The typical college student living in hostels and taking on campus classes is no longer the norm. An influx of students such as the working class comprising young parents and even older ones has become the non-traditional students. Factors such as career advancement and self-fulfillment have seen student mothers with young babies go back to college.
A study done by Allen and Seaman (2010) revealed that three-quarters of the institutions surveyed reported that the economic downturn in the U.S. has increased demand for online courses and programs. Colleges and universities have become more flexible in their approach, offering day, evening, online, accelerated, and mixed-modality courses and programs to accommodate an older population of adults who have responsibilities such as families and mortgages. Student mothers are a unique student population because they face many obstacles to educational success in part due to child, family, work, home as well as financial responsibilities.
This trend can be associated to a modern world where there is an increase in the economic, social and environmental changes and challenges, resulting to a rise in a great need for Adult Learning defines adult learning as education that is specifically targeting individuals regarded as adults, by the society to which they belong, to enhance their technical or professional qualifications, to further develop their abilities, to enrich their knowledge with the intention to complete a level of formal learning, or to acquire knowledge, expertise and competencies in a new field or to refresh and update their knowledge in a particular field.
Among the adult student population, non traditional students have become one of the fastest growing population. Besides being students, they have multiple roles such as employees, spouses and parents. These multiple roles present challenges in their academic experiences. Female adult students have significantly more time constraints and role conflicts.
Gabriel posits that Adult and Continuing Education Programmes have a very important function in the development aspect of any given society, such as in reduction of poverty and attaining Millennium Developmental Goals (MDGs). The cost of living has become significantly high and few families are able to comfortably meet their needs on the one salary drawn by the male head of the home. This has led to an increase in women embarking on or improving on demanding but financially satisfying careers.
According to the Institute of Economic Affairs, the mothers educational level largely determines the wellbeing of their children, their education and even their development to become productive adults. Post graduate education has reformed globally over the last decade. There is a tremendous change in the enrollment of students in public and private universities. Ling and Wang’s study found that female adult student’s re-entered schools for the reason that they intended to catch up with other family members or become role models for their children.
Institutions of higher learning have recognized the need for making learning accessible to everyone. Consequently they have made a provision for flexible learning options for adult learners with work and family commitments. They have tailored programs such as distance learning, part time and evening classes where those working full time can enroll. However, the majority of these women seeking higher education have families thereby other roles such as wives and young mothers. This therefore then means that they have to look for hired help commonly referred to as house helps or nannies to take care of the children and manage the household chores. Daily activities such as feeding of the infants, changing of nappies or diapers and playing with the babies then falls into the job description of the hired help. These are activities that experts on child development have confirmed to be fundamental to a mother-child connection.
The number of student mothers entering University in Iran since 2001 has been increasing with female students being the majority. Combining motherhood and studying without compromising the activities of either is a huge dilemma for student mothers. In 2015, a qualitative study was done to explore and describe the experience of Iranian female students with the role of motherhood. No limitation was set on the children’s ages as an entrance criterion to accommodate maximum diversity. Student mothers in Iran pursue higher education due to recent evolutions in the global economy, to attain more skills, meet employer’s expectations and further create a better life for their families.
In the findings the student mothers mainly preferred their family and children over their studies. They also had an emphasis on seeking an appropriate caregiver to mind their child. Stress and worry about their children’s welfare was a constant factor. There was the feeling of being guilty and selfish for not being there wholly for their children. The number of female student-mothers entering campus have increased worldwide and majority of these female students corresponds with their reproductive age. The existence of adult learners who are mothers raises concerns on how they play the two roles since undertaking the two roles even in an ideal situation can pull an individual in two directions.
Berg and Mahmuteput forth that without proper childcare, taking on a student role becomes very strenuous for a mother. The results of this study in Iran showed that when the roles of mother and student overlapped, student mothers always made their children and families a priority. One of the most outstanding aspects that the student mothers discussed was the selection of an alternative and reliable method of childcare. This too has been my personal experience at Tangaza and that of the mothers that I have interacted with. Studies can always be deferred unlike the attention that children must be accorded.
In the United States of America, a study by Erk, explored how student mothers made multiple sacrifices to overcome obstacles in a bid to gain success. For example, they were ready to lose out on any of their educational goals if they needed to spend time with a sick child. Their fear of losing a child to sickness while the mother was away pursuing higher education was greater than failing in their academics. They chose to spend time with their child up to recovery. The end result was that when it was examination time, they were not successful because the time to prepare was inadequate.
In the Philippines, an exploratory study on how college student mothers manage their dual roles was carried out using in-depth interviews. The respondents discussed the need for more time to bond with their children but having to prioritize their school work which translated to less time spent with their babies. They reported that this lack of time forced them to skip classes and other school related activities to enable them create a little more time for their children. One role had to be sacrificed for the other to be fulfilled. The role of alternative childcare as with the other studies was widely discussed. Most student mothers had to look for other people to provide childcare while they pursued their studies. All the respondents reported to feeling disconnected from their children because they are not always with them. This study concluded that student mothers have myriad difficulties in managing their time leading to lack of time with the baby and hence resulting in the baby being closer to the main caregiver than to them.