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Story Highlights

  • The Government’s adult education programme is being hailed by several beneficiaries for enabling them to excel in their chosen endeavours.
  • Administered by the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL), the programme offers persons who, for whatever reason, underachieved while attending high school, or did not get the opportunity to attend a secondary institution.
  • Two of those past students benefitting significantly are: Cleopatra Francis and Joan Ellis-McCormack.

The Government’s adult education programme is being hailed by several beneficiaries for enabling them to excel in their chosen endeavours.

Administered by the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL), the programme offers persons who, for whatever reason, underachieved while attending high school, or did not get the opportunity to attend a secondary institution.

Two of those past students benefitting significantly are: Cleopatra Francis and Joan Ellis-McCormack.

Mrs. Francis is currently a Field Officer at the JFLL’s St. Thomas parish office in Morant Bay, while Mrs. Ellis-McCormack is a Bio Medical Technician at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay. She recently completed the Associate of Science Degree (A.Sc.), majoring in Engineering Technology, at the Montego Bay Community College.

Both women speak glowingly of how the adult education programme helped them to reposition their lives, after initially encountering challenges.

A native of St. Thomas, Mrs. Francis, who has worked with the JFLL since 1995, tells JIS News that she received her formative education at Chapel Hill Basic School in Port Morant, and then Port Morant All Age School.

Mrs. Francis says that subsequently, at age 14, she was enrolled at the then Stokes Hall Secondary School, now St. Thomas Technical High School, entering the institution at Grade Nine, and successfully completed one year at that level.

Her secondary education was, however, cut short in Grade 10, as after completing two months, she was forced to discontinue her studies, “because of financial difficulties.”

“My mother was a single parent, and I had a younger sibling, a brother, who at the time, had just passed his Common Entrance Examinations. So, I had to stop going to school and had to find a job to assist in maintaining the household. I did domestic work, and I also had to use the money I earned to assist my brother, after he started going to Happy Grove High School, in Portland,” she explains.

Not contented to remain a domestic worker, and determined to advance her education and life, Mrs. Francis says after relocating to the St. Thomas capital, Morant Bay, in 1991, she started attending night classes offered by the then Jamaican Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL) Foundation, at Saunders Basic School, located opposite her home.

“My literacy level was discouragingly low. But I had the passion and ambition that I wanted to get some subjects, because I did not want to remain at the level I was at. I heard about the JAMAL programme from friends of mine, inquired further about it…and started attending classes thereafter,” she tells JIS News.

Mrs. Francis says she began at Level Two, where “they were just doing basic literacy,” and within one year, she advanced to Lever Four, at which point the programme was offering English Language, Mathematics, Social Studies, General Studies, and Current Affairs.

In 1992, after completing Level Four, Mrs. Francis secured three scholarships, valued approximately $7,000, among other prizes, which she was awarded after successfully contesting the JAMAL quiz competition. This she contested at the parish level for St. Thomas, where she emerged champion, and at the national level, where she was the overall winner.

“I used that money to enroll in classes at the Seaforth Evening Institute, to do my Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) subjects,” she notes.

Mrs. Francis says this engagement spanned four years, 1994 to 1998, as a result of irregular attendance, due mainly to work. She adds, however, that having persevered, she secured six subjects, with grades ranging from distinction to pass. These include: English Language, Mathematics, Principles of Accounts, Principles of Business, Social Studies, and Office Procedures (now Office Administration).

Mrs. Francis describes aspects of this course of study as “challenging,” citing Mathematics as the main subject posing some degree of difficulty for her.

“The other subjects were okay. But for Mathematics, I had to do it four times before I was successful,” she informs.

Mrs. Francis credits her teachers for the success she and the other students attained, describing their inputs as “very good.”

“I am very pleased…mainly with the manner in which the teachers responded to us as adult learners. Even though we had challenges, the teachers were very patient with us…they encouraged us…and they delivered the materials excellently,” she adds.

One of those, Mrs. Francis points out, is her colleague at the JFLL, Joy Wilson, who taught English Language. She also highlights the support of her family, husband, George Francis, and daughter Natassia.

“My husband is a tower of strength…and has always been there for me, supporting and encouraging me during the difficult times, especially when I was doing Mathematics in the CXC exams. I remember he was always encouraging me not to give up…and my daughter, she has always been there for me, being very supportive,” she tells JIS News.

Mrs. Francis is a member of the choir at Calvary Missionary Church in Morant Bay, where she is also a Sunday School Teacher.

She expresses satisfaction with the benefits she has derived from the adult education programme, as well as the improvements it has undergone over the past 40 years.

“I am 100 per cent pleased with its development from where it was just offering basic literacy and numeracy, to now, where we are offering high school diplomas and giving persons a second chance and, for some persons, third and fourth chances. I am very pleased,” she says.

She encourages persons who might not have had an opportunity to secure a secondary education, or who did not make the most of the one they had while attending high school, to “come and see what we have to offer at the JFLL.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Joan Ellis-McCormack,  a native of Hanover, received her early education at Kendall All Age School, which she attended up to Grade Five.

She subsequently relocated to neighbouring St. James, where she enrolled in Grade Six at Salt Spring All Age School in Montego Bay, and remained at that institution until Grade Nine, at which time she successfully sat the Grade Nine Achievement Test.

She secured a place at the then Garvey Maceo Comprehensive High School, where she boarded, entering at Grade Nine and remaining until Grade 11. While noting that the Garvey Maceo experience was, for the most part “good,” Mrs. Ellis-McCormack did not fare as well in her CXC examinations.

Of the six subjects she sat, she attained Agricultural Science and Food and Nutrition at the General Proficiency level; two basic passes in Mathematics and Electrical Installation; while missing the mark in English Language and Biology.

Undaunted by the results, Mrs. Ellis-McCormack embarked on the road to recovery after graduating from high school in 1988. She secured a job in Montego Bay, at which time she was introduced to a Ministry of Health programme for training Electro Mechanical Technicians, which piqued her interest.

She successfully applied for enrolment and spent three years undergoing training in Kingston between 1992 and 1995. On completion, she was assigned to work as an Electro Mechanical Technician in the Maintenance Department of Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in Montego Bay, where she primarily maintained and repaired equipment, in particular dialysis machines in the institution’s newly established Renal Unit.

Mrs. Ellis-McCormack tells JIS News, however, that she had a hunger and desire to further advance herself academically, and was introduced to the JFLL’s adult education programmes by one of the entity’s Field Officers, while attending a Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) meeting in 2009.

“I decided to try it because I wanted to be in a position where I could achieve more, as well as assist my children with their school work,” she says.

Mrs. Ellis-McCormack tells JIS News that she subsequently enrolled at the JFLL’s centre in Montego Bay in September 2010, and underwent a diagnostics test to determine the level at which she would commence her studies.

She commenced the then High School Equivalency Programme in which she spent two years, during which she prepared for the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) external examinations, focusing on Mathematics, English Language, Integrated Science, and Social Studies, and scoring distinctions in all four.

Mrs. Ellis-McCormack says her husband, Dain McCormack, and sons, 18 year-old Suneil, and 10 year-old Shaquille, have been very supportive, adding that the teachers have been particularly encouraging.

She subsequently enrolled in the Engineering Technology Associate of Science Degree (A.Sc.) course at Montego Bay Community College, and completed her studies in August this year.

“The programme was very tedious at times. But, thank God, I was successful. There were times when I felt like giving up, because I had so many things to deal with. But through it all, God has stood by me, and my family has been supportive all the way. So, I knew that I had to stay the course and complete my studies…and that I did,” she notes.

Mrs. Ellis-McCormack says the pastors and congregation of the Salt Spring New Testament Church of God, which she attends with her family, “have definitely been supportive of me.”

She also has high commendation for the JFLL-administered adult education programme.

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