How Cambridge University’s Youngest Black Professor Didn’t Learn To Read Until Age 18

How Cambridge University’s Youngest Black Professor Didn’t Learn To Read Until Age 18

Don’t ever count Black people out.

Just ask professor Jason Arday, the youngest Black professor at the prestigious Cambridge University in England, who couldn’t read until he was an adult.

The 37-year-old told BBC that he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and global development delay when he was a child. He ws unable to speak until he was 11 and couldn’t read or write until he was 18. However, his situation never stopped him from wanting to learn or to be curious about the world around him.

“Why are some people homeless?” Arday remembers wondering. “Why is there war?”

Nearly 10 years ago, he had to almost stay in an assisted living facility. Now he is a professor of sociology of education, one of five Black professors at the institution. “As optimistic as I am, there’s just no way I could have thought that would have happened,” Arday told The Times (UK). “If I was a betting person, the odds on it were so long. It’s just mad.”

The southwest London native admitted that he had no clue what he was doing when he was first started writing academic papers. He persevered thanks to one of his idols, Nelson Mandela, and watching rugby. He says his mother played a role in him getting to where he is now.

Arday received his degree in physical education and education studies from the University of Surrey; his mentor and tutor, Sandro Sandri, encouraged him to pursue academia. He will finally start at Cambridge March 6.

“Everything I submitted got violently rejected. The peer review process was so cruel, it was almost funny,” Arday said of his advanced studies. “But I treated it as a learning experience and, perversely, began to enjoy it.” While at Cambridge, Arday hopes the school can leverage his ideas “to lead that agenda nationally and globally.”