Our class of 2021 really are something to shout about. They’ve overcome challenges, helped others, grasped opportunities and developed their skills, showing their Essex Spirit in so many ways. And they’ve done it all during a pandemic when student life has been changed beyond recognition. We couldn’t be prouder of them so we’re telling their stories.
Tue 13 Jul 21
A family tragedy and circumstances beyond his control cut short Adeyemi Awomodu’s earlier attempts at higher education, but a Nigerian Agricultural Engineering degree’s loss was Essex’s gain and 32 years later, Adeyemi is graduating with a BA English Language and Linguistics.
The second of five children in a low-income family, Adeyemi was the only child chosen to receive an education because he spoke the best English. It was this early experience of languages that inspired him.
“I come from Nigeria, a country with over 500 indigenous languages, but where English is still prioritised at the expense of these languages,” he said.
“Nigerians who do not speak English are often seen and treated as failures, and a predominantly monolingual Yoruba-speaking community, like Bariga where I was born and bred, is considered to be at the bottom of the social ladder,” Adeyemi added.
“My motivation to study language was to get a better understanding of this situation in Nigeria and a deeper insight into the structure and affinities of the English language.”
Essex’s promise to be home to the curious, brave and bold attracted him to apply to study here: “I believe I am all of these things. I am grateful to the University for supporting my curiosity while cheering me on to push boundaries in my studies.”
"Whilst I have had many memorable and rewarding experiences at Essex, time spent volunteering as an English teacher with the Refugee Training Programme and as a Teaching Assistant rank top of my list."
With his wife working for the NHS, his four children being home-schooled, Adeyemi’s preferred place to study, the Library, being closed, and a bout of COVID-19, he faced enormous pressures to keep up with coursework. He refers to the University as his village, made up of his wonderful family, the Department of Language and Linguistics, the Library, the student development team and the career and employability team.
Adeyemi made the most of the career development opportunities offered by the University: “Whilst I have had many memorable and rewarding experiences at Essex, time spent volunteering as an English Teacher with the Refugee Training Programme and as a Teaching Assistant in a primary school in Colchester, both with the VTeam, rank top of my list.”
As well as persevering with his courses, another highlight for Adeyemi was to take part in a cross-disciplinary initiative looking into decolonising the curriculum.
“My inspiration to be involved lay in my desire to see black students and students from minority ethnic backgrounds have the same chances in education as every student. We need to take a critical look at the content of courses in our universities. We need to look at those who are teaching these courses. We need to promote tasks or assignments that allow students to bring themselves and their experiences into the learning environment.
“By decolonising the curriculum, we can address inequalities. Decolonising the curriculum enables us to use education as a tool for liberation and transformation.”
Adeyemi’s own dissertation was on aspect of Yoruba Syntax. He says: “It was a privilege to work on my mother tongue.”
As for his next steps, Adeyemi has a tough decision ahead with two offers to study for postgraduate studies and a Philological Society Master’s Bursary. He will choose between a PhD Linguistics here at Essex and an MPhil in Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics at Oxford.