Education Featured

For women, returning to school is never easy

Adults going back to school have different needs from other students and therefore require schools that can accommodate their complicated schedules

By Beverline Timanoi

Clare Namunyak began her college studies in 2005 at Kenyatta University.  She successfully made it through three years, but got pregnant in the final year and had to abandon her studies.

She got married and took care of her child, then got a job at a nearby community school as a secretary earning Ksh. 8,000 monthly; during that period, she got two more children.For 10 years, she toyed with the thought of returning to college but family obligations and work kept getting in the way.

In 2015, she finally re-enrolled at Maasai Mara University, thanks to the school-based programme that allows students to study during holidays. This was not as simple as she thought.

“Getting someone to take care of my three kids was the main challenge. My husband was also supportive of my decision to go back to school and he enlisted support for the children during the periods I would be away,” said Namunyak.

“In order to concentrate in class, I had to ensure food was available at home, and call during each break to confirm if everything was in order. I would travel home from Narok to Namelok each weekend,”says Namunyak.

Namunyakhad to restart her studies to focus on a new career because the syllabus and units of her former career had changed. She eventually graduated this year,at 34 years of age,with a second class honors, upper division. “It feels amazing and now all boundaries that were placed between me and my dream job as a teacher have been lifted.”

A 40-year-old woman does not fit the image of a college student, but these days nearly 40 per centof undergraduate students are above 25 years of age, many of them with children.

Adults going back to school have different needs from other students and therefore require schools that can accommodate their complicated schedules. Almost all institutions of higher learning offer morning and evening classes for those working and school-based sessions where in-service teachers attend studies when their students are on holiday.

Going back to studies after a break of close to a decade will also require a learner to brush up on the units they pursued as learning content changes often, especially for technical courses.

Paying for college is challenging at any age, but for adult students who are likely to be entirely responsible for the cost and may have other financial responsibilities, it can be even more challenging.

It can be daunting for an adult, especially a woman, to attempt to get back to school after a break necessitated by having a family.  Skills, time and the energy required to study are hard to induce after a break.

Answering critics about having to leave children at home to proceed with studies makes women put their best foot forward in order to justify the sacrifices they have to make.

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