Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Education of Girls

Pic of 3 girls with paint, pencils and a book on their heads respectively

Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize at an amazing 17. There are many unsung heroines in the world. It seems to be a very appropriate time between International Women's Day and Mother's Day to recognise such heroines. Many mothers appreciate the value of education for their daughters because it was absent from their own lives. This blog is a thank you to a very special mother.

Unsung heroine
My mother is an unsung heroine. At 15, she left school barely able to read. An endless succession of childhood illnesses and hospital stays meant that she was hardly in school to learn. She lost her first job because she couldn't spell.  At secretarial college, a kindly lady helped her to read, spell and do shorthand. It seems ironic that in her later working life, many better-educated colleagues relied on her excellent spelling and grammar. The ability must always have been there. Confidence knocked in early life can remain elusive.

Three girls
Carole Andrews (my mother) married at 17. She had three daughters while still in her twenties. She worked hard to spare us her bad school experiences. She ensured that I could read fluently at 4, before even starting school.

My mother continued to support my education as best she could even after divorce. She recognises that education opens doors. As a single parent on a secretary's salary, she ensured that all three of her daughters benefited from a higher education. We followed the career path of our choice. So it was that I, the great-granddaughter of a Welsh coal miner, was the first member of our family ever to go to university. At one stage my mother had 3 jobs to make this possible. What she couldn't achieve for herself, she helped us to achieve. Three daughters: two scientists and one linguist. Quite an achievement.

Do your best
No "thank you" could ever be enough for some of the sacrifices she had to make. My level of success often does not appear enough by comparison. Probably becoming Britain's Prime Minister, achieving a double doctorate or winning the Nobel Peace Prize wouldn't have come near either. But then, she never expected any of that. She only ever asked that we tried our best within our abilities.

Literacy to pay forward
I cannot hope to repay her. Neither of us is particularly demonstrative. The words always seem to come out backwards, sideways or not at all.  But I can write. I use those very literacy skills that she helped me to develop. I can write using the education that she made possible to pay it forward.

My family's story illustrates what can be achieved by educating girls in just a generation.

Thank you, Mum, today and always.

As a mother of two sons, I will save my views on the education of boys for a future blog. Please check back soon.

No comments: