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97 year-old granny goes back to school

97 year-old  granny goes  back to school


For most 97-year-olds, the average day is spent quietly pottering about the house or napping intermittently throughout the day. But not so for Rose Hall resident Lessie Williams.

Still very active – and blessed with all her faculties still intact – Lessie, who lives with her daughter Ellen Williams, helps with the household{{more}} washing, prepares meals using her traditional coalpot, and regularly receives visits from neighbours, family members and friends.

And as of earlier this week, she takes evening classes in Mathematics and English Language!

Speaking with SEARCHLIGHT last Wednesday, Lessie explained that she decided to return to the classroom because she was curious about why some children nowadays are still failing at the two subjects which she excelled in at primary school.

“The classes are going very well – not too bad,” she admitted. “It’s interesting, but it’s different to what I was taught in my day… It’s a different style entirely now.”

The oldest person in her evening classes, Lessie said that she would like to see more older persons signing up for adult and continuing education classes, because learning should be an ongoing thing.

“In my time growing up, I would say that education was not really seen as valuable. People were poor; money was not that flourishing,” she recalled.

Lessie also pointed out that in the days when she was of school age, the roads were not paved and students had to walk a long distance to get to the nearest schools – challenges which the youth don’t face nowadays.

“Children have so many opportunities now and they are not grasping the opportunities at all,” she lamented.

“Look at the opportunities now, and some children are just careless, not concerned… Sometimes I see children going to school and they seem not to be interested!”

Lessie was adamant that a good education is very important, and that many young people these days don’t understand its value.

“If you don’t have education now, you better off dead!”

She added: “The conveniences you have now, in my day you did not have that… Now, you have good roads; you are getting transportation to carry you where you need to go.”

The first of nine children (for her mother and father), Lessie explained that her own education was cut short when she missed out on gaining a secondary school scholarship after completing primary school because she was over the age limit.

Then, at the age of 17, she suffered another blow when her mother passed away, and she was saddled with the responsibility of helping her father to raise her younger siblings. Shortly after that, Lessie got pregnant and was kicked out of home because she had “disgraced the family”, and was told that she was not setting a good example for her siblings.

Fortunately, one of her aunts took her in, and after the birth of her child, she moved to Kingstown, where she worked for many years as a domestic worker. In 1956, she returned to Rose Hall and opened a modest school where she taught children who had dropped out of school.

Although none of her own six children attended secondary school either, Lessie boasted that all her grandchildren either went to secondary school or are currently attending; and she is sure that her great grandchildren will also go on to achieve educational success when the time comes.

Lessie’s daughter Ellen also attends the evening classes, and SEARCHLIGHT had the delight of giving them both a lift to the Rose Hall Government School (where classes are held) last Wednesday, whilst they were walking to the venue.

Ellen said that she is proud of her mother, and is grateful that her IQ is still of a level that enables learning.

“I am glad that my mother has been blessed with the health and strength to be able to come to classes!” she enthused.

However, Ellen lamented the fact that so few persons in the community are taking advantage of the classes.

“There are plenty who need these classes,” she insisted.

“I think that this is such a privilege – the classes are free. And they are not making the most of it!”

Director of the Adult and Continuing Education Unit Frances Palmer said that she applauds persons like Lessie who return to education at a later age, and urged more Vincentians to follow suit.

“We need to stop this behaviour of thinking that once you reach over 40, it’s like you’re dead — you can’t do anything,” she admonished.

Palmer also said that more emphasis needs to be paid to encouraging persons over 30 to continue their education, and not just young people.

“If you focus on the parents and the guardians that are influential in these young people’s lives, you get better results. Research shows that it’s more likely that people who come from families where they have tertiary level education… the next generation goes up – especially if it’s women.”

She asserted that studies also show that when the women in communities are more educated, it has a positive effect on factors such as poverty, infant mortality, nutrition levels and literacy rates – among others.

“When you educate adults that want to come and get involved with education, you change the whole community!”(JSV)