A UK-based Zimbabwean woman who became homeless with her baby daughter and later overcame depression is now a thriving student at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom with plans to become a lecturer.
Cleopatra Kaviya (38), came back to education through the University of Bristol’s Foundation in Arts and Social Sciences – a step toward a full degree.
It is a one-year course aimed at adults who either don’t have A-Levels or equivalent or have less mainstream qualifications.
She is now studying for an Anthropology degree at Bristol.
Kaviya grew up in Zimbabwe and planned to go to university to become a teacher.
She moved to the UK as a teenager and due to her strong work ethic, she was picked by bosses to open new chain bakeries all over the country.
Kaviya was appointed to management positions in Bristol stores like Lush and River Island and gradually, her university dream faded as her career took off.
However, in 2017, when aged 31 and heavily pregnant, she unexpectedly separated from her partner.
Kaviya told the University of Bristol website that she couldn’t work and had to go to the council for support. She said:
I was so ill throughout my pregnancy that I couldn’t work and spent hours each day on drips. Then I found out I had to do it all on my own.
I lost my house and had to go to the council for support because I didn’t have a roof over my head. I ended up in a single room in a mother-and-baby unit in Bristol.
My daughter was also quite ill at this point and I got depression because I felt I’d really let her down.
It was a bit of a horror story. Life was very trying for a while and it was all quite bleak.
But life is totally different now and I am totally different too, I’m also happier now than I ever was before.
After her daughter Jahvya was born, Kaviya did not have many qualifications and struggled to find work.
She enrolled in an Access to Higher Education Course at The City of Bristol College.
Then, in 2019, she saw a poster for the University of Bristol’s Foundation in Arts and Social Sciences. She said:
I didn’t think they’d take me but they were really encouraging. The course also really fitted around childcare.
They even let me bring my daughter in – she has come in so much over the last few years that she has become an honorary student!
After my foundation year, I had planned to do teacher training but they said ‘you are so inquisitive about people, we think Anthropology would really nourish your soul’.
I didn’t even know what Anthropology was! But I looked into it and realised it was for me.
Now in her third and final year, Kaviya says she “absolutely loved” her Anthropology BA, particularly field trips to museums all over the country.
She is now looking at doing a master’s at Bristol, before becoming a lecturer.
Kaviya’s message to people thinking of going to university later in life is:
If you’re ready, do it. You will find ways to be nurtured that you never knew were possible.
Imposter syndrome is real, but you will look back and chuckle at how far you have come.
It can be challenging, and it takes dedication, but once you do it you’ll feel great.
I feel whole now, university made me feel like I’m me again.