Iain Batten is an Alison Learner from South Africa. His remarkable story of overcoming educational challenges, from dyslexia to outdated institutional biases, is an incredible tale of perseverance, commitment and the importance of education.
As if his story wasn’t inspirational enough, Iain has also beaten cancer three times and is currently taking the fight to a recent multiple sclerosis diagnosis.
Iain spoke to the Alison Blog to share his incredible story in the hopes of encouraging others to never give up hope in education and to never stop fighting.
Hi Iain, it’s great to get to be able to share your remarkable story. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your journey?
My name is Iain Batten and I live in South Africa. I am a single father and grandfather of two beautiful girls and three grandkids. I came into this world with a lot of difficulty! My mother was in labour for days and eventually the doctors pulled me out using steel forceps. This resulted in brain damage to the left side of my temporal lobe and cortex. I grew up in a loving Christian home, the middle of three children. Growing up, I knew I was different and I was an extremely angry person at times.
I battled through school, only passing three subjects out of nine in Grade 8. I was caned by teachers every day for failing tests and I was called stupid, idiot, and other vile names by those teachers who were supposed to be teaching me. I was told that my life wouldn’t amount to much because I was stupid and couldn’t pass anything. This made me very aggressive at school. I was eventually diagnosed with severe dyslexia. At 16 years of age, I was told I had the reading average of a 10 year old.
I have always had a fascination for criminology and my dream was to become a profiler or psychologist. Unfortunately, my school marks weren’t good enough for me to pursue my passion as no university, college or any other learning institute would accept the marks that I achieved.
I followed the retail fashion career path, first as a trainee manager in one of the biggest retail fashion stores in South Africa. I quickly rose through the ranks and become a store manager. I went on to become an area manager in charge of thirty stores throughout South Africa. I studied through the company and I got my Sales Manager and Franchise Manager diplomas.
I had spent 25 years working in the corporate environment and held the position of Operations Manager when a severe illness ripped through my body and my life. I am a very proud cancer survivor and multiple sclerosis warrior. I was born a fighter who has lived with being dyslexic and has beaten cancer. I can beat MS.
Your story is truly empowering. How did Alison enter your life?
I was helping a friend who was looking for an institution for her friend to learn English for free. I googled loads of institutions and came across Alison. Alison looked good and had very positive reviews, so I sent her the link. I then had a light bulb moment and decided to look into what other courses Alison offered. I was hooked from then on.
What was your first course on Alison, and why did you choose it?
I have always wanted to pursue my passion for criminology and so I studied a Forensic Psychology Diploma through Austin Peay State University, Texas. I achieved a 90% average for my course over the year, which included assignments and research articles. This gave me tremendous confidence to pursue other areas of psychology.
The first course I took with Alison was Introduction to Criminal Investigation: Processes, Practices and Thinking. I chose this course because I wanted to test Alison’s subject material and the course assessments and because of my interest in criminology and crime scenes.
How have Alison courses affected your life?
I am now onto my fourth course with Alison and I love every moment. I have been in and out of hospital having been diagnosed with a very aggressive type of skin cancer. I am no stranger to cancer, having beaten testicular cancer in 2004 and lung cancer in 2009.
I have also recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which affects the central nervous system. It’s an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own healthy cells. There is no cure for multiple sclerosis but many people are able to manage their symptoms and adapt to new lifestyles after their diagnosis. The worst parts are the brain fog, depression and the constant pain.
Alison courses help to keep me motivated. They allow me to be able to say I achieved something and focus a force of determination in me that drives me to get up and do the studying and to pass well! It keeps my mind off the pain I am going through.
What’s your favourite way to relax from studying?
Definitely listening to music. It has always been my go to place when I am in pain or depressed. Getting lost in songs soothes my mind. I also enjoy walking and reading crime books.
Where are you working and what are you studying now?
At the present moment I am unemployed. Pre-covid I was a motivational speaker, life coach and ran a registered non-profit organisation called African Survivor Foundation. I have given cancer talks to schools, companies and churches and have taken part in survivor walks and motivated other cancer survivors to let their voices be heard as I honestly believe that that is why we were spared. To break the stigma that is still attached to the word cancer.
I have been through so much in my life, including the stigma I suffered because of the cancer on my face, that I want to make a positive contribution to people going through the same thing and that’s what drives me. I have lost everything and I am currently staying with some friends in their garage, but I will never give up.
What’s next for you, in terms of education or work?
To get out of the hole I find myself in and to pursue my passion. I am in the process of setting up a website that displays my passion for psychology and criminology. I am also going to continue my work as a life coach and a motivational speaker. I am also looking at self-publishing my articles in the form of ebooks.
If you could learn absolutely anything in the world from an Alison course, what would it be?
More criminology courses and also theology.
What would you say to someone if they asked you about Alison? Would you recommend it and why?
Yes, I would highly recommend Alison to anyone who wants to upskill for a higher job position or wants to make sure they have the best skills for a new job posting and beat the competition. The way Alison courses are laid out and presented is very user friendly. It’s also nice that you can do the courses at your own pace and online. You get to choose your schedule and you can let life happen around you while you are studying.