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She left on Sunday

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When I first met Petra Paul, some fourteen or so years ago she was a maid /helper at a restaurant. Instantly, she portrayed a robust presence reinforced by an intelligent mind seeking higher heights. When I saw her again, a few weeks ago, she had come to inquire if her mother’s Possessory Title could support a loan for her. I told her that it had no commercial worth so the banks would not do business with her. Then her story unfolded. {{more}}
Crushed by poverty and other enfeebling circumstances (a paralysed mother) she was forced to contain her ambitions and seek work as a maid/helper at the early age of sixteen years. For the last fourteen years, still focused, she engaged herself in academically uplifting challenges and pursuits. The loan she sought was to enable her to pay her way, at least for the first year, at the University of the West Indies to which she had just been admitted to read for a degree.
The conviction, eagerness and hope all hinging on expectation changed course to bitter disappointment in a flash. I, too, felt every ounce of it. Then, as she struggled with her emotions and her future she became choked for words and ideas. A thought echoed in my mind.Why not drop the education oriented Prime Minister a little note pleading for deserved help! The note was written on the 12th of August 2004 and hand delivered at 3:23 p.m. that very day. By 4:09 p.m. I got a direct call from the Prime Minister saying: ” Tell her she is on her way to UWI, let her go to Mr. Glynn.” Within a week or so after seeing Mr. Glynn the whole thing was neatly stitched together. Since then it has been a gleeful, beaming, positive and sure-footed Petra. Self fulfillment was now in sight.
No longer is education, at any level, the preserve of the few. Without question, there are many ‘Petras’ known and unknown. It was President John Kennedy who said ” Our progress as a nation cannot be any swifter than our progress in education”. The limitations of time and space do not permit me to dilate on the virtues of education save to say that it has transformed individuals and nations. The economic super power Japan was built on education and continues to thrive because of education. Several countries in the Pacific basin owe their take off into modernity to their education programmes and strategies. The industrialized, scientifically and technologically developed west owes their many accomplishments to continuous education over the centuries.Only the lame of mind and the downright mischievous can be bold enough to hold forth arguments hostile to the pursuit of education as a tool for development.
The shouts of acclamation on our educational front can best be summed up in the opening lines of the editorial of The Vincentian of Friday, September 3, 2004: “This is indeed a good time to be young, intelligent and living in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.” Youngsters lap it all up-let education be an aim for its value in use. Let no one dampen your spirits! After all, beyond the social and material benefits it frees you from being trapped in blissful, self-righteous ignorance, untouched by an enlightened mind.
By the way, Petra left on Sunday, September 5, for UWI. Bet me! If I am to see her in five or so years time she may well be Dr. Petra Paul.

l Writer’s note: Personal details withheld, including address and correct name of Petra. In all other respects this story is true in substance and in fact. The message to be conveyed is what is of paramount importance.