79 Year-Old Graduates from Literacy Programme


At the recent Yo Si Puedo (Yes I Can) Literacy Programme graduation ceremony, in Gayle, St. Mary, a 79 year-old man sat proudly among his fellow teenage and middle age graduates.
Jepthah McIntosh was only 9 years old when his father died and his primary education came to a sudden halt, as he had to become ‘man of the house’, dimming his chances of going to a secondary school or even college.
“I wanted to learn to read and get a good education and things like that, but when my father passed away, I had to stay at home and help take care of my mother and my sisters,” Mr. McIntosh tells JIS News, adding that while growing up, his dream was to become a doctor.
A few months away from his 80th birthday, Mr. Mack, as he is affectionately called, tried his hands at many things, including being a mason.
“I was never able to read until now,” Mr. Mack says with excitement, noting that all he could do before he joined the literacy programme was to sign an X.
He tells JIS News that when he heard about the programme, he did not hesitate to seek further details and become a part of it, as his main aim was to be able to read his bible, as he is an Elder in his church.
“Let me tell you this, I feel so good in myself now, because being an Elder in the church I have to be able to share the word of God and I often look down on myself, because I could not read, so now that I can help myself a bit and read the word, I feel so proud,” he says.
He boasts about his most recent Sunday school experience when the Pastor’s wife called on him to read a passage of scripture.
“When she called on me to read the scripture, I took up the bible and read it. I was having a minor cold and my voice was a little bit hoarse, but I didn’t allow that to stop me from reading,” he says, lauding the programme and the facilitators at the learning centre for exercising patience, so that he could attain his goal.
Mr. Mack tells JIS News that it is very important for persons to become literate in these times, as the world is moving in a direction where “if a person cannot read, then he is sure to be left behind, because regardless of what it is that you’re doing in these times, if you cannot read, then you are at a disadvantage.”
“When you can’t read, you can go out there and see a sign that says ‘danger’ and you don’t know that it says danger, but after you can read, you can see the word ‘danger’ and know that it is danger,” he adds.
Mr. Mack says that he encountered many challenges in attending classes at the learning centre, but he was determined to learn, and so despite the many obstacles he faced, he pushed himself to get to the location and took his position, which was always in the front row of the class.
“I suffer from a little arthritis in my shoulder, but other than that, nothing else hinders me from coming to the classes. I come here with one goal in mind and that is to learn to read,” he says, adding that he enjoys his teachers as well as being a father, grandfather and friend to his classmates.
Focussing on his workbook at the centre, he says that he was driven by its title, ‘Yes I Can!’. He is encouraging students to take their education seriously and believe in themselves that they can achieve their goals in life.
“Maybe if I had listened to some people out there, they would have discouraged me from coming to the centre. They would probably be saying that a man of my age would not be able to learn anything, but I know in myself what I can take in, so I was confident that I would learn to read,” he says.
“I have not totally reached, because there is still more for me to learn here, so even though I graduated from the programme, I still come to the classes because education can never be too much and I have to get what I can and can what I get,” he said, explaining that ‘can what I get’ means that he has to preserve what he learnt at the centre.
Meanwhile, Mr. Mack’s wife, Olive, tells JIS News that she is overwhelmed at the fact that her husband is now able to read.
“I am proud of him and I feel very good because he is an Elder in the church and sometimes they call on him to do things, so now that he can read, it is indeed good for him,” she says.
Mrs. McIntosh informs that she too is a student at the centre and that she is expecting to achieve great things through the learning process.
One of Mr. Mack’s classmates, Odelle Gray, commends him on his achievement at the centre.
“Mr. Mack is very encouraging. He always tries to bring out the best in us and keeps telling us that, ‘boy if you go on the street and you don’t know something, people can make a mockery out of you, so gain what you can gain from now, so that when you go out into the society and you reach to a certain age, you can respond to people and be more intelligent’,” Mr. Gray tells JIS News.
A trained local facilitator for the ‘Yes I Can’ programme, Shernette Hinds, says the course was carried out over a four- month period and that she was pleased that a student like Mr. Mack was able to complete the course successfully and stand as a proud graduate.
“When he came to us here, he was not able to read, so when I hear him reading now it makes us feel proud and satisfied that what we are trying to do here at the centre, is really not in vain. He is very determined and we love that about him, because it tells us that he is interested in the lessons and above all, he is intrinsically motivated to learn,” she tells JIS News.
She is appealing to persons in and around St. Mary who are illiterate, to become a part of the ‘Yo Si Puedo’ Literacy Programme.
The ‘Yes I Can’ literacy programme in the parish, spearheaded by Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister and Member of Parliament for the area, Hon. Robert Montague, came about as a result of an agreement between the Government of Jamaica and the Government of Cuba, through the Latin American and Caribbean Pedagogical Institute.
The programme is designed to use a special teaching method that links words and numbers in aiding the reading process and has been successfully used in Africa and South and Central America.

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