Armed with little to none English language skills, Asha Khemka, moved to the UK with her husband and kids in 1978. She was taken out of school as a young girl and never got the chance to complete her high school education. Today, she is the Principal of West Nottinghamshire College and has recently been named Asian Businesswoman of the Year 2017 in Birmingham.
Started to learn English from children’s TV shows
Coming from the Sitamarhi district of Bihar, she stopped going to school at the age of 13 and was soon married off. By age 25, she was a mother of three and when she moved to the UK, the language barrier proved to be a struggle for her. But, driven by a hunger to study, she learned to converse in English by watching children’s TV shows at first and later dramas too. She also spoke to young mothers like herself and before she knew it, she had developed a serious thirst for education. It all began with her receiving a business degree from the University of Cardiff and that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Awarded Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire
She began her career working as a lecturer and by 2006 she took over West Nottinghamshire College, one of the largest in the UK, as Principal and CEO. The biggest milestone of her life will always be being honoured as the Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2013. The award is the UK’s highest civilian award which is equal to the knighthood. She is only the second woman of Indian-origin to be awarded this. She said, “To receive such recognition is deeply humbling. This is a shared honour, shared with everyone who I have worked with over the years. My passion for further education is impossible to describe and grows more so every day. I am immensely proud to be part of this amazing sector.”
The 65-year-old was celebrated for her extensive work in the education sector in the UK at the Asian Business Awards ceremony and as she continues her work she also plans to extend it to India too and we really hope she does.
Image credit: wnc.ac.uk