Former Cardiff and Vale College student Aqeelah is an award-winning graduate
Former Cardiff and Vale College student Aqeelah Qadir has graduated from university with First Class Honours and awards, despite her graduation journey being far from traditional.
Aqeelah came to CAVC to study for a AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) diploma before progressing on to a degree at Cardiff Metropolitan University. In doing so, she became the first female member of her British/Pakistani family to attend university and reject the arranged marriage her father had in mind for her.
She lived in a Cardiff refuge before enrolling on her course, culminating in her graduation with Cardiff Met’s Accounting and Finance Student of the Year and Cardiff Management School’s Student of the Year awards. Aqeelah’s graduation is all the more poignant as she received no education for two years when, aged 11, she moved from living with her British father to join her mother in Pakistan.
Twenty-six-year-old Aqeelah, who has been living with brothers in Birmingham since completing her studies, said: “Secondary education is the maximum for girls in my family, which troubled me because I knew women did go to universities so why not me? It was always my ambition to graduate.
“My mother Rashida Begum really wanted me to study so I had her support throughout my academic life. When I was 11 and came to Pakistan to live, it was planned for me to marry in the UK at 18 but thanks to Allah and my mother’s strong will she filed for custody.
“I believed I could prove myself and caught up and completed my secondary school education with an average grade of 87%.”
Aqeelah’s high achievements meant she was honoured with her school’s student of the year accolade, which spurred her on to wanting to pursue further education. With her mother’s support she returned to the UK to live with her father and brothers.
“I was shocked to find my father did not want me to study but to stay at home and carry out the house chores and he still wanted me to get married forcefully,” Aqeelah said. “I fled to Cardiff and lived at BAWSO Women’s Aid for ten months before moving in with my brother Rizwan Qadir who was studying Optometry at Cardiff University.
“When I joined Cardiff and Vale College to study towards my AAT Accountancy Diploma, I was working as cleaner to support myself. I really felt my struggle was over once I joined university because I had dreamt of it since I was a little girl so I knew I would keep working to support my dream.”
Despite her brother moving to Birmingham, Aqeelah staid on at university, initially finding it a challenge to cope on her own, but she preserved and is now an award winning graduate. She hopes to be able to work hard enough to provide financial support for her mother, who has always been a source of inspiration and guidance.
Aqeelah said: “I am nervous but looking forward to beginning my 18-month graduate role at Admiral Group. I am very happy and it will be great to come back to Cardiff, where I feel so comfortable and where everyone is friendly. I have my friends here.”