58-year-old caregiver goes back to school, earns 5 CSEC, City & Guilds certifications

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

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At 16 years old, Georgia Dyer dropped out of high school, pregnant with her first child.

But even as she went on to start a family, having two more daughters, Dyer never gave up hope of completing her secondary education.

Today, the 58-year-old proudly displays her academic certificates after successfully sitting five subjects in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exam, which is administered by Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC). She has also earned City and Guilds certifications and, buoyed by those successes, says she wants to do a course in psychology.

Motivated by her three daughters and her employers, Dyer said she made the decision to sit the exams when she was 54, after years of consideration.

Dyer, who is a caregiver for a 96-year-old woman, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that money and the fact that she wanted her three daughters to finish their schooling were the determining factors that delayed her return to school.

“I was thinking about the payment... but it was always in the back of my mind. Then I heard about this place, JFLL (Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning), and I was very much interested, and the payment package was good, so I started there,” Dyer said.

The JFLL is an agency of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information charged with the execution of adult and youth lifelong learning interventions from basic literacy to the secondary level. It is the successor organisation to the former JAMAL (Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy).

It offers programmes such as the high school diploma equivalency, which targets learners 17 years and older, and is based on a “second chance” concept with the intention of providing individuals, like Dyer, with access to continuing education opportunities in pursuit of personal, professional and academic goals.

“In 2014, I started JFLL. It was just like basically grade nine to 10, what they call intermediate class. I moved on from there to the proficiency [level], which would be the CXC level. But during the course of that time I was introduced to the Jamaica School Certificate (JSC) exam, so I did that and I got five subjects there,” Dyer explained.

Her grades in that examination were a distinction in civics, credit in English language and mathematics, and pass in general science A and history.

The JSC examination is generally taken at the end of Grade 9.

“In the following year, I did City and Guilds maths and English stage one and stage two, and I was successful with that. In 2016 I did my first CXC subject,” she continued.

Dyer graduated last year with a grade one in English language, grade two in electronic document preparation and management, and grade three in mathematics, social studies and human and social biology.

“To be honest with you, I am happy for it. I am proud of myself, but it's not like I have a chip on my shoulder, no. But I am really, really happy that I stuck it out, because it was really challenging,” she said.

Dyer credited her daughters 41-year-old Tomieka Donigan, 35-year-old Tanya Donigan, and 26-year-old Jody-Ann Brown as her biggest cheerleaders.

Her employers, too, were also instrumental in her achieving her goals. “They really encouraged me and helped me with like the payment process, school fees, and so. They were my biggest motivators,”she told the Observer, adding that the elderly woman who she cares for is like a grandmother to her.

The course of study saw Dyer attending night classes, some of which, she said, included people her age, but the majority of them younger.

“Most of the classes, I was the oldest, so I just dubbed myself the senior citizen of the class,” Dyer said. That seniority, though, gave her the opportunity to motivate the youngsters.

“I said 'Look here, you see my age, I am in somebody's place, so unnu don't waste unnu time and when unnu reach my age unnu deh here inna somebody's place',” Dyer recalled telling them.

Yesterday, Dyer's youngest daughter, Jody-Ann, who is an accounting clerk and is currently going back to school for official certification, expressed excitement at her mother's achievement.

“I am proud; very, very, very proud…and hopeful because it's interesting. You're growing, but then you're also watching them grow, like as parents, as people, and she has been saying it for some time before she actually did it,” Jody-Ann said.

“Just hearing her say she wants to do it and then actually doing it, especially at her age because I don't know that even right now I'd be interested at all in doing CXC maths again but she did it, and I am very proud,” Jody-Ann added.

With the achievement under her belt, Dyer said she now has more plans to go back to school.

“I don't finish yet. I'm just taking a break because my brain kind of tired right now. I want to do something in psychology, if it's even a three-month course, but I really love psychology…I just have to do something in psychology,” she told the Observer, her voice a mixture of calm and firm conviction.

Dyer is hoping that her experience will encourage the younger generation to realise that it's never too late to go back to school.

“For the younger people who think that they can't make it after one baby or even three babies... I have three and I went back to school and started my journey. So there is hope for us or for you guys. Please make use of the opportunity because education is key; that is, the passport to success,” she said.

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