Thirty-four graduate from AEA's experimental Albouystown programme

Stabroek News
July 14, 1999

The graduation of some 34 students of the Albouystown Adult Education Association (AEA) Junior High School was the high point of the AEA's graduation ceremony held at the National Cultural Centre on Friday evening.

Some 912 students who took part in the AEA's training programmes over the past year received certificates at the ceremony.

Delivering the valedictory address, best all round graduating student, Orinthea Sommersell, said that the occasion was a great one not only for the students, parents and guardians but for the entire AEA and the people of Albouystown "who have taken a new and great interest in us." The students were dropouts from the community high and secondary school system who were recruited into the AEA experimental junior high programme which focussed on remedial type education.

Sommersell's address represented the views of all the junior students who graduated as they all put their ideas into it.

She said that they all went to the school out of curiosity and in her words "We wanted to know what was the use of coming; what difference would that make in our lives, except that uniforms would be different and that our parents now had to pay fees which though comparatively small - seven hundred dollars per month - meant much to our families, who, for the most part are very poor."

She went on to say that in fact "it is no secret that some of us were sponsored by persons of goodwill in the district, and in one particular case, perhaps unique, one of our students who works part-time in his father's business, paid the fees for a classmate out of the amount he received from his father at weekends."

As students, she said that after a time they became close to one another. Rarely was there any malice, hate and strong differences in attitude. Now and again, she said one or two might have lapsed but because they worked in groups and had taken responsibility for the conduct of one another, they settled their differences and got on with what had to be done.

As former dropouts, she said that they were conscious that they had idled away three or more years of study and that it was a tough task to catch up in a short time. "Some topics were brand-new to us, even names of subjects might have frightened us, but the methods used made us regard such things as challenges rather than stumbling blocks."

She added that "we were reminded over and over again that ours was not like the usual post primary school; we were reminded that it was largely experimental and that if the experiment proved successful, in the future many dropouts would have a second and better chance to get ahead with the serious business of preparing for life."

She considered the graduating batch a success showing that dropouts can move ahead.

Commenting on their parents, she said that nearly all of the students were from very poor homes, "most of us from single parents", and because of this, there is always a shortage at home, not only of money, but also of personnel so much so that in preparing for school we faced heavy strains." This included waking early and attending to chores before and after classes because many of their parents came home from work tired and out of spirits.

Some were given a break to study in the last few months and the students' good results after their examinations resulted in much joy in many families.

Now that the students have graduated, Sommersell said that they are asking what next? It is expected that some of the students will be going on to write some subjects at the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) and other examinations which they hope the AEA will assist in but others will need jobs.

The school, she recalled, was formally opened two years ago by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Hydar Ally, whose advice could still be recalled. She said the students were proud that their graduation was evidence that they did not let him down. (Miranda La Rose)

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