Kwadwo Oppong, Alumnus, LLM Legal Studies, 2018Kwadwo is the epitome of determination, in spite of his obstacles. Read how his personal experience with the legal system inspired him to study Law and how his fight, both personally and professionally continues
LSBU’s central location was one of the reason’s I chose to study there, plus I lived in Croydon so my commute was easy. I received good reviews from some friends who had studied there and I found that everything they had told me was true: the diversity of the University; the reputation of the School of Law and Social Science; and the ease of being able to access learning materials, which was important to me as I worked full time as a social worker at Croydon hospital during the day.
I was so determined to get through it
In 2017, halfway through my first year of study, I was diagnosed with cancer. I was advised to defer and come back at a later date to complete my course. John Koo, Course Director of Postgraduate Law, was the only person I spoke to about it and he supported my decision to continue my studies as I was so determined to get through it.
Every two weeks, 10am-5pm, I had chemotherapy treatment and would leave the hospital to attend my evening class. I took no time out from studying and luckily didn’t fail any assessments. I chose not to focus on my predicament, as long as I could get up and carry on, then that’s what I would do. I made sure not to feel sorry for myself. I didn’t ask myself ‘why me’ because I think when you do that it invites more negativity into your mind and impacts how you feel.
I have such a supportive family and close friends but I didn’t tell anyone else aside from them what I was going through. I think that helped me get on with things because no one asked questions. My treatment lasted 6 months and I only told my peers after my treatment had finished because by that time, my hair was gone, my weight had increased and my face had changed.
I have a degree in social work which I achieved in 2014 and have been working in that area ever since. However, my motivation to study law came from my own experience of a miscarriage of justice in 2015. I was arrested and charged for something I didn’t do and that is when my interest in law grew. The way my case was mishandled, from the police arrest to the judge's verdict, I realised a lot of people would have experienced what I had without any hope or knowledge to challenge or change it.
I want to be a Criminal Solicitor and support people in court. People are so naïve to the legal system; it’s not about the truth, it’s about what you can prove. Up until now, my experience of the legal system has been unsatisfactory and I want to be the one who provided a better service. My determination comes from my own experience and I can use that to support people better. I know I will be able to make a difference when I qualify. I’ve been fighting this for 5 years and I won’t stop until the Criminal Cases Review Commission get an admission of a miscarriage of justice.
Do your best
What keeps me motivated Is realising life is precious and short. Whatever time I have I must put it to the best possible use. I believe it’s important at any stage in your life to always look to the beginning and remember your reasons, that’s how you reaffirm your current position in life. When I’m fearful of anything I look back to remind myself of this.
Accepting a new reality was difficult before my diagnosis. I was very active and in the Army Reserve. I use to run 2-3 times a week, ten miles at a time. I still try to keep fit and have recently taken up cycling. I have three children so we try to be active together, go for walks and do some gardening. I’m lucky to have a good support network and have learned life is more than not being able to do the things you enjoy. My partner and family are very supportive of my choices and have given me good encouragement. We have so many reasons to give up but my close group of friends remind me how blessed I am.
As a social worker, the idea of giving back is important to me. My partner and I live in an area with a lot of elderly people, and my partner supported an old couple with their shopping during the lockdown. Unfortunately, the old man has passed away but his family were thankful for what my partner did. When I become a solicitor I will be doing a lot of pro bono work, especially in my community, and I look forward to that being the way I give back.
My advice to anyone is just to do your best. Everybody has their issues but when you find it difficult don’t keep it to yourself, speak to someone. Communication is key, being able to talk and knowing you’re not alone will always help you move forward. One thing that scares me is not being able to finish the journey I have started. Even though I finished chemotherapy and got the all-clear last year I still have some issues. Recently, I had a CT scan, because I was getting increasingly out of breath, after an appointment I was told there’s a growth on my liver. I have more appointments to check the severity but with this latest news, I just hope I can finish my journey. I want to finish my studies, qualify as a solicitor and make the difference I dream of making.