When Ebony Curtis, now 22, fell pregnant at 15, her dream to go to university and complete a law degree wasn’t impacted. If anything, she says, it was strengthened.
‘Having kids, you have extra determination. You’re not just doing it for yourself anymore.’
Ebony, the first person in her family to attend university, said she was motivated to study law ‘to have a good career, be a role model and provide financially so that [her] children had the best future possible.’
But completing a full-time law degree and looking after two children, Ruby, 6, and Archer, 3, certainly comes with its challenges. Ebony said the most difficult part of being a mother and studying at university was ‘the juggling act [of] trying to find the right balance.’
Ebony says that when her children are at school, day care or asleep she is ‘trying to get as much work done as possible I can spend quality time with them later. Because it’s not a huge amount of time that I get with them when I’m in semester.’
‘I am struggling with that because these are the years my children are growing up and they’re never going to be this little tomorrow or in a year…I struggle with guilt a lot.’
‘If I’m not studying I’m guilty because I’m not studying and if I'm not being present [with my children] I’m guilty because I’m not doing that.’
There a few facilities on campus which assist mothers like Ebony. While there is a childcare facility on campus, it is in high demand and has long waiting lists. Furthermore, there are no learning plans to bridge the gap between university courses, often designed for young people without children, and mothers like Ebony, whose circumstances are very different.
‘There’s no pathway specifically tailored to someone who has children or who has to care for another person.’
‘There does need to be some strategy, plan or policy in the university for women who are pregnant or have children because we don’t have the same freedom to study in the way expected by course frameworks’ Ebony said.
To support mothers attaining an education outside of the university and school framework, Ebony has been working with the Brave Foundation since 2011. Brave is the only national non-for-profit organisation that supports expecting or parenting teenagers.
As an ambassador to this organisation, Ebony encourages young women with children to continue their education.
‘I've been a representation [to pregnant women and young mothers] of what can happen if you do have the right support.’
As a testament to her success, Ebony has recently been asked to be a director of the board.
Although she has a goal of being a lawyer and a passion to inspire other young mums, Ebony says that her biggest hope is to be ‘a good mum and able to juggle [wok life balance]’ so that her children feel that their mum is present in the early years of their lives.
Story by Rachel Hay