MAKKAH: At 70 years old, Salwa Al-Omani is the oldest woman to graduate with a bachelor of arts degree from Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University in Dammam.
With a GPA of 4.75/5, Al-Omani ranked first in her class and received an excellence award at the university’s 44th graduation ceremony attended by Princess Abeer bint Faisal bin Turki.
Al-Omani returned to her education after a 50-year gap, proving that nothing is impossible for someone who has determination.
She told Arab News: “I cannot describe my feelings, now that I have achieved my long-awaited dream.” She added that she has received a huge number of calls from well-wishers and thanked God for her success.
The moment I was honored by Princess Abeer, wearing my graduation gown and overwhelmed with feelings of joy for completing a journey that was interrupted 50 years ago, is priceless.
Salwa Al-Omani, Sociology graduate
“The moment I was honored by Princess Abeer bint Faisal bin Turki Al-Saud, wearing my graduation gown and overwhelmed with feelings of joy for completing a journey that was interrupted 50 years ago, is priceless.”
Al-Omani left high school at the age of 18 in 1971, following which her family moved to Basra, Iraq. She was accepted into the University of Basra to major in chemistry. However, “due to family reasons, I accepted my cousin’s proposal to marry me.
“So I couldn’t complete my university studies at that time. Later on, the family moved to Kuwait, to finally settle in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Al-Omani has two sons and three daughters who have graduated as doctors and engineers. She has been living in Dammam since the 1980s.
When she was able to resume her education, her lost high school diploma document posed an issue. She explained, “As soon as I thought of completing my studies, I explained my story to the senior high school director who said that, due to the long break period, I had to take classes all over again.
“I went to meet female educators in the eastern region. I was very confident of my educational competence, given that our generation has been strongly acquainted with all types of science.”
That meeting took place nine years ago, and Al-Omani was granted the approval to complete her studies. However, she had to start from the intermediate second grade, sitting for exams at the education department, and later on obtaining the third intermediate grade certificate in an intermediary school.
“The situation was embarrassing that year, given that I was taking the test with girls the age of my grandchildren who had clear looks of confusion on their face,” she said.
That did not deter her. “Nothing has affected my determination, and I decided to show some endurance and move forward. I obtained my certificate indeed and moved on to completing senior high school studies. I attended regularly and excelled to deserve my certificate.”
Al-Omani scored 82 on the General Aptitude Test (GAT) and 83 on the SAAT in preparation for her university education.
“I enrolled in the faculty of arts, department of sociology, at the Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University. I was accepted in the literary department despite me having a high school diploma in science,” she said.
“I was accepted into the sociology department in 2019. The dream came true.”
Al-Omani said that “with determination, the word ‘impossible’ does not exist,” that hope should not be lost, and that “it is better late than never.”
Determination and persistence are key to success, and “what separates any of us from achieving any goal in life is believing in ourselves and being confident in our capacities. This is the purpose of existing.”