Research Spotlight on the World of African Women Students doing Postgrad Studies
The plight of a student and mother-of-three who faced dropping out of university because of financial problems inspired Dr Sheeren Saloojee to research macro issues of this common phenomenon.
Saloojee graduated with her PhD in Education from UKZN for the investigation she did that explored situations of African women students doing postgraduate study.
Saloojee was motivated by a postgraduate student who spoke about giving up her studies because she could not afford to continue to care for her three children and pay for her room on campus.
This spurred Saloojee to investigate the struggles and challenges of African women involved in postgraduate studies.
‘I wanted to learn how they coped in relation to some traditional stereotypes where the priority is to stay at home and look after the husband and children instead of becoming educated,’ said Saloojee. ‘The problems faced by the postgrad student I spoke to is a painful reminder of what it means to be an African woman studying and, in some instances, far from the comfort of home and children.’
Her findings reveal that in postgraduate educational spaces, marginalised African women work differently in negotiated and complementary ways to their domestic keeper identity.
Saloojee recalled that her own PhD journey had taken a toll on her family for the past six years. ‘Dinners and long drives vanished, coffee dates with friends faded and I even lost touch with some people I knew well previously. Towards the latter part of my study, I had a more understanding family who realised the value and importance of this PhD.’
Saloojee is grateful to her family, friends and supervisor for supporting her during her studies. ‘As a mother, mother-in-law and grandmother, I felt an overwhelming commitment to explore women’s stories, from a woman’s point of view. In doing so, I know that I am leaving a bit of history for my daughters. I anticipate as they journey through life, they will continue to honour and respect stories of others as well as their own.’
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan