Vincent Atigla

Fe College

Croydon College


University of Greenwich

HKF Award Year


Now works as

Maths Lecturer

Other roles

Trustee for bereavement charity,

Foundation Governor and

Curriculum Governor

“I was a boy soldier from the age of twelve in my native country, West Africa. I was subjected to all the usual brain washing techniques, as a vulnerable boy who had just lost his father. I lost my mother at the age of five. After several years in the youth section of the army, I escaped, only to be re-captured and tortured. I again escaped, this time with Mary (my girlfriend) to another West African country, where I was able to learn English, and I volunteered in primary schools as a French language teacher and started a family.

As a result of our relationship Mary was abandoned by her own family, and all relationships with them have been irreparably broken. With the help of friends who have to remain anonymous, I escaped to London, where I eventually sought and gained asylum as a recognised refugee. Mary who is now my wife and our three children were reunited with me in the UK in 2012. For over five years, I had no contact with them.

I have not had any secondary education, because my education came to an end when I was forced into the army after I completed primary school. But as a result of my determination and ambition to make a change in my own and other people’s lives, I have come a long way towards establishing myself in education. In the past few years that I have been in the UK, I have been able to complete courses in different fields to keep myself abreast of the UK education system.

I started on an Access to Higher Education Diploma course at Croydon College in 2009. After which I tried to do the degree by distance learning but have found it stressful to almost breaking point due to my suffering of PTSD and financial difficulties since I could not access student Finance at the time. Luckily for me, I met Revd Nickolas Sagovsky who advised that I apply for a bursary from the Helena Kennedy Foundation. The bursary helped me to achieved a Certificate in Mathematics and Its Learning with the Open University.

They also supported me both pastorally and in terms of regaining my confidence in public speaking. I became the president of the 2010 award winners, and I remember going to fund raising events with Wes Streeting, the then Chief Executive of the Foundation.

I had the conviction that my choice of subject would help me achieve my dreams as a role model for young people, and help shape a better generation of responsible adults, far from my childhood experience as a boy soldier. So, I started working as mathematics Teaching Assistant in a Secondary school. My career ambition was to continue working as a Mathematics teacher and progress to become an inspirational Head of Department. However, my former head of department was positive regarding my teaching skills and feels I am a very good role model to young people. She had encouraged me to complete my Mathematics degree to be able to achieve my teaching ambition.

I have also realised that I must have a degree to be a Maths teacher as this is the requirement in the UK. And I will also be financially independent once I become a qualified teacher. Moreover, I was therefore advised through counselling that could not manage a family, work, and study at the same time. And that I need to take one thing at a time, hence my decision to go into full time education for a start. Again, the Helena Kennedy Foundation came to my rescue for the second time. I was awarded the Endsleigh sponsored award which enabled me to continue with my education and through that I completed a degree in Mathematic and Education at Greenwich University and proceeded to do my PGCE with St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

I am now a fully qualified mathematics teacher working as Mathematics lecturer at Croydon College. Without the Helena Kennedy Foundation and all the support, they gave me I would not have been where I am today”.