An 81-year-old has told those thinking of going back to education later in life to “have courage and go for it” as she graduated with a master’s from the University of Bristol.
Eulinda Antonette Clarke-Akalanne – known as Antonette – spent her career helping others, before following her dream of studying at university in her early 70s.
She did a foundation year and a degree in Anthropology at Bristol, and today graduated with Master’s in Black Humanities.
Despite severe visual impairment Antonette, who grew up in Barbados, wrote a compelling thesis on the difference in opportunity for black people with darker and lighter shades of skin.
The grandma of seven recently published a poetry anthology (read extracts below), has plans for more books (including an autobiography) and is already eyeing up her next master’s course.
Antonette said: “It is wonderful to be graduating again, with my son watching.
“Age is not a barrier to university studies. It is only thinking that makes one think, so have courage and go for it. Achieving your goals any time in life brings contentment, a sense of achievement and happiness. And if I can do it, so can you!”
Antonette left Barbados aged 18 after Enoch Powell visited her school to talk about work opportunities in the UK.
After emigrating, she was a psychiatric nurse and social worker, and as a midwife delivered 1,000 babies, all while raising three children.
In retirement she was a respite foster carer and Citizens Advise advisor, but always felt something was missing.
She took a Foundation Year in Arts and Humanities then a BA in Anthropology, a subject that had always fascinated her.
Antonette and family during her 2018 graduation with an Anthropology BA from the University of Bristol.
That was followed by an MA in Black Humanities at the University’s Centre for Black Humanities.
Antonette said: “In Barbados we learnt British history but never anything about African history. So I never learnt that there were African kings and queens, or about the Benin Bronzes, or that the richest person ever – Mansa Musa of Mali – came from Africa.
“It fascinated me to learn that African history didn’t start with slavery.
“I have always been interested in colourism. As a little girl in Barbados all of the lighter skinned children like me were treated better than the dark coloured children.
“Lighter skinned children would get better roles in plays. I played Mark Antony in Julius Caesar but darker skinned children played Judas Iscariot and roles like that.
“I wanted to study that, so I interviewed people in the UK and Barbados about their experience of colourism and looked at ways to ameliorate it.”
Antonette is a big advocate for adult education and has helped eight friends to go to university later in life.
She said: “I love learning and mixing with younger people. The energy they have, the feeling that they are all going somewhere is a type of vibration, a shoot of electricity.
“Life is for living. My philosophy is to live life to the fullest. And I intend to do that until the end of my life.”