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My Education Journey

England is one of the most expensive places  in Europe to study, especially when it comes to university. But, no matter what you study, you never get to read the book from beginning to end.  And yet you pay triple the fee for that privilege.

The reason why you don’t get time to read the whole book is because university’s are structured to teach a method enough for you to pass the exam but, give a few months down the line many people are no wiser.  It’s quite painful when it’s tears sweat and hard work but, when you look into this, there’re so many floors in this structure.  May be the structure is out of date.  Or should bring in a form of an up to date structure,  to make room for improvement.

Universities are known to never start a book from the beginning,  head tutors tend to be unapproachable,  only interested in over seas students because they pay a lot more and if these tutors lose the exam results, it’s your fault.

Although, away from university your attempted to read a lot more in your spare time, it’s very difficult to go back to the beginning of the book, when  in fact you started off reading it half way through.

Another thing I noticed at universities , there are a few lectures who have written  books of their own and you are encouraged to buy the book for a particular subject. And like most essay’s,  you have to back up your theory. What about if you don’t agree with the author, who’s  in fact is your tutor.  Wouldn’t your decision  be persuaded  that author who is in fact teaching you  may mark you down.  Although I’m sure they don’t but, I bet a lot of people think twice.

Let me give you an example which I’ll take to my grave: who would stand a chance, putting the children into privates schools? (This was a essay question I had to answer at a university in 2003). The guy who works at a corner shop or the professor. Again, if you’ve just had lecture and the person is a professor. It’s a question of picking your battles carefully.  I remember expressing my belief passionately on this matter.

The reason  why, is because,  although the professor has worked extremely hard to get to his position and put his children into a private school. The guy who runs the corner shop and work the hours god sends, he is also in the position to send his children to a private school.  So then when you have a class discussion amongst the pupils, they all say the professor is the one who has a chance, why, because it the goes into another area with white or blue collar workers. Then class comes into this equation.  Anyway, don’t get me started  on the class issues.

The guy in the corner shops, who sometimes shows signs of  dark rings round his eyes has that because they work long hours to house their family. The difference is they don’t wear suits; however their values,  morals and  money is still the same.

I went to a university in the city,  and, unfortunately I had to repeat my first year. Wasn’t a problem because I was hungry to learn and not fail second time round. During this time my daughter Henrietta and I were going to visit her father who lives in Thailand. I got my results before we went on holiday, I was the happiest girl in the world and not having to repeat another year. I made it to the second year.  I will always remember the exam period. (The noise because building work was taking place.)  Being a single parent with a good future. Well I thought so.

Whilst on holiday I check my e.mails,  “you can’t enter the premises because you had not past two subjects”. One was French and the other was Journalism, well I almost died.  The feeling of feeling like a criminal or rubbish.  Thank God I kept all my paper work somewhere, which was the proof. My holiday  was not so good,  in fact routine.  Basically my holiday was fucked, I just wanted to wake up and be in England sorting out this crap.

But, I couldn’t. I had responsibility – my  6 year old daughter Henrietta.  Had to continue being happy when I was a broken person,  I came back  to England and had to fight my corner for two years.  I was suffering from depression, I weighed 8 stones and went to 6.  Just to have a shower or brush my teeth was an effort.  I would cry most nights in bed, I honestly think I ran out of tears.

I felt I was going into a deeper hole,  struggle to wake up in the mornings, having to get my daughter Henrietta ready for school.  The thought of facing the school, teachers, people, parents in the morning was scary. Because, secretly I was slipping into a dark place. And, I just couldn’t find my way out of this dark hole.

The reason why I felt so passionate about this was because I learned to read and write when I was 30, in fact I learnt my alphabet at City Lit in Covert Garden., when my daughter was  4 to 6  months old.  And, I would make excuses twice a week and say the nanny was on her way to collect my daughter.   The nanny never excised, I never had a family in London,  I couldn’t and wouldn’t leave my daughter Henrietta on her own.  So, I had know choice but to curate this nanny saga.  Back then, I was living in Frognal, off Fincley  road in London.

On my way to Swiss Cottage tube  station I would pick up a cardboard box. So when I arrive at City Lit, I’ll place my coat in the card board box, then lay my daughter Henrietta in the box. I was extremely lucky, she was such a good baby. And, in the end the tutor or tutors would allow me in my break time to feed my daughter, and look after Henrietta whilst I’d  go out for a sneaky cigarette and a sandwich. This situation lasted for over a year, I was very lucky to have great support from every one, including the students. Then I went to college of North West London,  again, similar situation i.e. Nanny. But, i came across my head tudor called Diana Aronstam who was very supportive, and took the time to show me a struture that works in english, eg word association.

I was very impressed by her strength and patients. Diana, really encouraged me and I always felt she wanted that extra mile out of me in terms of checking my assignment before handing it in. In a nut shell she taught me not to be slap dash. All the students loved her. The other tudors were great, she just seem to make such a difference in every ones life. I honestly think, if it wasn’t for Diana Aronstam, I would not have been so confidence, as I’m today. She had made a Huge difference in my life. Which path my way to university.  It was quite a stepping stone.

So, on that note studying  for over ten years to better my self, how could I possibly take this awful  situation lying down. Could you? Would you? Well, I couldn’t. To have a routine for ten years,  To be told not to enter the promise like a criminal is suicidal.  To put these words in a nut shell, life, living, breathing was such Struggle. I t felt like I was co excising, my body was there- but, not my heart. Because as far as I was concern my hearts broken, because I’m a broken person.   I had lost the will to do any thing and each day was a blessing because I was still here.

I have always known  that I suffer from  depression,  the doctor told me when I was 17.  I think life experience played a  part.  I don’t take tablets, but, I make a point of keeping reasonable busy, to avoid falling into that dark hole.

I went to several universities across London. But, when your use to being at one of the top universities, why should I settle for second best. Although, I had mix emotions- I still had my pride; what little was left.

During this period of fighting my corner at this university, I managed to get myself into the University of London metropolitan. The whole experience  was so emotional, I continued taking on the first university, in the meantime I wasn’t going to let this affect my studies. I  just wanted justice.

One thing I did learn whilst fighting a battle, they encourage you to make a complaint to the student union.  In fact they are supposed to support you if you have a valuable stand. Well from past experience, I would advise you not to go down the path because that same day I went to student union for advice,  who were in fact advising me the path I should go down.

That same evening the head tutor who had lost my exam results happens to be getting pissed in a local pub, with the woman who’s taking on my case from student union.  Call me crazy, how could this possibly work.  May not be the brightest person, but, it’s not rocket bloody science to point out this situation   certainly won’t work in my favour.  In house  i.e. Students union  works for people who are head tutors or work at the university.  Maybe not all universities work like this but, that one did.

On a good note,  because I had enough credit from the old university I managed to continue my second year,  with flying colours and work toward my third year.  Half way though I got a letter from the old university asking for me to come in and had a choice to get someone to represent me. But, when I mentioned this situation to my peers. I was advised to let it go, so I took the  initiative to represent my self.

Going to meetings was  particular intimidating  in a sense of sitting round a huge table with tutors and the  head department.   I was very nervous, but, kept reminding myself, that I’m here to fight my corner.  And, if I can’t fight my corner. How could I possibly fight my daughter’s corner if she ever came across a problem.  Anyway, there were a couple of meetings went by, and on the last meeting  we have reached an agreement and I was paid, but, it was never about money, it was about the principle and I did not want this to happen to anyone else,  of which I made a point during the meeting. I finally got justice!!

I continued studying  at London metropolitan university  and from the Grace of God,  I passed my exams and graduated in Psychology  and Sociology.   My  parents and my daughter  came to the  ceremony in 2008. It was one of the best days of my life.  The article I did in the next paragraph was published in the guardian on education.

Mum and Dad never noticed I was failing, but I don’t blame them. They had five children and a busy household, and I hid it well. I muddled through primary school, but within months of starting secondary education I’d been moved into a class for “slow” kids. As far as I was concerned, that was where I belonged, but I still felt ashamed.

I ignored my new classmates and told old friends I’d been moved up to a higher class. Groups of them would walk past the window, arms linked, and I’d duck my head. Keeping my head down became a habit.

At 14, I realised things weren’t going to get better. I’d soon leave school unqualified and unemployable. Everyone would know I was stupid. Unable to confide in family or friends, I ran away from home.

Job prospects for homeless teenage girls are limited enough, but not being able to read created challenges in even the most menial work. As a waitress, I’d pretend to be hard of hearing and get customers to point at the menu, then I’d secretly mark it with a pen.

But it didn’t take long for another opportunity to present itself. You really don’t need to be able to read and write in order to pout in front of a camera. Taking off my clothes for magazines paid the rent and opened new doors. I started mixing with people who had money – rock stars, businessmen, MPs. I’d get taken to expensive restaurants.

Menus had been my enemy when working as a waitress; now that I was a diner in London’s top restaurants, they posed just as much of a threat. I learned to wave them away and ask my date to order for me.

The London A-Z was a mystery, tube maps incomprehensible. If I had to meet someone, I’d repeat the street name to myself until I found a cab. Even then I’d often mispronounce it, accept the driver’s interpretation from embarrassment and end up on the wrong side of town. I added an hour and a half to every journey time.

I avoided situations where I’d have to sign my name. Bills were paid at the post office, in cash. If I had to fill in an application form, I’d take it into the street and ask a passerby for help.

There was no one I could confide in. Having rubbed shoulders with confident, well-spoken people for years, I walked and talked as one of them, but the strong, assertive woman they saw was a charade. If a horoscope was passed around in a group, I’d say it was bad luck to read your own. If someone suggested a trip to the theatre, I’d find an excuse not to go. I was convinced my friends would turn their backs on me if they found out the truth.

The turning point came with the birth of my daughter, Henrietta. How could I expect her to thrive if I wasn’t able to help her with homework? Who would read her bedtime stories, if not me? I was 29, and couldn’t even recite the alphabet.

I enrolled on an evening course but kept it secret from my friends. The childish vocabulary of those early lessons revived the humiliated schoolgirl in me. Reading in front of the class, I felt more exposed than I ever had while naked in a studio. When I reached a word I didn’t know, I’d feign a coughing fit.

Gradually, I started to gain what felt like a whole new sense. Within a year, I was able to stand in front of my classmates and deliver a presentation about the works of William Blake. I shook uncontrollably throughout. Fear does that, but so does exhilaration.

After that first year, I told my friends what I’d been up to. The relief was acute; like letting out a breath I’d been holding for years. I realised how lonely I’d always been. Finally, I was able to be myself.

At college I was diagnosed dyslexic, but misplaced pride had been my biggest problem. Rather than ask for help, I hid. I’m not hiding any more. Show me a wine menu and I’ll mispronounce the names loud and proud.

Today, my confidence is real, and I feel in control of everything I do. I run a guest house, work as a photographer and am about to complete a degree in psychology and sociology.

I look for different qualities in men now. People with money often don’t have much else going for them. I read voraciously – there’s so much catching up to do – but keep returning to Blake. “And by came an Angel who had a bright key/And he open’d the coffins & set them all free.” That’s what happened to me: I was set free.

Antonia Moore

 

4 thoughts on “My Pictures”

  1. Woow!!! Priscilla. Hooked from the first paragraph. Fantastic learning about your determination to achieve and succeed. You’ve always impressed me, but more so learning about your struggle to overcome your adversities. Can’t wait to read on.
    P.S. Happy Birthday !!

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Photography "Just About Life"

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