When BSc Health and Social Care graduate Sibusisiwe (Sibu) Mbwembwe first joined UWTSD in 2015, the mum of two had been out of the education system for a long time. Fast forward to 2021 and with a first-class honours degree and a PCET qualification, the doors continue to open for Sibu, currently the manager of African Community Centre Wales (ACC) breaking down barriers, promoting participation and community cohesion.
“I had been out of the education system for so long but knew that university was the direction I needed to travel,” said Sibu.
“After losing my husband suddenly while my children were small, my whole world was turned upside down. I met Professor Uzo Iwobi, the founder of Race Council Cymru, specialist adviser to the Welsh Government and now also a Professor of Practice at UWTSD, who gave me the inspiration to get back on track.
“Thanks to Uzo’s kind words and advice, I was soon working at Bawso, the lead BAME organisation in Wales providing practical and emotional support to BAME community members and individuals who are affected by domestic abuse but felt I had gone as far as I could in my career development without qualifications.
“I had heard from friends about UWTSD, who had told me how supportive staff were. They said the university would help me succeed. And they were right.”
Sibu started with a diploma qualification at UWTSD before progressing to the degree programme. “Looking back that was right step for me,” said Sibu. “I wasn’t ready to commit to a degree straight away as it seemed too much. It was perfect for me whilst I built up my confidence.”
As soon as she joined the University, Sibu quickly embraced campus life. “I signed up to be a student rep and a student ambassador,” she said. “I wanted to push myself and inspire others like me. There’s a saying, that you cannot be, what you cannot see. I was determined to be someone who could encourage others, from day one.”
Sibu said she took all the support offered. “I made sure that I made the most of all the support offered to me,” she added. “The lecturers were amazing and my questions at times, seemed endless but they were there every step of the way to encourage and inspire me. There’s an open-door policy at UWTSD and because of the smaller class sizes, your lecturers know your name and get to know you. And that’s invaluable.”
Sibu graduated with a first-class honours’ degree, later returning to study for a PCET qualification. The PCET programme offers the opportunity to study a highly valued qualification that enables graduates to teach in a range of post-compulsory education settings.
“These qualifications opened doors for me and continue to do so.” she said. “I have been able to progress with my career and even start the next stage of my journey – being an entrepreneur – all with the University’s help. My skills are transferable, which means I can now concentrate on my next stage of development, going into health care and health care management.
“As an ambassador, I attended many open days at UWTSD so I could tell people how much the university has supported me and show them where I am now! I can say hand on heart, that I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for UWTSD. At UWTSD you are part of a family, which has students’ best interests at its heart. Everyone there wants you to succeed.”
In September 2021, Sibu was awarded the Ethnic Minority Welsh Women Achievement Association (EMWWAA) award in business
She is also a Big Ideas Wales Role Model and attends schools and colleges to deliver talks to inspire young people to go into business.
Sibu said: “Education is the mother of open doors; you can never go wrong with education.”