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A Somali Mother and Son Graduated from Birkbeck University at the Same Time, and it’s the Best

Because the weather’s been gross lately and because you guys deserve some good vibes that will make you feel all sunny and alive, we need to tell you about this story.

Edwin Lerew, from London, recently graduated from Birkbeck University with a degree in Government and Politics. While his mum, Samiya, was there to watch him walk she wasn’t just clapping/cheering/crying with the other proud parents.

She was graduating at the same time, having earned a degree in Global Politics and International Relations. Glorious.

Now, usually a way-too-cute tale about a mum and son going to university together might make you envision some sort of terrible Adam Sandler buddy comedy that thankfully doesn’t exist, but don’t worry – the story behind Samiya’s belated (higher) education is way better than anything like that.

Writing on the Birkbeck blog, Samiya said: ‘I came to London as a student in the early 1980s…But I was unable to take my studies further because as soon as I completed my course, my stepfather died. As he was the bread-winner of the family, I had no choice but to find work in order to help my widowed mother.’

The responsibility of looking after her mother, while raising Edwin and his two sisters, meant education understandably took a back seat.

Despite these demands, Samiya was still able to dedicate some of her time to charities involved with helping countries in the Horn of Africa.

She was so committed to the cause that she even set up her own charity, the Help Somalia Foundation, a move that saw her invited to a UN Human Rights conference in 2004. ‘My input has helped to resettle Somali minorities in western countries,’ Samiya wrote. ‘I have worked with Minority Right Groups and I briefly chaired AFR (Agenda For Reconciliation). But I have always found it difficult to cut red tape unless I had “BA (Hons)” next to my name.’

Through her charity work, Samiya had met a number of inspiring academics and scholars, many of whom encouraged her to go to university. She applied to Birkbeck not long after her 56th birthday.

For anyone hoping for hilarious anecdotes about an embarrassing mum doing embarrassing mum stuff to Edwin in the middle of a seminar, we’ve got bad news for you: the pair rarely had any classes together.

In fact, both were model students. And while Edwin may have got slightly better grades than Samiya, he says he couldn’t have done it without her support.

This is a truly wonderful story about the value of lifelong learning. No matter your age or the obstacles you’ve faced, you have the capacity to increase your knowledge, sharpen your skills and be a better version of yourself.

Like Samiya says: ‘It never really is too late.’

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