STUDENT MOTHERS in a Foreign Land: Pursuing a degree as a student and a mother [OPINION]

Concepts like 'sacrifice' and 'determination' come to mind when one listens to the stories of student mothers. Their courage is commendable and their struggles are an example to us all. 

Motherhood is a great honor and privilege yet it is also synonymous with servant-hood. Everyday, women are called upon to selflessly meet the needs of their families. The task of being a student is challenging at the best of times! Study, attending classes and seminars, and do quizzes, home works, exams, term papers, and projects. When you add to this, a mother 'workload' in caring for a child - feeding, bathing, carrying him/her and to this, add being in a foreign land and a different culture with different expectations and social norms! What a potentially overwhelming situation.

Suffice to say that the number of 'non-traditional' students - in this case, STUDENT MOTHERS, - is growing at EMU. On the one hand, this is great news; women with children are finding the courage and the energy to make the necessary commitment to transform their lives through education. On the other hand, it is very important for the EMU community to recognize the huge toll that being both student and mother can take on a woman.

Some student mothers on campus are sharing their experiences and expressing the difficulties and demands they face although they are hesitant to speak openly.

Concepts like 'sacrifice' and 'determination' come to mind when one listens to the stories of student mothers. Their courage is commendable and their struggles are an example to us all. 

Of course, being away from their extended families and their homes mean that the usual traditional sources of support - psychology, cultural, and financial, are much more difficult, if not impossible, to receive.

Students are thrown back on their own confidence and energy. When there is a problem, which of course will arise from time to time, it can affect attendance in class, student moral and perhaps place extraordinary stress on an individual.

"I am highlighting here the courage and determination of female students who are pursuing university degrees while also fulfilling the responsibilities and obligations they feel as mothers of children"

"These students have very often traveled long distances to grasp the opportunities higher education offers them - to improve their own life's and ultimately, the lives of their children. Unfortunately, while pursuing their goals, they come into confilct witih structural restrictions around them"

As the number of student mothers increases, it will be important to consider additional services - services that, one day, we can hope will 'go without saying' or be part of the normal fabric of university life.

Things like affordable childcare - so that mother and child are not negatively affected by heavy student workload. We have to remember that not all student mothers might afford the cost of private nannies for their children. We should expect that as the plight of student mothers and their children moves more into the consciousness of the university community, allocations for affordable childcare will become the norm. From the university point of view, this might even prove an attractive environment to attract more 'non-traditional' students who have always thought about their desire for an education but were worried because they have a child or children.

Let us remember that as a university - an intellectual community - it's our job to be one step ahead of the society. We need to recognize that being a mother has often being unfairly treated - it is the unpaid, unrecognized and often unnoticed work that women do. And let's not pretend that this is not work crucial to the continuation of society.

STUDENT MOTHERS are studying to become the proud success stories as graduates of EMU. Surely we can also start working now to become proud of the way that our university treats the student-mothers with children? Perhaps this is the right time to begin developing a scheme for STUDENT MOTHERS.

*Written by Munbang Sheena Dimka for EMU Gundem


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