A chat with Sylvie Françoise | 19 December 2019
‘I saw education and going back to school as my saving grace’
Sylvie Françoise is a young Seychellois woman who is currently studying in Malaysia. She recently won the Volunteer of the Year award in Malaysia for the work she has been doing with the disenfranchised people. Seychelles NATION brings you excerpts of a chat we had with this endearing young lady.
Seychelles NATION: Who is Sylvie?
Sylvie Françoise: A mother, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a niece and a student. It is quite difficult for me to define myself because I am constantly evolving. Therefore, I am someone who can never be relegated to a definite box. Either way, my name is Sylvie Françoise, I am 26 and I am currently studying at Asia Pacific University in Malaysia, doing a Bachelor with Honors in International Relations. I am a blessed with two wonderful kids.
Seychelles NATION: Please tell us more about your childhood.
Sylvie Françoise: Hailing from Anse à la Mouche, I had the privilege of having that close-knit community by my side throughout my whole childhood. I never felt for a second that I was alone. The sense of belonging and being appreciated remained with me even until now. I had a normal childhood like most children should have or could have at that time. Unlike today, most children are plastered in front of the television or smartphone. Fortunately for me, technology had not caught on. I had the chance to really be a child and was not forced to grow up too soon. From earlier on, my family instilled in me the importance of education. I remember once, my aunt (who is a French teacher) bought me two French exercise books and she practically forced me to complete all of the lessons in there. I guess that fostered in me the importance of education which remains with me until today. However, the only dynamic missing was having the constant guidance and love from a father.
Seychelles NATION: Tell us more about your teen and early adulthood years?
Sylvie Françoise: My teen years went by smoothly. I had goals of becoming very successful in life. Whenever my raging hormones would start acting up, my mother would put them in check. After I graduated secondary in 2009, things turned downhill quite suddenly. I started smoking and drinking, neglecting my school work and frankly speaking, I do not have any excuse for that and have no intention of blaming anyone. I did my 2 years at A’ Levels and failed miserably. I started working in 2012 and got pregnant with my son. This is a cautionary advice to all ladies: it might sound cliché, but once you see the red flags from the beginning of a relationship, do not ignore them. Do not even rationalize them. It will save you a lot of time and heartaches. Ladies, you are not here to save any man, especially one who is doing drugs. If you are being abused, talk to someone. There is always help at hand.
Seychelles NATION: From your first baby please tell us your journey?
Sylvie Françoise Let’s just say that it was difficult. I was in an abusive relationship and the longer I stayed, it became harder to get out. It baffles now when I think that I actually had a child in that environment. Either way, having my son was a wakeup call. Like I have said, I eventually had the second one and I couldn’t keep doing odd jobs here and there to take care of them. So I saw education and going back to school as my saving grace. And I would want to encourage all single mothers who are struggling to do the same. Always believe and envision a better life for you and your kids.
Seychelles NATION: If you are comfortable can you please tell us how you completed your A levels with a small baby and with zeal you came out with flying colours?
Sylvie Françoise: The funny story is that when I went back to A’ Levels in 2015, I was pregnant with my second child. I did not inform anyone at the school. So, I delivered my baby and went back to school the following week. I risked being deferred for the year, but thanks to Principal Lester, Ms Peggy, Ms Wendy and others who believed that regardless of my circumstance at that time, I would be able to do it. And indeed I did. I graduated; I was best in my class for English Literature and received a government scholarship. If it was not for the support of my family, especially my mother, I would not have made it this far. I owe it all to her. But of course, a lot of people helped me along the way and they know who they are.
Seychelles NATION: How did you end up in Malaysia?
Sylvie Françoise: I received a government scholarship from ANHRD and initially I wanted to go to South Africa to do a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations. But due to the unrest at that time I opted for Malaysia, specifically Asia Pacific University, which was recommended to me by my current housemate Stanio Sally. Being a predominantly Muslim country, it was difficult to adjust to the people and culture and the longer I am here, the more I have become one of them. For example, it has been more than a year that I have been wearing a headscarf out of respect. And by doing that, the Muslim community has become nicer towards me (I would say). I even had the pleasure of doing my internship here in Malaysia with a PR company owned by Anne Edwards. Through that, I’ve had the chance of meeting different political and TV personalities.
Seychelles NATION: We heard that you are also doing extremely well, please share your secrets with other young Seychellois?
Sylvie Françoise: Well, I have no reason not to do well. I have a duty towards the people of Seychelles and I must fulfill that. My kids and my family are counting on me, and they are the ones who motivate me whenever I feel discouraged. Having clear-cut goals, who you want to be and constantly working towards those goals are important. But I am blessed to have an extremely supportive family and housemate. I am fully aware that I am not doing this only for myself but for every single woman, man and child in Seychelles. Once you start thinking of the sacrifice that the whole country is doing to fund your education, then doing your very best will be your default setting.
Seychelles NATION: Another interesting adventure in your life is doing voluntary service and you recently got an award, please tell us more about that.
Sylvie Françoise: Voluntary service is one of the highlights of my stay here in Malaysia. It has been less than a year now that I have been volunteering for a charity group called The Giving Bank. We help the disenfranchised people, e.g. orphans, the homeless, refugees, the disabled, etc… and we visit them every week. We help to spread as much happiness in their lives. For my efforts, I was awarded the Volunteer of the Year award and I could not be any happier. I have always wanted to do volunteer work and since Malaysia is hosting me, I might as well give something back. In the near future, I do have plans to do some independent work with the homeless people. This idea is still in the works.
Compiled by Vidya Gappy