Mum graduates from UEL two decades after completing course

Krishna James, centre, at her graduation with her son Sathya and husband Trevor. Picture: UEL

Krishna James, centre, at her graduation with her son Sathya and husband Trevor. Picture: UEL - Credit: UEL

More than two decades after completing her course, Krishna James has graduated from the University of East London - thanks to the son that she missed the original ceremony for.

Krishna, 60, was all set to graduate from her art history course back in 1996, but at the last minute decided not to attend because of the recent birth of her son.

She had no-one to look after him and didn’t want to risk carrying him across London in a pram.

“He was only three weeks old and born six weeks premature,” she said.

“He was so precious, I couldn’t risk it, but I was very disappointed I couldn’t go. It was something I had been striving for all of my life.”

And it would have remained an unfulfilled dream if not for her now grown-up son Sathya discovering the story 20 years later.

“I had just graduated myself and we were looking at the photos from my ceremony,” Sathya explained, “and my mum started talking about what had happened to her.

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“I had no idea. I’d always presumed that she had graduated but just not taken any photos.”

Wracked with guilt on discovering his own unwitting role in his mother missing out on this important day, he contacted the graduation team at UEL to ask if they could make a special case for his mother and allow her to attend this year’s ceremony.

Getting a university education had been a long held dream for Krishna, from when she arrived in the UK from Kenya in 1968.

“I had to leave school in Kenya at the age of 12,” she revealed. “I gave up all hope of education. It only started again at 14 when coming to this country.

“But still I had no hope of going to university. Nobody in my family before me had gone, and in my generation, girls didn’t go to university. My mum never even went to school – she can’t read and write.”

Krishna was 38 and a qualified nurse by the time she started her UEL course, and an appreciation of art is something she has been sharing with her community ever since, putting on photography exhibitions in her native Harrow, working with mental health charities and running a group called the Asian Women’s Forum.

A love of education is something that she has also passed onto her son Sathya, as he now works at Brampton Manor Academy promoting university access.