An African mother and daughter who fled the Sudanese Civil War have made global health education a family affair in Scotland.
When Rose Tibi and her daughter, Carol, escaped the conflict in Sudan in the 1980s, neither of them guessed that Carol would also follow in her mother’s educational footsteps as part of the Institute for Global Health & Development (IGHD) at Queen Margaret University (QMU), Edinburgh.
Both Rose and Carol were both taught by Professor Alastair Ager, Director of IGHD, but 25 years apart.
Rose had been working as a registered nurse in South Sudan for 10 years before fleeing to Scotland, where her husband was also studying at the time. Luckily, she managed to leave South Sudan two days before Omar Hassan al-Bashir took control of the country.
When she sought asylum in Scotland in 1989 with her two young children, Rose did not expect it to be such a difficult experience. At that time there were only six black African families living in Edinburgh. She and her family faced many racially motivated attacks, both in their home and in the streets.
Rose was able to find a job as a nurse in Edinburgh, but facing the inequalities of the early 1990s, she could not find a position equal to the level she had worked at in South Sudan. Being from a culture where education is a priority, she knew she had to up her skills and return to university in order to improve her job prospects.
In 1993, Rose decided to enroll on the MSc International Health at QMU, as she knew she would like to work in the developing world or to help refugees with health issues in the Lothian area.
During her year at QMU, Rose studied the Health Management module with students from a wide range of countries, including nationalities from Asia, Africa and Europe.
Commenting on her experience, Rose said: “I was determined to balance being a full time mum with two part time jobs, as well as studying a full time Masters course at QMU. Although I found it challenging, I eventually graduated from QMU in 1994 and returned to private sector nursing, working mostly in nursing homes.”
Due to her long time interest in maternal health, and with help from her employer, Rose returned to QMU again in 1999 to take the one year Health Visitor course. During this time, she was granted citizenship in Scotland.
Rose added: “I believe both courses I took at QMU have enabled me to be where I am now with my career and life in Edinburgh, as well as empowering me to get a job I enjoy and feel passionately about.”
Since graduating, Rose has worked as a Health Visitor at various locations around Edinburgh, setting up local community groups for new parents where they can share baby massage and baby sign language skills.
Her studies in global health also influenced her to work with local groups like Shakti Women’s Aid, a charity which fights against domestic violence within black ethnic minority groups, and the Minority Ethnic Health Inclusion Service (MEHIS), which is part of NHS Lothian.
Rose’s daughter, Carol, started studying MSc Global Health at IGHD in January 2017. With her background in psychology and counselling, Carol is now able to widen her horizons and apply a global perspective to the topics she is studying.
One of Carol’s modules is Psychosocial Interventions for Displaced Populations. This module focuses on mental health care support for people who are forced to move due to persecution, conflict and natural or man-made disasters. The module is studied completely online – something that was not available when her mother, Rose, was studying at QMU.
In her current and previous role as a support worker, Carol continues to offer emotional support to adults and young people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds facing housing, mental health and addiction issues. She also supports clients to access and link in with recovery and health services in their community.
Carol said: “My motivation to study global health at QMU is both personal and professional. I feel this course would give me the opportunity to fulfil my aims as it covers topics that will broaden my knowledge, including psychosocial intervention, health systems in fragile and conflict-affected states, as well as global mental health and psychosocial wellbeing.
“I’m enjoying learning again after long absence from academia. I’ve enjoyed meeting people from around the world from different backgrounds at QMU. I also enjoy the teaching at QMU as it’s interactive, allowing for discussions and personal experiences to be shared.”
Carol feels that there is not enough support in place for those from refugee communities. In particular, she thinks there is a lack of support for children and young people in dealing with mental health issues. As a result, Carol believes these groups are often left isolated with no outlet, which can be detrimental in adulthood. Carol has seen evidence of this in her own community and many others.
These issues also motivated Carol to enroll in a diploma in counselling skills for children and young people. Based on her own personal and professional experience, Carol believes that prevention and early intervention is the key to reducing detrimental psychological and social risk factors for young people in the future.
Carol added: “My future aim is to work with refugees and vulnerable people, who are often marginalised in developing and developed countries. I feel more than ever there is a need for sustainability and effective resettlement programmes in communities to allow refugees to rebuild their lives.”
Rose and Carol both recommend that prospective Masters students should consider how much free time they have to devote to their studies and how they will support themselves financially during their time at university.
Visit our Institute for Global Health & Development (IGHD) for more information.