You are never too old to learn - an adage that recent graduate Juliana Akahara has proven after gaining a degree at the tender age of 73. The mother - and grandmother - now adds a Bachelor of Science (BSc) certificate in Business Management with Human Resource Management, which she gained while studying at GSM London, to a long list of academic achievements that date back to the late 60s.
Juliana, who is a Hammersmith resident and the oldest student to graduate at GSM London, believes her commitment to learning helped her continue even when adversities stood in her way.
“There were many times I wanted to give up,” said Juliana, who studied at GSM London’s Greenford campus. “But something in me always said I should keep on going. I remember just before I was due to complete my GSM London course, I fainted and ended up being taken to the local hospital. But all I wanted to do was finish my class. I guess this drive is something I have always fostered since my childhood days in Nigeria.”
Juliana married at 18 years old and moved with her husband to the UK. Despite her husband’s opposition to her studying, she gained secretarial qualifications at Widnes Technical College in the late 60s.
“I then moved to London and secured secretarial jobs, which helped me to save enough money to sustain myself while I studied further at Southgate Technical College,” she said.
Once graduated at the college, she extended her secretarial experience and even worked at the British Museum as a PA to the Keeper of Manuscripts, supervising typists.
A return to Nigeria after the Biafra War saw her working for 20 years for shipping and logistics company John Holt Plc before she retired. Even in retirement Juliana was working and started her own HR business for 12 years.
Keen to embed her practical HR experience within an academic framework, Juliana returned to London and enrolled at GSM London. Making the transition from working to studying was not a major leap for Juliana. She already had extensive touch-typing experience and had studied courses in English, economics, shorthand, secretarial administration and even drama. This grounding enabled her to skip the first year and move onto the second.
She credits the lecturers, in particular Fotios Vasileiou, a senior lecturer in Events Management, for their caring approach to students. Unbeknownst to her, Juliana’s presence at GSM London has had a positive effect on students.
“I met one mature woman who said that she had been contemplating stopping the course until she saw me. Later, this same woman was at my graduation ceremony in April. She was also graduating. She told me I had inspired her to continue and finish the course.”
“People have asked me what I am going to do with this degree at my age. But the way I see it, if nothing else, I have increased my knowledge and I have improved myself,” she said.
Juliana has not ruled learning more. But for now, she is keen to give back to the community and support youngsters in mentorship programmes.