Never too late: Mother becomes student in her 50s
By Omar Al-Jabri
ABU DHABI—In our culture, women have not always been pushed to attend college. Many believe that women should neither study nor work. For those people, at some point, the education of a young woman has to end.
Today, I will tell you the story of my mother, Fatma, who is 54. It is about her education and her bravery in the face of those who laughed and made fun of her because she wanted to finish her education.
When she was young, my grandfather refused to send her to school because a long time ago people in our culture had an idea that girls should stay at home and help their parents. For instance, a woman would stay home cleaning, washing, cooking and taking care of her family. Why would you need a college degree for that?
However, Islam teaches us that education is necessary for everybody—and not only males. My mother dreamed of being a nurse.
And she never gave up on her dream.
My mother is a special person. She has some sort of spiritual power that has given her the determination to get her education no matter what.
My mother married my father at a very young age. When the late Sheikh Zayed ruled the United Arab Emirates, he had a vision to educate all of the people in his country. He encouraged people who had not been lucky enough to get an education when they were young to go seek it in their twilight years. He opened a school for the elderly. However, not many people joined the school. My mother, then, decided to learn the Quran and English by herself, so she saved money to buy Arabic and English books.
My mother built her basic skills by reading every day. When my mother heard about the school for the elderly, she again ran headlong into her culture. A married woman has to stay at home to take care of her husband and children.
Yet my mother kept on pleading for her education. My parents had an argument about her seeking her education. My father didn’t like the idea at first, but after long discussions, he agreed. When he ultimately agreed, he told my mother not forget her responsibilities within the family.
Now there would be new roadblocks. When she joined her school, a teacher told her: “It’s hopeless to do it now. When you graduate from this school, you have no chance to work. The government wants younger people.”
At that time, my mother was 30 years old. Now I need you to imagine her situation.
First of all, you have to clean the house, cook the food, you have to help your children with their homework and then you have to study. All of this had to be done at the same time. That was not easy at all. She had to learn time management at a more intense level. Step by step and working hard every day, she graduated from high school with high marks.
Of course, we were happy for her. On the other hand, some of my relatives were not happy at all. They kept sending her negative messages. For example: “You don’t care for your family, and your husband doesn’t like you anymore. He will leave you.”
But these comments did not deter my mother. She decided to join UAEU’s College of Education. She is working on her degree in education. Now this is her last semester at UAEU. After she graduates, she will work and intends to pursue an advanced degree.
My mother once told me: “It will never be too late to get your education unless you don’t breathe anymore.”