Lifelong Learning – Reaping Much Success
The structured approach by the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning, to engendering a culture of lifelong learning, is in line with the policy of successive governments to raise the quality of human development as a spur to national development. The adoption of a philosophy of lifelong learning is also central to any person’s determination to overcome social and economic challenges. It recognizes that an investment in education is important so as to develop each person’s full potential and to create a competitive workforce. It is also important for socialisation, or helping citizens to learn how to function in society and be successful in life.
The vision for ‘an educated, knowledge-based adult population’ has been the singular pursuit of the adult education foundation, now known as the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL), for some 36 years. The Foundation, beginning with its predecessor, the Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL), remains steadfast to the delivery of basic literacy and numeracy. However, it has transformed itself to address the needs of a world which has seen dramatic changes since JAMAL operations began in 1973. This ‘New World’ demands that individuals acquire new skill sets to successfully compete in a highly competitive workplace.
The JFLL began a process of upgrading its suite of products, modernizing its facilities and re-training its employees, to transform itself from an organization primarily offering programmes of basic literacy and numeracy to one providing a wide range of educational opportunities for individuals 15 years and over. The intent is to provide educational opportunities for 150, 000 Jamaicans over the next five years (2009-2014), leading to improved basic and continuing education and secondary-level certification. Its achievement has been attributable in great part to its national hub which affords easy access for thousands of poor Jamaicans, as well as its network of volunteer and part-time instructors.
The JFLL recognises that lifelong learning is a process, that education is for life and so it does not end when one leaves the formal school system. Indeed, the current concern about the quality of our high school graduates has given rise to one of the Foundation’s most recent offerings: The High School Equivalency Programme (HISEP). HISEP is designed to provide school-leavers, drop-outs and those without a formal secondary school education with a high school education and a Diploma. The HISEP Diploma is equivalent to five core subjects at the CXC level or the General Education Diploma (GED) in the United States. This innovative response to enhancing the country’s educational offering comes against the background of an estimated 700,000 Jamaicans, or 70.0 per cent of the nation’s workforce lacking the basic requirements for today’s workplace.
JFLL graduates can be found across various sections of industry. Some are currently pursuing tertiary studies; others can be found bringing value to the public sector; still others are pursuing HEART Trust-NTA vocational training programmes, while some are focussed on building their own businesses.
One graduate, St. James businessman Larkland Williams has carved out a niche for himself in the tourism sector by building a tour company. He has further enhanced the value of his product by teaching himself German and Spanish. These skills he now uses not only to engage with his clients, but to help others in the city to bridge a crucial communication gap. The JFLL programme gave him the confidence and the requisite educational foundation to make this quantum leap from illiteracy to entrepreneurship. He has even grown to the point where he now sits on the JFLL St. James Parish Committee.
Leaford Lattibeaudiere, a full-time teacher at the Ken Wright Primary School, Portland, since 2003, exemplifies the role which lifelong learning has played in personal and social development. At the age of 14 and enrolled in the 7th Grade, the mother of young Lattibeaudiere concluded that it would not be prudent to keep the youngster in the formal educational system, judging by his poor grades. The anxious mother, encouraged by the feedback she got about the JAMAL Centre on Folly Road, Port Antonio, promptly enrolled her son at the Centre, which he attended for some 18 months.
Mr. Lattibeaudiere, recalling his experience at the JAMAL Centre, admitted to being “very coy” in the first few days among his peers about his enrolment. Soon however, “I was moving like a leaf in the wind. I was hungry to learn. Having done poorly in the formal system, I was prepared to do anything to improve myself.”
Immediately upon his graduation from JAMAL, he was given a sealed envelope to take to the principal of the then Port Antonio High School. Unknown to the youngster, the letter was full of praise for his eagerness to learn and the teachers’ observation of his potential as an educated adult. In 2008, Leaford Lattibeaudiere graduated with his Bachelor of Arts Degree (Second Class Honours) in Counselling and Psychology; this after successfully completing the three-year teacher’s programme at the College of Agriculture Science and Education (CASE) in Portland.
“What the JAMAL programme has done for me was to build self-esteem. It has made me into somebody. “Illiteracy is a disease of the mind, where your eyes are open but you cannot see,” Mr. Lattibeaudiere asserts.
He also noted the care which his instructors consistently showed to him and his classmates during his 18-month remedial phase. He says he is deliberately trying to pass this on to his Grade 6 students and all other youth who cross his path.
In her mid-40s, Dalyn Taylor-Dennie is enjoying life to the fullest. Now a telephone operator at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, she has a new lease on life ever since enrolling in the Jamaica Foundation for Life Long Learning, formerly JAMAL. Dennie started working as an office attendant at the ministry using her vast experience as a household helper. On her way to work one morning, she noticed the sign on the East Street facility and decided to check it out. She went in and found out the programmes that they offered and picked up an application form. However, that form would remain in her bag for a year. "I was having second thoughts because I didn't want people to see me going and saying I can't read or write because that was the stigma attached to it,"
From Long Hills in Westmoreland, she left Kings All-Age School at grade nine knowing only the basics. At the age of 16, she got her first job in Kingston as a babysitter. For almost 30 years, she had various jobs as a helper. Some experiences were good and some weren't, but through it all, she would not be taken advantage of or abused.
Dennie finally completed and submitted the application form she had from the Jamaica Foundation for Life Long Learning. She recalled her feelings on her first day. "On my first day, I was so scared I didn't know anybody there. I liked English but when it came to mathematics, I cried."
Math was always a problem for her, but after three tries, she finally passed the Jamaica School Certificate math. "I was on top of the world. I moved on to level four; we did the same subjects but they were harder. It was at this level that they prepared us for the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) and I wanted to do it."
Though she wanted to do it, it was at the encouragement of one of her supervisors that she tried CXC English language. "I went to the University of the West Indies among high school students. Can you imagine me Dalyn Taylor-Dennie? I got a grade two and not even cloud nine could hold me. I was so happy. Now I see where if you want something bad enough, you can go for it and get it."
Dennie is now doing mathematics and literature in the High School Equivalency Programme (HISEP. "I'm so proud of myself", she said noting that she what she has learnt in mathematics has enabled her to help her nine-year-old granddaughter, Cheyenne, with her homework. Her future plans involve becoming a social worker or an early-childhood officer.
At 24 years old, Paul O. Harding was the delivery man, the watchman, and the news carrier in a little pastry shop in St Ann. Now 30 years later, he is an international entrepreneur who owns his own catering service and is a well-known philanthropist, educator and musician who has travelled to many parts of the world.
Says Harding: “I thought the world was coming to an end when I lost touch with my girlfriend who had moved overseas. I could not read her letters, and a trusted friend who used to help me out decided she had had enough of this ‘dunce bwoy’ pestering her to read letters from ‘farrin’. I tell you - this journey has not been easy. I have had to make many sacrifices to overcome the shame I felt and that others associate with being illiterate.”
As a child, Harding did not see the value of school. After all, his mother had 15 children and none of them could read. No one had a problem with his own inability to read, that is, no one except his grandmother who made sure that he went to school. But unknown to her, the young Harding would cut classes in favour of carrying water for community residents - for a small fee.
"We grew up in a household where we were made to believe that we never cut out fi tek book. Dem seh wi tek after wi uncle and fi wi uncle got the reputation as being the man that dig the most potato hill. Mi don't even think him did know how much him dig, him just agree with anything the boss dem did tell him,"
In the middle of his personal crisis of confidence, Harding heard about the then Jamaica Movement for Adult Literacy (JAMAL), and set about countering his illiteracy. Over the next four years, Harding took to the books with the help of his teachers. His zest for knowledge was such that by 1979, he was the 'brightest' JAMAL student in St Ann.
It was during this time that Harding, now also chairman of the St Ann branch of JFLL, left his job at the bakery and started his own business selling soup and fried dumplings on the streets. Determined to excel as an entrepreneur, Harding got a bank loan and started his first restaurant, "Harding's Burger Counter". Wanting something better, he updated it to "Jumbo's Food" which offers catering services to local and international restaurants. It also boasts a pastry shop and a restaurant.
The Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning, with the support of its partnerships is determined to, by the year 2012 guide the career path of some 20,000 young Jamaicans annually. Meanwhile, its commitment to the country’s education drive is much more far-reaching; the Foundation supports the UNESCO goal of basic education for all by 2015, as well as the national drive towards the achievement of universal secondary education (Grade 11). The systematic widening of its programme offerings is a deliberate strategy not just to expand options, but to fill the potential gaps on the way to success in the non-formal education sector. The ultimate goal is the collective national good – the enhancement of the quality of life in Jamaica. This, too, is a process.
Sources: The Jamaica Observer
The Daily Gleaner
Interviews conducted by Michael Cohen, freelance writer.
Promotional material from the JFLL