Award-winning Cardiff Met Student Graduates Against All Odds

​25/07/2016

​Aqeelah Qadir has been awarded Cardiff Metropolitan University's Accounting and Finance Student of the Year award, as well as being named Cardiff School of Management's Student of the Year, despite her graduation journey being far from traditional.

The 26-year-old, who graduated with a First Class Honours degree on Thursday, is the first female within her British / Pakistani family to attend university and to reject the arranged marriage her father had in mind for her.

She lived in a Cardiff refuge before enrolling on her course and the star student's route to graduation is particularly poignant as she received no education for two years, while, aged 11, she moved from living with her British father to join her mother in Pakistan, where she had lived since separating from Aqeelah's father six years earlier.

Aqeelah, who has been living with her brothers in Birmingham since finishing her studies, explains: "Secondary school 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.

"In Pakistan I had to learn a new language in order to study and because I could not read or write Urdu very well I entered year five instead of year eight, but that did not bring me down.

"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 really spurred her on in wanting to pursue a further education.

Her mother realised that living with her aunt was not the ideal scenario for Aqeelah's progression, and agreed for her to return the UK to live with her father and two older and two younger brothers.

Aqeelah said: "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 to get me married forcefully.

"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 a 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 knew I would keep working hard to fulfil my dream.

"I have had continuous support from my lecturers especially my final year tutor Mrs Hadeel Cassinelli who gave me the confidence to do well and expressed belief in me which enhanced my confidence.

"My brother moved from Cardiff in January, so it was challenging to live on my own and stay focussed, but I did not struggle at all because I already felt very comfortable at uni. My father has since passed away and my brothers and mother are very supportive of my education and career.

"My mother has had a hard 22 years, and I hope to work hard enough to be able to help support her financially.

"These awards are very unexpected for me, because there were so many strong students on my course. But my main competition was against myself – throughout my degree, I wanted to do better than I had done before. My mother always believed in me and didn't seem surprised!

"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."