It was a double celebration for the Hansraj family as both Sharda Hansraj and her daughter Kajal graduated this year from UKZN. Hansraj received her Masters degree in Education while Kajal will graduate with an MBChB (medical degree) from the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine.
‘It is an amazing feeling to finally get my Masters degree, more so because my daughter and I are graduating from the University together. I still can’t believe it. But we were both very supportive of each other and I am so proud of her,’ she said.
Hansraj’s Masters topic looked at refugee education with a strong focus on the issue of language.
‘I am a language educator and I am aware that many refugee children cannot be educated at the school of their choice because the language policy of a school can limit their enrolment options,’ she said.
‘Hence the study investigated the language policy of a school that accommodates refugee learners and how that policy actually assists refugee learners. It also investigated how the language policy of the school and the efforts of the institution assist or impedes the refugee learners’ ability to cope with the South African curriculum,’ she said.
As a full-time language teacher, Hansraj said she owed much of her success to her Supervisor Professor Reshma Sookrajh and her own strong family support system. ‘My husband and children helped with proofreading, the statistical analysis of the data collected, and with words of encouragement. My husband would sit up with me even if I worked until 2 am every night.’
Kajal described her mother as a major source of inspiration: ‘I am so proud to be graduating in the same year as my mother. She impressed upon my brother and me at a young age the value of education, and the completion of her Masters degree has inspired my brother and me to follow her example and continue with our studies.’
Kajal said it was impressive that during the completion of her degree, Sharda was still able to fulfil all the responsibilities of mother, wife and model employee. She even completed her fourth year of Hindi, being placed fourth in the national Prakash examination.
Offering advice to other students, Sharda said: ‘Listen to your lecturers and your supervisor. Follow their instructions. Work every day. Read as much you can on your area of study.’