MATHS lecturer Hiba Hajali spent a year battling deadly malaria.

She defeated the disease and decided to use her skill with numbers to help health chiefs to tackle the condition in her native Sudan.

Now living in Swindon, the 28-year-old is tutoring refugees and asylum seekers at The Harbour Project to conquer their fears of mathematics.

Together with Cambridge graduate Edward Glennie, Hiba spends her time tutoring adults in maths skills. Their work is helping refugees climb back onto the career ladder.

Hiba said: “I love helping people. I want to change the bad image of mathematics. Maths is very clear and logical. I want to prove this to the students.”

She taught at universities in Sudan and Saudi Arabia before following her husband to the UK last year.

Studying for her masters’ degree, she found a way of using mathematical modelling to predict the spread of malaria and her work was seen by public health bosses in Sudan.

“Hundreds of people in Africa die every single day because of malaria,” she said. “My research was about how to control it. I used mathematical modelling and biology to do this.”

Hiba had a very personal connection to the disease, which is spread by mosquitoes. In 2014, she fell victim to it while living in Sudan: “I couldn’t go to work, I had to stay at home, take tablets and injections.” She has since recovered.

The masters degree secured her a lecturing job in Saudi Arabia, where she taught in English and Arabic.

Now, she’s using her talent for teaching to help refugees get their heads around maths.

Swindon is one of the south west’s key dispersal towns, where asylum seekers are housed while they wait for permission to stay in the UK.

Among those waiting for leave to remain are skilled professionals: doctors, geologists and engineers. At home, they held down well-paid jobs. But in Swindon their qualifications don’t always register for employers more familiar with BTECs, GCSEs and A-levels.

At the Harbour Project, based off Manchester Road, volunteers help new arrivals win qualifications.

Dr Edward Glennie, 70, began volunteering at Harbour last year. With Hiba, he teaches everyday maths skills. The pair prepare others for GCSEs and A-levels in the subject.

Their students may be able to solve complex algebra, but they can find English a challenge. “One of our visitors, who is doing GCSE maths at New College, was in yesterday,” said Edward. “He was saying the maths is fine, but I can’t understand some of the English in the questions.

“For some people who have maybe learnt maths through French or Arabic even the words associated with multiplying and dividing can cause confusion. In English, we talk about ‘three times five’ as well as multiplying and other words. There are four or five different phrases that all mean the same thing.”

But maths is an essential skill if they want to get ahead in the UK workplace. The lessons are part of push by the Harbour Project to ensure the refugees they support are in the best position to get work.

Bronwyn Young runs the charity’s Steps2Work project: "There are people at Harbour with tertiary qualifications in maths, science, IT and business but because of language and other barriers they’ve been unable to find work matching their qualifications, education and expertise. They end up in jobs on productions lines or in other entry level positions. This is such a waste of talent given the skills shortages facing Wiltshire.

“Steps2Work has been designed specifically to help refugees master the intricacies of the UK employment market, find work and become fully contributing members of the Swindon community. The programme emphasises English language acquisition and community integration.

"A key aspect is volunteer placement with local charities like the Great Western Hospital, as a way of not only improving English, but of learning the unwritten rules of UK employment culture.

“The work Hiba and Edward is doing is brilliant and dovetails beautifully with the program. Together we are helping to prepare our people to fill the skills gap.”