane decided to volunteer as a Jacari tutor. She was matched with Sofia, a Pakistani teenager who was doing GCSEs and needed extra support with her Maths and Science. Jane went on to tutor Sofia for 3 years, supporting her through her A-levels in Maths, Physics and Chemistry.
Jane remembers going to Sofia’s family home near the Iffley Road and tutoring Sofia in the front room. Sofia had a lot of younger siblings so the house could be really noisy and this was the only quiet place for tutoring. After their session, she would always be invited to stay for some food and drink with the family and really got to know them..
Jane told us that Sofia worked really hard and had ambitions but no-one in her family or community had gone to university. She didn’t think Sofia had much contact with women outside of her community so spending time with Jane may have inspired her to study sciences and go to university.
Tutoring Sofia made Jane much more aware of the challenges faced by young people coming from a less privileged background.
Sofia was born in the UK but her family were from Pakistan. She had support from two different Jacari tutors while she was at secondary school. Jane was the second tutor and helped her with her GCSEs and then A-levels. She remembers Jane coming to her house to tutor her and it being quite manic and noisy but that Jane always had a calming effect on her.
She told us that Jane came along at the right time for her, particularly during her A-levels when she needed extra help with Maths and Physics. Jane was instrumental in helping Sofia pinpoint her strong areas and guiding her. If it wasn’t for her, Sofia wouldn’t have gone to University. She said “I wouldn’t have had the courage and confidence to believe it was possible to go to University.”
No other women from Sofia’s family or community had been to University but her family were very supportive of her plans. However, it was Jane’s encouragement which helped her actually apply. She found Jane inspiring, as a young woman doing a PhD at Oxford. She was also able to talk to Jane about things she couldn’t talk to others about and voice her concerns about going to the University.
Sofia remembers Jane telling her to “make the most of any opportunities that come your way ... they will come” and Sofia really took this advice on board. Sofia went to Salford University to study Physics and Japanese. She chose this course because she wanted to spend a year abroad and loved her time in Japan. She went on to do post-graduate studies and work as a teacher in an independent school for Muslim girls in the UK, where she realised she was a role-model for these girls, just like Jane was for her. She later spent 6 years living in Japan, working as an English teachers’ assistant.
Sofia told us: “I’m so glad Jacari existed when it did, and in the form it was. I wouldn’t be where I was today without Jacari.”
After Sofia finished school, Jane and Sofia remained in contact, speaking about once a year. After a period of a few years out of touch, they reconnected this year and had a long video call. They both now live in Oxford and are looking forward to continuing their friendship.