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GRADUATION AGAINST ALL ODDS

Sayyeda proves that it’s never too late to achieve your goals

By Beatrice Bukhay

sayyeda-sons
Swahili English

Education has no limits.

Just ask Sayyeda, who recently graduated in the faculty of Pharmacy from Bugando University. The mother of two excelled in all of her classes while juggling a job and supporting her children, Ali and Ejaz. 

But she didn’t have to bring her boys to class or pay for daycare. That’s because Sayyeda didn’t attend university as a young adult—she crossed the stage and graduated at forty-three years old, nearly double the age of many of her peers!   

“In my class, I was studying with students of the same age as my son,” Sayyeda recalled. “Many of them thought, ‘What is this old woman doing in our class?’”

Her classmates weren’t the only ones with questions. Sayyeda shared that her journey to a college degree was marked with questions from loved ones and strangers, and she felt many moments of self-doubt. Still, she persevered in pursuit of her dream. After setbacks earlier in her life, Sayyeda wanted to follow through on goals she cut short. In doing so, she redefined her future.

sayyeda-portrait

Over the period of 14 years of her marriage, Sayyeda became a mother to two sons, and worked part-time as a teacher. Then, her path took another unexpected turn when she and her husband divorced in 2009.

“Life had turned out to a be a big question for me. It felt like I had no place to turn to,” she shook her head. Although she reconciled with her parents and was able to stay with them, “I became the easiest target for every gossip-making round, and my community members mocked me,” she reflected. “It was a fairly difficult time for me and my parents.” Despite the painful memories, she paused to take a sip of her drink and smiled.

Unbeknownst to Sayyeda, though, another monumental milestone was just around the corner. Everything changed the day that she agreed to accompany her friend to CUHAS (Bugando) University, where her friend hoped to pursue a medical degree. During their visit, someone turned to Sayyeda. “Why don’t you study, too?” they asked. 

Prior to that point, Sayyeda never considered that option. But the question sowed a seed of hope in her heart, and she decided to take home an admission form. Upon hearing the news, her father encouraged her to pursue the opportunity and enroll. 

“My father became my biggest support system,” Sayyeda said. So, “I took a leap of faith and got admission as a Diploma student in Pharmacy in 2010,” she added, laughing for the first time during our conversation. 

Considering that she had not been in school for 15 years, Sayyeda faced challenges and insecurities as a non-traditional student. But she decided to focus on her studies and not let the age gap deter her from her goal. Her diligence paid off: despite working and studying at the same time in order to be able to support her family and pay her school fees, Sayyeda received the Vice Chancellor award all three years of her studies. 

After finishing her Diploma course, the university offered her to work as an Assistant Lecturer at CUHAS University, which further motivated her to apply for a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the same university in 2014. 

sayyeda-graduating

“Because of my age, I didn’t want to waste more time. This time I was with my son at the same university [where] he was studying medicine,” she said, smiling proudly at Ejaz.

Sayyeda’s troubles were far from over. She had to quit her job and depend on a loan from her community to fund her schooling—“I am really grateful for their support today,” she noted. 

Her tenacity carried her all the way to graduation day, though, and “I passed all my exams and graduated this year,” Sayyeda shared. She clasped her hands together and closed her eyes to say a small prayer. 

Of their mother, Ali and Ejaz were quick to acknowledge her achievements. “We are proud to call us our mother. Her hard work, and struggle has been commendable,” they shared. “She inspires us to be better sons and better human beings on daily basis.”

Now that she has a degree to her name, Sayyeda is eager to move forward.

“Life gives us two directions when we face problems: either to sit and cry, or to stand up and do something,” she sagely advised. “When I decided to change my life and leave the negativity and regrets behind, I was able to see the positive side of life—and today, here I am!” 

Even the strongest women have feelings, and tears of emotion brimmed in Sayyeda’s eyes. They were tears that reflected her struggle and years of adversity. But even more than that, they were tears of triumph, and a celebration of her ability to defy the limits.

About the author

beatricebukhay@gmail.com

Beatrice Bukhay:

Hello! My name is Beatrice, a Sociologist by profession, a mother, and a small-business owner who is daring to dream big. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ My passion is to work for the community. I have spent three years working in the villages meeting a lot of people especially women who were struggling to make their lives better. It was a good experience seeing very ordinary women having big dreams to change their situations, regardless of all the odds. This taught me that no matter how difficult a situation is, and how unsupportive the environment around you is, if you decide to work on your goals you can change everything and achieve your dreams. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Being a part of DreamLink is a great opportunity to learn new things and to meet amazing women out there who are daring to dream big, and bring their stories to the forefront to inspire and motivate the readers. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ So, let’s join hands and pledge to turn our dreams into the best reality!

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