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McGill Reporter
February 5, 2004 - Volume 36 Number 10
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In focus

Grace Boakye-Agyeman: A mother helping others

Grace Boakye-Agyeman is a social work master's student. She is also an immigrant and a mother of three children, aged four to 10.

Grace Boakye Agyeman
Claudio Calligaris

All those parts of her identity come into her work as the founder and coordinator for the McGill Student Parent Network.

When Boakye-Agyeman came with her husband to Canada from her native Ghana her background was in Christian ministry and education. Work in that field is scarce in Montreal, so she decided to go into social work. At the time, the youngest of her three children was just a year old.

During Boakye-Agyeman's third year of her BSW, she started a network for single mothers. McGill Chaplaincy got on board, providing an internship and office support for the group.

"In return for that, we had to expand the scope of the project, so that what was initially meant for single mothers was expanded to students with children," explained Boakye-Agyeman. Most are graduate students.

Now called the McGill Student Parent Network (MSPN), the group provides monthly support group meetings, networking opportunities and other services to help ameliorate the challenges faced by parents trying further their education at McGill.

"We found that the students who were responding to the project were mostly international students, new Canadians and new immigrants, and students from outside Quebec," said Boakye-Agyeman.

Trying to care for children while pursuing a degree is rife with difficulties, although not always what you would expect. Boakye-Agyeman said that while doing her research, she had assumed the greatest difficulty for students would be poverty. To be sure, this is a factor, but greater still is managing child-care, both formal and informal.

"Formal" child care, like daycare, covers those hours between 7 am and 6 pm during the workweek. "Informal" child care covers evenings and weekends.

Finding child care is difficult enough, but the effects on a student's schedule are many, even if a daycare is found for their kids.

"If a student has group projects — which at McGill is major component — they can't do them outside of these hours. Even on the weekends to access the library, or even just for a few hours of respite, this was a big problem," said Boakye-Agyeman.

Another counterintuitive finding from her research was that international students who came with a spouse were often worse off financially than other families.

"Immigration allows spouses of students to work, but they could barely access the job market, because you need to have the French," she said.

Financial and schedule problems compound — and are compounded by — social isolation.

"You wouldn't find student parents in any of the centres meant for social interaction like sports, common rooms. Not even at Thompson House, which is supposed to be a place for graduate students," said Boakye-Agyeman.

"Students who are parents keep to themselves. So we wanted to do something that would bring them out, and help them participate in the social life of the university. MSPN is one place where that barrier can be broken."

In addition to providing a place for student parents to meet with each other, MSPN has set up a few concrete programs to deal with the unique challenges of student-parenting. Their monthly meetings provide babysitting upstairs, where children of McGill students can make crafts and play with each other, while downstairs parents can share their stories and prepare dinner together. There is a food voucher program for those times when the budget won't cover the weekly grocery bill. And there is a cadre of volunteers who will visit families in their homes to watch the children and provide a break for parents.

There is also an end-of-year party where families can gather for dinner and receive holiday hampers full of goodies for the children. Many of the toys this year were supplied by funds donated by the McGill Associates.

Boakye-Agyeman believes more can be done to support parents on campus. She hopes that once she finishes her degree this year that funding will be found for a permanent coordinator for the group. She points out that much greater resources are provided for similar programs elsewhere. A dedicated residence for students with families would go a long way towards alleviating many of the challenges her group faces.

"I personally proposed that one of the new residences be earmarked for students for children subsidized by McGill. That would allow us to run projects more easily," she said.

"I went to the States, and I found they have a model where single mothers can be housed on campus and have daycare provided right on campus. I do not know why McGill cannot do something like that."

The next meeting of the McGill Student Parent Network will be February 8 at 4 pm at the Newman Centre. Contact Grace at gboakye@yahoo.com for more information, or call Chaplaincy at 398-4104.

There are 37 civil wars going on right now, most them where the world's poor reside. And of the 45 million people who are displaced by wars — refugees, asylum-seekers, people forced from their homes — 80 percent are women and children.

Rosalind Boyd, Director of McGill's Centre for Developing-Area Studies, talks to the Gazette about an upcoming conference on gender and human security.

With Valentine's Day around the corner, the Reporter asked professors to share some of their favourite, heart-palpitating love poems

Selected by Paul Yachnin, Tomlinson Chair in Shakespeare, Department of English

What you do

Still betters what is done. When you speak, sweet.
I'ld have you do it ever: when you sing,
I'ld have you buy and sell so, so give alms,
Pray so; and, for the ordering your affairs,
To sing them too: when you do dance, I wish you
A wave o' the sea, that you might ever do
Nothing but that; move still, still so,
And own no other function: each your doing,
So singular in each particular,
Crowns what you are doing in the present deed,
That all your acts are queens.

— Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, Act 4, scene 4, spoken by the disguised prince Florizel to the princess-turned-shepherd-lass Perdita

Illustration of a heart pierced by a pencil

Selected by Jesús Pérez-Magallón, Chair, and Kay Sibbald, Department of Hispanic Studies. Translations by Sibbald.

Al amor

Dame, Amor, besos sin cuento,
asido de mis cabellos,
y mil y ciento tras ellos,
y tras ellos mil y ciento, y después
de muchos millares, tres;
y porque nadie los sienta,
desbaratemos la cuenta
y contemos al revés.

To Love

Give me, Love, kisses without number,
Bound fast in my hair,
And then, one thousand one hundred,
And then, another thousand and one hundred
And after many thousands, three;
And then, lest anyone keep score,
Let's destroy the tally
And count backwards.

Cristobal de Castillejo (Salamanca ca 1494, Vienna 1550)

Rima XXIII

Por una mirada, un mundo;
por una sonrisa, un cielo;
por un beso...¡yo no sé
qué te diera por un beso!

Rhyme XXIII

For one look, a world;
For a smile, a piece of heaven;
For a kiss... Oh, I don't know
What I would give you for a kiss!

G.A. Bécquer (Seville 1836, Madrid 1870)

...Pero te amo

Yo no sé nada de la vida,
yo no sé nada del destino,
yo no sé nada de la muerte;
¡pero te amo!

Según la buena lógica,
tú eres luz extinguida;
mi devoción es loca,
mi culto desatino,
y hay una insensatez
infinita en quererte;
¡pero te amo!

...But I do love you

I know nothing about life,
I know nothing about destiny,
I know nothing about death;
But I do love you!
Rationally,
your flame is out;
My devotion madness,
my worship delirium,
And to care for you
is infinite folly,
But I do love you!

Amado Nervo (Mexico 1870, Uruguay 1919)

What you cannot do is teach management to somebody who is not a manager, the way you cannot teach surgery to somebody who is not a surgeon.

I think [good managers] are humble, open and good listeners, something we are getting completely away from these days.

Henry Mintzberg, McGill Management Professor who spoke to CNN about the pros and cons of MBA programs. He also believes management is in a downward spin.

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