BECKY NANA AYEBIA CLARKE: My name is Becky Nana Ayebia Clarke. I was born in
Ghana and came to the UK in 1974, when I was just coming up to 16 years old.
I had a brilliant primary school, just 30 miles outside of Accra, in Ghana. And then, when I
finished that, I went to what then we used to call "the middle school" but then couldn't
continue to go on to sixth form, because my father died suddenly. My father had been a huge
figure our lives. And he was a judge, and my mother was a housewife.
I was just coming up for boarding school. And unfortunately, I had to drop out, because my
mother couldn't afford to pay for me. And so my education stopped, abruptly.
When I came into the UK, I decided that I would look into the possibility of doing something.
But it wasn't until I met my husband, David, and I started work at Heinemann educational
publishers, that I decided that this must be the time.
At Heinemann, I was surrounded by people who were all degree holders. I didn't feel any
lesser, but I just felt that I needed that qualification behind me. And I just happened to have
gone to the canteen, and I was looking through the Guardian, and I saw an advert for OU
degrees. And I remember thinking, ah! This is exactly what I might want to do.
I studied-- what they call them-- the humanities. So literally, I was doing literature. I made
those choices because I was working at Heinemann, but also because I loved reading. I like
nothing better than getting myself into a book. I just love to read.
I felt very lucky to be working in an environment that actually published these writers whose
work I was reading, on my courses that I was studying. I remember doing a long essay on
Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, which is a classic text which is published by Heinemann.
And at the time, I was in contact with him by phone. And it made me feel really good that I
was working on his text. And sometimes I will actually tell him that I'm doing an essay on
your book. It was a wonderful six years of my life.
I've taken a huge amount of transferable skills into my work, from my OU studies. I
remember, particularly, having to read huge amounts of text and having to analyse it. And
that's precisely what I do, in my day-to-day work. I have to read stories, I have to analyse
them, I have to critique them, and I have to decide what will go forward.
I also have to write blurbs and summaries. And these skills I have learned from doing OU
essays and summaries. And I think, really, it was the best training.
I would say, without any hesitation, that the OU laid a solid foundation for me and enabled
me not only to go on and do an MA degree at Oxford University but to start my own
business. I don't think I could've had the confidence to feel I could run my own publishing
house, without the foundation that was laid for me by the Open University.
And I'm really delighted to say that last year-- 2013-- was our 10th anniversary. And 2011, I
was awarded an honorary MBE for my services to the publishing industry in the UK.