The woman is one of the adults, drawn from various parts of Nyaruguru district, who successfully completed a six month literacy programme. The programme came to an end last Wednesday with the awards of certificates to the graduates. Like Nyiramabindo, many of the graduates felt that a little education could help improve their lifestyles, and they enrolled to the programme.
For them, knowing how to read, write and do basic calculations is essential in doing business and other income generating activities. Damascene Nyirimana, 20, dropped out in primary two due to lack of discipline and commitment. A few months ago, Nyirimana remembers that he could not use a mobile phone due to lack of reading skills. I also have the ability to read letters, newspapers and books.
I believe this is important in my life in this era. Research into adult education shows that although adults who choose to go to school passed their 50s or even 70s have justified reasons.
Some adults may join classes, not because they want to use their new literacy skills but because they want to join the literacy set. Such reasons relate to social status. They feel that other people especially the literate group regard them with scorn because they cannot engage in the dominant textual communications.
Others want to learn literacy skills because they want to accomplish some literacy task. Several aspire to read the Bible or the Quran. Others join adult literacy classes, not to learn literacy skills for use but for the opportunities the course will subsequently provide. In a study done in Botswana, some adults said they had joined because literacy is a pre-requisite to getting a driving licence.
In some contexts, obtaining a loan is dependant on being able to read and write. Sheila offered her forearm for me while we walked carefully to her car. My head, leant against the damp window, registered every bump and pothole in the neglected road. Once outside my f lat I let Sheila help me climb the slippery, moss covered, concrete steps to my front door. I felt weak and feeble. The air, now much colder, made me shudder as I handed her my keys. I also felt guilty and somewhat embarrassed as I had taken her miles out of her way. Once inside I keep my coat on, pulling my hat further over my ears and tightening my scarf to ward off any further migraine symptoms.
I hear Sheila filling the kettle and am greeted with a smile when I enter the kitchen.
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Do you need me to pick Jamie up from nursery? The mere mention of my son elicits silent tears and she kisses my forehead. Jamie, my son, the very best thing in my life, one of the few I have not screwed up yet! As I place the empty cup on the f loor I have never seen any value in coffee tables unless you have a perverse desire for damaged shins! Migraine — the gift that keeps on giving.
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I always feel much better following my gut retching but, just to be sure, I stumble back to the safety of the sofa and my comfort blanket. I must have dropped off as I am woken by the sound of the front door opening. Next minute my beautiful boy is before me with concern showing in the slight squint in his vivid blue eyes and crinkled nose. His shock of thick, pale blond hair matted with poster paint and smelling of strawberry yoghurt, his favourite. Sheila plonks herself down next to me with mock fatigue. Do you need to go now?
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If not would you like to stay for tea? Tea time passed without incident as Jamie likes his food and has never been a picky eater. Usually I am fiercely independent some might say too much so. As a child with younger siblings I was practical, singularly fabulous at problem solving and often helped others to the detriment of my own needs.
I was also stubborn, loud, resentful and lonely. Not like others, I spent hours walking on my own to get away from the daily cacophony of my chaotic family. Why I suddenly recall these snap shots of my past life I have no idea. Just tired I guess. Time passed pleasantly and at a leisurely pace. We were deep in conversation when Jamie appeared half undressed, carrying his blanket. Not being a great fan of hugging I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the warmth of her touch, and we agreed to catch up on Monday.
I even agreed to tentative plans for a lunch date. Closing the door behind her I instantly regretted making promises. I have issues with commitment and trust and saw an invitation to lunch as an unwanted demand on my time. Dear me, no wonder I find it hard to make friends, miserable cow.
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No stranger to self talk I managed to get myself together to bath Jamie and read his bedtime story, albeit a short one and from memory as it is his favourite. I have accepted that my mind is fragile and needs more than a yearly MOT to keep distractions to a minimum. Mercifully I drifted off to sleep quickly with the smell of strawberry yoghurt for company.
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I have, even though I say so myself who else is there? Jamie attends a day nursery which enables me to work full time and as a consequence afford to live in a good area close to local amenities including the tube only a short ride from my place of work. On Monday morning with no lasting interference from my migraine as an added bonus I get to work thirty minutes earlier than usual.
I know this may come as a shock to some and to me on many occasions given my erratic existence as a single parent. This said I have learnt to occupy the space where good enough IS good enough. Pre Jamie I was always on time, work finalized and all notes completed. After Jamie maybe fifty percent of the above is an acceptable standard, certainly my boss tells me so at weekly supervision sessions.
Humour is great in alleviating tension and I am grateful for my use of it now. Sheila pops her head around my door and advises me of my daily appointments and any changes thereof.
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She also reminds me of our earlier agreement to meet up for lunch. Feeling mildly irritated we finally agree on Wednesday at 1 p. Thankfully my young clients allow me to remain focused on their well being and, with their parents and other agencies involved we agree on workable plans for their future. At only twenty-nine years old I feel fortunate to have done so well in my relatively short career and in such an important field of psychology.
I completed my PhD aged twenty-three and became a registered Paediatric Psychologist at twenty-five and have been in work ever since. If truth be told there is safety in regular employment, especially one that allows f lexibility as a single mother.
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I am delighted to be engaged in work that I enjoy, and am good at. I cannot envisage a time when this would not be the case. Children are vital to society in all ways imaginable and helping troubled ones to find their way back is both a challenge and a privilege.
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