Former homeless Zim mum now thriving as a university student in Bristol

Spread This News

By BBC News

UNITED KINGDOM: A woman who became homeless with her baby daughter says finding education later in life helped her turn her life around.

Cleopatra Kaviya, 38, lost her home after splitting with her partner while pregnant in 2017.

Despite having few qualifications, she is now studying Anthropology at the University of Bristol, with hopes to become a lecturer.

“I feel whole now, university made me feel like I’m me again,” she said.

The mother-of-one, who is originally from Zimbabwe, wants her journey to inspire others to take up education, regardless of their background or qualifications.

“Imposter syndrome is real, but you will look back and chuckle at how far you have come,” added Kaviya.

Cleopatra Kaviya

Kaviya says she is “happier now than I ever was before”

Kaviya had always planned to go to university to become a teacher, but after to moving to Bristol she quickly found success in management positions in retail.

However, in 2017, aged 31 and heavily pregnant, she unexpectedly separated from her partner.

She said she was so ill throughout the pregnancy she could not work.

“Then I found out I had to do it all on my own.”

Kaviya lost her house and was provided a single room in a mother and baby unit by Bristol City Council.

‘Horror story’

After her daughter Jahvya was born, Ms Kaviya did not have many qualifications and struggled to find work.

“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.”

Cleopatra Kaviya

Kaviya said becoming a mature student “can be challenging, but once you do it you’ll feel great”

In 2019, Ms Kaviya saw a poster for the University of Bristol’s Foundation in Arts and Social Sciences, which is aimed at adults who do not have A-Levels or equivalent.

She is now in her final and third final year of an Anthropology BA, which she said she “absolutely loves”.

Professor Mhairi Gibson, head of the university’s Anthropology & Archaeology Department, said: “Cleopatra is a real pleasure to teach; curious and creative.

“She brings energy and experience to the classroom.”

Kaviya is now planning to do a master’s degree, before becoming a lecturer.

“I want to introduce people to the Africa that I know,” she explained.

She added: “My daughter really helped me. She made me come out of my comfort zone and made me want to be a better person.

“I hope that by following this path I can give her the life that she deserves. And the life that I deserve as well.”