Woofs are safely deposited at the kennels and they both rushed off quite happily to the pens.
While I'm away, I thought you might enjoy reading one of the life stories which form part of my conference paper. M's story of loss and recovery.
M. is a 53 year old unmarried woman. She is blind in one eye, a visible disfigurement. The eldest of six children (including three sons), M.' s parents were unskilled workers. Early in her childhood she conceptualised her predicament of grinding poverty whose resolution lay in obtaining an education. She recounted her enjoyment of her schooling at a small rural primary school. M.’s first loss was partial blindness caused by the neglect of an eye injury which occurred when chopping firewood without adult supervision, a task delegated to her by her parents. Her second loss was when her parents forced her to drop out of school after her seventh year of schooling and to enter domestic service to support her brothers’ education. This action taken without any consultation was tantamount to dooming M. to a life of poverty. She felt betrayed and helpless. M. ‘recovered’ by enrolling herself in an adult learning centre where she slowly “collected” enough subjects to obtain a school leaving certificate. Another threat to her self-actualisation emerged in a marriage arranged by her parents without her consent. This time M. was sufficiently empowered to resist their plan: her school leaving certificate had enabled her to improve her employment position to that of shop assistant in an upmarket city department store. This meant that she enjoyed some financial independence although still living at home with her extended family. M.’s epiphany occurred when a regular customer at the store pointed out to her that she was eligible for admission to higher education and suggested her enrolling in a distance education institution. M.’s adjustment of her identity is reflected in her words: “And to think, I was just a shop girl!” With the assistance of this customer, “an angel”, M. obtained a government grant and entered a local teacher’s training college, this time with her father’s blessing. After her subsequent graduation and employment as a teacher, she enrolled at a distance education university and eventually achieved an undergraduate degree and thereafter two postgraduate degrees in education. Today not only does M. see her educational achievements in terms of recovery from her losses, but also as a vindication of her determination to obtain an education and a reversal of the injustices suffered at the hands of her family. Before their deaths, her parents expressed regret for their earlier decisions; ironically none of her siblings made use of their educational opportunities which their sister had financed at such great cost. M. has rationalised and forgiven her parents’ actions which she ascribes to their own lack of education. M. currently holds a senior management post in her school and owns her own house. She “loves” her job; regards her alma mater as her “school” and her lecturers as her “mothers”. She is openly proud of her accomplishments and regards herself as a competent and respected professional and a financially independent woman.