New­born baby pre­cedes a PhD


HERE’S multi-taskers and then there’s Franaaz Khan.

The Morn­ing­side uni­ver­sity lec­turer, who’s used to jug­gling re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and tasks, gave birth to her first child re­cently, cap­ping off the event­ful week by be­com­ing a doc­tor of phi­los­o­phy.

The 35-year-old PhD grad­u­ate is thank­ful ev­ery­thing worked out well.

“I had a nat­u­ral birth and I think it was planned for me to give birth to Nu­rah first, then I could at­tend my cer­e­mony (last Wed­nes­day),” she said. “I was not ready to miss it for any­thing.”

Khan lec­tures full-time at the Uni­ver­sity of KwaZu­luNatal, where she ob­tained her de­gree.

Her the­sis is on the le­gal and pol­icy im­pli­ca­tions of pupil preg­nan­cies in South Africa.

It took six years to com­plete the study.

“It was men­tally, emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally drain­ing,” she said. “I went to 13 pub­lic sec­ondary schools across the prov­ince and one school in Pre­to­ria that caters for preg­nant moth­ers. I sat with young girls and they shared their ex­pe­ri­ences of how they were treated be­cause they were preg­nant or had just given birth. I clearly re­mem­ber one girl telling me her teacher had a chart on the board about study­ing at uni­ver­sity and she looked at the girl and said, ‘but you don’t worry you’re al­ready preg­nant’.

“So to hear these sto­ries and see how hard it is for young girls re­ally tore at my heart­strings and made me want to use my study to­wards up­lift­ing them.”

Khan said she was sur­prised to find an in­crease in the num­ber of preg­nant pupils at the schools she vis­ited. Her study rec­om­mended more schools be built specif­i­cally for preg­nant teenagers so they can learn to­gether with­out the has­sle of be­ing judged by their peers.

“The school that I vis­ited in Pre­to­ria al­lows preg­nant teenagers to stay there and learn, and they also of­fer as­sis­tance. The girls told me be­ing in a school like that helped them not only with their con­fi­dence but they were not stressed out about be­ing judged. But, un­for­tu­nately that school has re­cently been closed,” she said.

Khan vowed to con­tinue to work to­wards up­lift­ing young teen moth­ers.

Dr Franaaz Khan with her daugh­ter, Nu­rah.

Dr Franaaz Khan at her grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony.

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