A lot of women in India are denied even their basic right to education, but until someone is given a chance, we cannot know what the person is capable of. Asha Khemka’s story is one fine example of that. Asha, who is now the Principal and CEO of West Nottinghamshire College, has won this year’s Asian Businesswoman of the Year award in Birmingham, UK according to The Times of India.
As an educationist, she has worked with and influenced thousands of people in the UK in the past 30 years or so. However, it is surprising to know that when she came to England with her husband and three children in 1978, she could barely speak English and hadn’t completed her school education.
Asha is from Sitamarhi district of Bihar, where she went to school until she was 13 years old. It is not uncommon for girls to be taken out of school, for reasons like having attained puberty or sometimes for no reason at all. By the time she was 25 years old, she was already married and a mother of three.
Nearly 40 years ago, Asha came to the UK with her husband and kids, totally clueless about the place. But she was hardworking and craving to learn. In the initial days, she would learn English from TV shows and by talking with other young mothers like herself. Eventually, her insatiable hunger for education made her get a business degree from Cardiff University. That was just the beginning.
She started working as a lecturer and by 2006, she took over as principal and CEO of West Nottinghamshire College, one of the largest colleges in the UK. In 2013, she was awarded Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, one of the UK's top civilian's awards, the female equivalent of knighthood. She is the second woman of Indian origin to have received it.
On receiving the award, she told The Hindustan Times,
"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.”
Though she is a British citizen now, she plans on extending her services to India too. Asha has plans to bring changes to the educational system in India by improving the quality of education and concentrating on skill development.