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A book, a business, and a Master's degree: just the start of the journey

Onyinye Udokporo

Alumna of the MA Education, Policy & Society, School of Education, Communication & Society

21 September 2022

Onyinye Udokporo (MA Education, Policy and Society 2020) started a tutoring business at age 12, won Student of the Year at King’s College London and was named one of UK’s Top Ten Black University Students. Her first book, about her experience of dyslexia as a black woman, has been published on 21 September 2022. Here she explains why she thinks she had such a positive experience at King’s, and details how the Master’s gave her the tools both to write a book and grow a business.

Students must speak up about the support they need to thrive

My time at university was incredible, and that is largely because I was very proactive about asking for the support I needed, as a person with dyslexia.

The summer before I started my undergraduate, I came on to campus and built a relationship already with the support people – and I would regularly meet with the disability officer throughout my studies. I did all the assessments so that the university was able to put in place the right provisions for me, and that meant I could focus on my studies right from day 1.

I established a good relationship with my personal tutors, both at UG and PG, and thanks to all the support from across King’s, I managed to get really good grades, including distinction! I didn’t think that was possible, but once the provisions were put in place, I was capable to thrive.– Onyinye Udokporo, alumna of the School of Education, Communication & Society

I think it’s important for universities to make the process easier and more visible for people with learning difficulties – as opposed to hidden behind countless clicks. On the other hand, we have to feel comfortable with disclosing our special needs. In my first year, I wasn’t sure who to disclose it to, beyond the disability officer, so they helped me tell my lecturers and tutors – and that was key to achieving my best possible grades.

My dyslexia means that I have a slower processing speed, and I sometimes need to be explained a concept two or three times to understand it thoroughly; but the person doing the explanation cannot be frustrated about repeating it, or I’ll feel inadequate and won’t learn well. Once they knew, my personal tutor was happy to have extra coffee catch-ups, where he would re-explain the essay writing techniques, for example, and that made such a difference! But it only happened because I was forthcoming, and positive about what I was learning, so the lecturers were happy to offer me that extra support.

They also made sure that I would not feel alienated by my special needs. One day during my Master’s, for example, I was unusually quiet in class, and the lecturers Tania de St Croix and Meg Maguire (both superstars! along with their colleague Emma Towers) wondered if something was wrong. I couldn’t read the presentation well as the powerpoint had a white background, and I need it to be more yellow to read comfortably – bright yellow is ideal. A middle ground is to use a cream background, so they decided that from then on, all the slides used in our class would have such a cream background, and the other classmates would also need to use it if they were presenting something. I felt guilty to make everyone change the colour of the slides, but the School handled that very well by building a sense of community, that we were all in this together.

Doing a Master’s in education was integral to my experience of writing a book

If I’m honest with myself, I always wanted to write a book – although, I didn’t think I would do it before the age of 30, or write about dyslexia. I'm an advocate of neurodiversity but I used to be embarrassed about it.

At one point I thought of becoming a Youtuber – as one does, nowadays. I did a video called ‘Dyslexia and me’, where I talked about my experience as a dyslexic person in education, compared to the examples that we are usually given: apart from Whoopi Goldberg, they are mostly (old) white men, and that really made me feel ‘other’ in my own community of neurodiverse people. Besides, neurodivergence is not talked about at all in ethnic minority communities. I am really lucky that my parents are liberal and so we talked about it, but most black people wouldn’t. And on the back of my video, I received a message on Instagram to ask me if I wanted to write a book about my dyslexic journey!

This took place about half-way through the Master’s dissertation, but I was so well supported by my professors that I went for it. I worked really hard on all fronts for a few months – the dissertation, the book, but also my business, which I was still running, in the middle of a pandemic.

I also had to face the fact that my teachers from school had told me that I couldn’t write, so in writing my book I was also fighting against their assumption based on my dyslexia. In the book, I challenge ideas of equality and equity, and race, understanding that we don’t all start from the same place. I also look at certain cultural attitudes, and how they have to change in certain communities, to be more inclusive and accepting, and enabling everyone to thrive.– Onyinye Udokporo, alumna of the School of Education, Communication & Society

But I don’t say things in a vacuum, I used a lot of the learning from my MA in the book. Chapters 2 and 3, in particular, explore the concepts of social class and race discourse, as academic concepts that I had to break down for my readers. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the Master’s.

Scaling up my business was possible thanks to studying education research

I did the MA for my business. I started tutoring from my parents’ living room when I was 12 years old, because already I was seeing a gap between state-provided education and private education in England. I got a scholarship to go to boarding school so I could see first-hand that divide, and I have been passionate about bridging that gap ever since.

I carried on tutoring throughout GCSEs, A-levels, and the undergraduate, and at the end of it I decided to grow my business rather than finding work as a consultant in the city.

With the MA in Education, Policy & Society, I acquired the credibility that I thought I was lacking: now, when we tutor children, we are driven by robust social research on this, as we are able to embed learning from education policy and education sociology into our practice.– Onyinye Udokporo, alumna of the School of Education, Communication & Society

In addition to doing my dissertation on the business itself (to explore how we could best support parents to help their children in the context of online learning), I also learnt a lot about online teaching and learning, about special educational needs, about social class. Moreover, I took a lot from my trip to China, in the second year of the BA, as I could witness first-hand how they look at education as a business, and reflected on how it would benefit the UK to stop seeing education as charity and instead, valuing it appropriately. I don’t want to advocate for being greedy but I do want to make enough profit so that I can reinvest it and help more people.

My research into online learning also pointed out one massive – yet largely ignored – issue that we are currently walking into: while the newer generations are constantly interacting with the digital world, they are not actually tech-proficient, and this could have dramatic repercussions in the future. So as part of our subject tutoring, we also help them build their tech proficiency, so they can be better equipped to navigate this tech-heavy world in a healthy and conscious way.

I feel like university has been about becoming the best of myself. I’ve written a book and grown my business, and I want to keep growing it. I am really excited about keeping close links with King’s as an alumna – and who knows, perhaps in a few years, I’ll come back for a PhD!

In this story

Onyinye Udokporo

Onyinye Udokporo

Entrepreneur, educator and public speaker

Tania de St Croix

Tania de St Croix

Senior Lecturer in the Sociology of Youth and Childhood

Meg Maguire

Meg Maguire

Professor of Sociology of Education

Emma  Towers

Emma Towers

Lecturer in Education Policy

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