Today I am blogging about my daughter and the fact that I love her dearly, miss her and am really proud of her.
Tomorrow, Saturday 25th April, is her official graduation and sadly I will not be there to support her.
Okay, you say, so what? People are graduating all over the world and, yes, it is a time to celebrate, but what is so special about this graduation?
Well, I know lots of people graduate and I congratulate them, and still further, there are lots of adults who gain degrees and, I guess, this blog is actually focussed at them in particular.
Kids who go to University from school are already immured to studying and learning and their difficulty is having to handle the gravity of freedom and responsibility in a learning environment, taking the responsibility on their shoulders to knuckle down and attend classes instead of being forced to go from class to class. That is difficult I'll admit and many fail at it.
However, it is even more difficult to do the knuckling down and studying when you are older, with the responsibilities of a family, a mortgage/rent, payments, little personal time, a crowded home environment and so on, and, you no longer have the 'learning environment' mentality. It is to these people and my daughter in particular today, that I take my hat off to.
My daughter, a single parent, moved back to the UK around 2001/2002 to set up a home for her daughters and get settled into a job. My partner and I looked after the girls for 7 months and then I took them over to be with their mother, but she lost her job shortly thereafter. I am not going to go into all the details here as I would need pages but her decision was then that she would stay at home to look after her two girls until they were a bit older [they were 4 and 6 at the time], and she would claim the government allowances that would enable her to do this, albeit living at a lower level than if she were in work, and augment this with a cleaning job. I suggested to her that she use that time to study as she could do all sorts of courses or a degree free while she was on benefits, and this would then stand her in good stead when she was able to go back to work, putting back into the community what she hadgained.
So, she started a degree through the Open University and finished it last year in Oct/Nov. Not so remarkable some might say, and I don't doubt that there are even more stories out there regarding people who have taken degrees, but this is her story.
At the time she started the degree she suffered from cluster headaches, and then ended up with her leg in plaster for a while, worked an allotment with a friend to get fresh vegetables [yes, even with the cast on!], studied for at least 6 hours everyday, and did a daily cleaning job at a nearby old age home block of flats. She also started getting terrible pain in her back, down her legs and gradually became unable to keep up the cleaning job, and then gradually had problems walking any distance, battled to sleep at night or sit in a chair etc due to the constant pain. This has all become steadily worse over the intervening time and her face became terribly lined because of the pain [she is 43, 44 in December], and she became officially disabled. The story of her rounds of Doctors, NHS hospitals, MRI scans, an exploratory back operation miles from her home [I took her and stayed with her during the day, and then brought her home the same day!], being passed from pillar to post seeing anew intern everytime she went to the hospital for an appointment, no cohesive treatment plan, being wrongly referred and so on, is a long and painful catalogue of the bad side of the UK NHS, and had she been able to afford private care her problems could well have been sorted out back at the beginning. Throughout this time she has been taking steadily heavier doses of drugs like Oxycontin and so on, which have helped the pain but not completely and they now barely touch sides. During all this she continued to study each and everyday, completed her assignments, got high pass marks and so on, although eventually she was having to use a voice recognition software because her fingers could not cope witht he keyboard anymore, and latterly her exams were taken at home with an official examiner being attendant upon her. Despite the pain and the worry of not knowing what was wrong with her and the frustration of being passed around in the NHS, and so on, she studied day and night and also took a final year to allow her to go into education if she chose to do so.
And she passed.
She got a 2.2, and I say hats off to her. She has struggled, brought up two beautiful, well mannered and clever daughters [and anyone who is a single parent, particularly of girls, will tell you that this is no mean feat, particularly in the UK], coped with all the misery and pain of being ill, worrying herself sick in case she had something awful, wondering if she has MS or something of that order, and she still stuck doggedly to her studying, and got her degree.
Currently she is applying for jobs in the public sector like prisoner rehabilitation, drug rehabilitation and so on, and while she is doing that she is also doing voluntary work in this area, and has, according to my eldest granddaughter, already helped one ex-prisoner get going with his life and start a degree. While she was here in SA she spent a period of time in the Townships up in Gauteng, raising awareness, raising money, getting medical supplies and so on. She has done crusades here and travelled around the country, been on TV. She was shot at, held up at home when she was heavily pregnant and had her young daughter with her, and other stuff like this, so she is well experienced to work in the health and welfare sectors.
What an inspiration. It just shows that if you have the opportunity and the determination you can do so much.
And, if you read this Mel, I just want to say how proud of you I am. I love you.