GSM London’s Event and Entertainment Management student Kate Ajomiwe never thought she would reach the stage where she could confidently deliver a presentation to the public. Kate has dyslexia - a learning difficulty that can impact on a person’s ability to read, write and spell proficiently. For Kate, who grew up in Nigeria, this meant that although she excelled at mental arithmetic and writing in school, she struggled when it came to reading and nerves always got the better of her. “I used to be able to solve maths problems in my head for school radio quizzes in Nigeria, but when it came to reading out loud, I could not do that without fumbling,” said Kate.
But fast forward more than 20 years and the tenacious mother-of-two, has been able to succeed inspite of these challenges. She was one of 15 students to receive the Horizon Employability Award recently. The Award is GSM London’s flagship programme that aims to give students a competitive edge in the jobs market by providing them with professional and personal skills that demonstrate the breadth of students’ learning experiences. The Award feeds into the government’s effort to improve social mobility opportunities for people from disadvantaged communities. And in Kate’s case, her efforts to improve her skills resulted in her gaining a second accolade – a ‘Special Recognition Award’ presented on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, for her ambassadorial work within various student-facing and careers roles within GSM London. She used the opportunity to deliver a presentation during the ceremony in front of her peers, lecturers, business representatives, GSM London’s Pro-Provost (Student Experience & External Engagement) Bob Athwal and former Liberal Democratic MP Sir Simon Hughes, and did so without so much as a stumble.
Navigating through dyslexia
Kate’s journey from a schoolgirl in Nigeria to one returning to the GSM London classroom spans over 20 years. Although Kate suspected she had dyslexia as she got older, it was never something she had formally diagnosed until she started studying at the Greenwich-based business degree provider in 2015. She also had a childhood passion for events management but again, this was not something she would fulfil either for two decades. Instead, she chose to follow her father’s wish for her to become a lawyer, and found ways to manage her dyslexia. Examples included using colours to highlight words so that she could understand them better, or avoiding situations where she would have to read in front of an audience.
But the desire to get into events management was strong and years after moving to France from Nigeria and working as an English teacher there, Kate made the move to the UK with her husband and children.
“Shortly after I arrived there, a friend of mine had told me about GSM London and how I could go back to school. I had not been in a formal learning setting for over 20 years and things had changed a lot. I was used to handwriting my assignments but now everything is done online,” she said.
It was while she was at GSM London in 2015 that she was given some formal support for her dyslexia.
“I am a loner and like being and working on my own,” said Kate. “Because of my dyslexia, I did not enjoy presenting in front of people, I used to leave my classroom and come back once everyone was paired up so that I could work on my own. But one day, I realised that in the long run, this would not help me. I have since realised is that working as part of a team allows me to learn from other people, can boost my confidence and made me realise that I am an important person who can make positive contributions.
“The experience has boosted my confidence, helped with my academic skills such as developing and delivering presentations, and made me realise that I have leadership qualities,” she said. “I realise that if I make a mistake, it is not a big deal – I should just carry on.”
Kate is due to graduate in 2018 and wants to continue her education as a Teaching Fellow at GSM London and go on to study for her Masters in Events Management. She eventually wants to take what she has learnt in the UK back to Nigeria to improve the quality of events management there - particularly in the area of health and safety.