London: An Indian-origin eminent educationist has been awarded one of Britain`s highest civilian award, making her the first from the community to earn the honour in 83 years.
Bihar-born Asha Khemka has been awarded a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the Queen`s annual New Year`s honours list released here on Tuesday.
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.
"I believe passionately in the power of further education to transform lives," said Dame Asha, who has been equally active in skills development work in her country of origin.
She is the founding chair of the Association of Colleges in India a group 33 UK colleges that have joined forces to work with Indian partners.
A total of 1,195 candidates have been selected for honours this year, with 610 successful women candidates representing 51 per cent of the total -- overtaking men for the first time since the system was instituted in 1917.
The 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. Same year in October, she was crowned the Midlands Businesswoman of the year.
Born in the eastern state`s Sitamarhi district Asha was married at the age of 15. She moved to the UK in 1975 with her husband and three young children at the age of 25.
With no formal qualifications, she overcame significant cultural and language barriers to succeed. In the mid 1980s, Asha decided to embark on her own education.
She taught herself English by watching children`s television and talking to other young mothers.
"India is a land of opportunity where there is no dearth of talent. But there is a gap between vision and implementation," she said.
Dame Asha`s award citation acknowledges her relentless work in the field.
"She has embraced the apprenticeship agenda, leading the college to become the largest 16-18 provider in the UK and finding jobs for 700 young people in the first year," it reads.
"Her charitable trust, the Inspire and Achieve Foundation, is especially focused on those not in education, employment or training. She is in the process of opening a skills centre in India," the citation adds.