Proud Bihari’ Dame Asha Khemka’s Journey From Bihar To Britain

Asha Khemka, who arrived in London with family from Sitamarhi in Bihar in 1978 without any English language skills and went to change the lives of thousands as a leading educationist had received her Damehood from Prince Charles.  She was also awarded as the OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 2008.

Asha Khemka, is the principal of the West Nottinghamshire College, and the second woman of Indian origin to be awarded the female equivalent of knighthood since the order was instituted in 1917; the first was Maharani Lakshmi Devi of Dhar in 1931.

Mrs Asha Khemka receives her OBE from the Queen.

She is an eminent Indian-origin NRB educationist who was awarded one of Britain`s highest civilian award in December 2014, The Damehood- making her the first from the community to earn the honor in 83 years.
The accolade comes five years after she was awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

Upon receiving the damehood she said :

I am rarely lost for words, yet I am finding it difficult to express how proud and honored I feel. I am immensely grateful to Britain for recognising my strengths and enabling me to achieve my dreams.
This is without doubt one of the proudest moments of my life, along with my wedding day, the births of my three children and becoming a college principal. Although it was my second visit to Buckingham Palace, this is such a huge recognition that I feel I now have a new responsibility on my shoulders – a responsibility to use this title to make an even greater impact on the Further Education sector and to develop closer links between educational institutions in the UK and India.

I have never set out to achieve titles and, as deeply humbling as this is, I will continue with exactly the same ambition and passion as I’ve always had.

She also added:

 “I will strive every day to prove that I am worthy of this honor. I am immensely grateful to Britain for recognizing my strengths and enabling me to achieve my dreams. But I will never forget my Indian roots and will always be a proud Bihari, which has given me the entrepreneurial spirit, drive and determination to succeed.

The mother-of-three becomes the first Indian-origin Dame since Maharani Lakshmi Devi Bai Sahiba of Dhar State in 1931. The Damehood is in recognition of her services to the deprived areas of the West Midlands as principal of West Nottinghamshire College for the last eight years.

This Damehood follows her being awarded in 2009 an Order of the British Empire (OBE) by the Queen in recognition of her services to further education. The Same year, in October, she was crowned the Midlands Businesswoman of the year.

Dame Asha’s journey is truly inspirational. Born and raised in Sitamarhi – a small town in the state of Bihar – she was married at the age of 15 to 19-year-old medical student Shankar Khemka. The couple moved to the UK in 1978 with their three young children; daughter Shalini, and sons Sheel and Sneh.

Upon first arriving, Dame Asha had limited formal education and little understanding of the English language and British culture. She was a full-time housewife for 20 years.

However, through her dedication and determination, Dame Asha has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks of Further Education – progressing from mature student to principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College which, under her leadership, has grown to become one of the most successful and eminent colleges in the UK.

She is widely-regarded as a leading figure in the world of education and skills. As well as serving on many national educational boards and committees, Dame Asha is also making an impact on the international stage. She is the founding chair of the Association of Colleges (AoC) India – an organization set up to progress links between educational institutions in the UK and the Indian subcontinent – and in February 2013 joined Prime Minister David Cameron’s trade mission to the country.

In 2008, Dame Asha founded the Inspire and Achieve Foundation – a charity dedicated to improving the lives of young people who have been disengaged from any form of education and training. The charity has helped hundreds of individuals get their lives back on track through outreach activities leading to specially-tailored vocational programs.