Karl John-Jules, 35, is studying for a BSc (Hons) Computer Science at the University of East London after completing an Access to Higher Education Diploma in Computing at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).
When he left school, Karl enrolled on an IT course at college but did not complete it. By the time he was 18 he had switched courses to study for a sports diploma, during which time his girlfriend gave birth to a baby girl in the summer of 2004.
“When I started the IT course it was always my intention to continue my education at university,” said Karl.
“But my plan to go to university changed dramatically when I felt the responsibility of being a father and having to provide financially for a baby. I managed to complete the sports course after a year of many up and downs when my daughter was born.”
The couple had a second child, another girl, two years later and they continued supporting their young family while on a low income. They later split up but continued to share the financial and emotional responsibility of bring up their two children.
Karl said: “Living away from them was difficult, especially financially because it meant supporting two homes. But I always maintained that even if I am old and grey, I would continue my education one way or another.”
Karl, from Dagenham, met his current partner Sabrina in 2012 after buying his first house with financial support from his parents.
The couple were working for different high street banks and Sabrina already had a child from a previous relationship. They set up home together and had a son of their own two years after getting together and had another child in 2017.
Sabrina was now working for the Financial Ombudsman Service. She decided not to return to work after maternity leave and returned to education. Karl was working in housing at Hackney Council at the time and supported the family during her studies.
Karl proposed to Sabrina while visiting her sister on holiday in Thailand in 2019. One night in Bangkok she asked if he still wanted to pursue his dream of going to university and they began looking at universities and undergraduate courses.
“I was hesitant and very anxious as I was so used to taking care of the bills and going to work, but Sabrina assured me we’d be okay just like we had been when she relied on me,” he said.
Karl discovered he did not have the academic or work requirements to enrol as a mature student on a degree course and so he quit his £30,000 a year council job and applied for the Access to Higher Education Diploma at CONEL – starting his course in 2019. He completed the course and returned to CONEL to study a free short course in cybersecurity alongside his degree in 2020.
He said: “I looked at several courses and although there was a college on my doorstep, CONEL won my heart from the beginning. The college arranged for me to sit the required entry tests around my work hours and from that point on I’ve never looked back.
“The teaching was first class. The tutors would open up the class to debate, which was so important for our learning. It enabled me to embed the knowledge so deep and meant I already knew a lot of the things when I started university.”
Karl is expected to graduate in 2023 and hopes to work in software engineering and development and later become a consultant on cybersecurity.
“I have had many stresses and challenges – kids, mortgage, bills – like everyone else, but I always believed in myself and I am now studying for a degree at university. My only regret is not doing it sooner.”
Access to Higher Education Diploma courses provide adults without traditional qualifications with the skills and knowledge to study at university.
Kalpesh Sagar, Lecturer in ICT, said: “Karl was an excellent student. He was committed to the course and encouraged his peers to do the same. He took on the added responsibility of being his class representative and naturally led groups in project work. It was clear his hard work and dedication would result him achieving high grades, which have earned him a place at university.”
and I am delighted is continuing to do well a university and wish him every success in the future.”
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