"If only your grandma gave me school books" My mother sighs
"Mamma" started school during early 1960s with her brother who is a year older. She has two older siblings who never went to school. There was no school for the ordinary citizens at that time.
After a few years in school, Mamma’s education was sacrificed. Affording books for two was impossible.
He succeeded over the years.
She stayed home, roamed around with friends, a tomboy she was! In her teens she fell in love; parents did not consent. She married the first person they consented, out of spite she says. She never took it seriously and married five people in succession. Luckily no kids before me!
Not surprisingly, she got divorced; before I saw the light of day and ended up marrying someone else within the year. This time she stayed for my sake & continued with the marriage for the sake of six children who followed. She was working day and night as a seamstress. For him it was a waste of money to educate us. Her discontent was evident.
I was doing well in school until 5th grade. There on, things went downhill. Chores, rebuke, loss of self-confidence, and being blamed for everything that went wrong. Food was scarce, basic necessities barely met. Add to that, abuse! I was a burden, and I was to be trampled on! I withdrew within me not knowing where to turn.
I almost failed in 9th grade. Mamma took serious notice. Her dreams she narrated. Her anguish she reiterated. “I did not get the education and see the difference it made! Your uncle has a secure job while I’m in debt!” She pleaded; I also saw guilt in her eyes. She made drastic changes ensuring I had space and time for study. She gave me freedom to go out to study groups. That trust made me soar.
That was not good enough though. I was weak in English and did not get selected for government high school. Competition was tough with limited seats.
I was shattered. Mamma was already in debt having paid for my secondary examination fees. Private school was not an option. God showed me a path though. A friend guided me to an evening class and I was lucky enough to get a job. Long days at work and then going straight to class! I succeeded though.
I did not stop. I had dreams. I waited for government scholarships and years passed with no luck. I did not sit idle. I was dedicated to my work and impressed my employee. A break came through after five years. A program in India!
I was married, had a kid. Mamma was very supportive, husband wasn't! Emotionally I was drained. But I decided to go forward.
Another lucky break came through just two years after that. An Australian scholarship to study for a Degree! I was ecstatic. Husband said “you can't go! Choose between your son and your career”. It was so unfair. He knew to what extend I was ready to stick together for the sake of my son. After much thought I decided this was it! Mamma was there to look after my child until I could come back within a few months. I was scared but bold. He stayed; made my life hell though. It was an emotional warfare. I came back after four agonizing months and took my child with me almost battling for divorce. He later followed.
It wasn't easy. Living on the scholarship stipend! Household chores, studying & strained relationship, never a moment to relax! But I did it. Returned home and assumed a responsible position. It was demanding. This created more stress; looking after a toddler while I was busy at work helping the place prosper. Life went on. Had another child, also took on more work responsibilities. I never stopped even if the going was tough.
I am the breadwinner, I am the housewife, I help with the homework, I do the chores; so why do I tolerate it all?
This makes me think and wonder; about my role; women's role. I had lost hope had been despaired many a times. Yet never gave up. I have tried to be an inspiration to others. I believe it was all worth it as a leader. I have a niche over others. But as a mother, as a wife, I have my doubts.
My mother did not get the chance to complete primary education. I almost did not complete high school. I would not have had the opportunity for tertiary education had I not taken agonizing risks.
We should not have to take such risks, to gamble with our lives. These are the barriers, the challenges for women’s education.
Will my sons turn out any differently? Will they support their wives?
Men! Hear us out!
Local terms :
Mamma = Mother in our local language, Dhivehi