Re­turn­ing learn­ers find sec­ond chances at Sophia night school

Stabroek News Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Than­deka Per­ci­val

At 42, Ni­cola Cle­ment is both a mother and grand­mother who has spent years sup­port­ing and cel­e­brat­ing the aca­demic achieve­ments of those around her. Now she is the one be­ing cel­e­brated.

Cle­ment is among stu­dents of the Sophia Night School who have gained passes at the Caribbean Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion Cer­tifi­cate (CSEC) ex­am­i­na­tions.

Cle­ment her­self was able to se­cure a Grade I pass in English A and a Grade III pass in Of­fice Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Yes­ter­day, fight­ing tears, Cle­ment, a li­brar­ian, told the new­est reg­is­trants to the night school’s CSEC pro­gramme of just how much it took for her to per­se­vere and com­plete her mile­stone, more than 20 years af­ter leav­ing high school.

“I have four chil­dren and one of them got 10 sub­jects and some­times she does wan show off on me with she big words but when I see this pro­gramme on the TV, I say, ‘Ni­cola this is your chance.’ They at home don’t want to help, they ain’t got the pa­tience but here once you push your­self, once you keep try­ing, they will work with you,” she ex­plained.

Speak­ing with Sun­day Stabroek at an ori­en­ta­tion at the Sophia Train­ing Cen­tre, Cle­ment added that though fi­nan­cial cir­cum­stances meant she did not get a chance to write CXC, she stands as a liv­ing ex­am­ple and proof that if you put your time and ded­i­ca­tion into any­thing, you can achieve your goals.

The night school is op­er­ated by the Sophia Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (SCDA), with fund­ing from the Of­fice of the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­vi­sor on Youth Em­pow­er­ment Aubrey Nor­ton.

SCDA Pro­gramme Direc­tor Leroy Adol­phus told Sun­day Stabroek that while he is proud of this year’s per­for­mance, he is hop­ing to be able to at­tract pri­vate sec­tor sup­port to ex­pand the reach of the pro­gramme.

Presently, the school has reg­is­tered 80 stu­dents for this year’s English Lan­guage class alone, which is much more than the fa­cil­i­ties at the Sophia Train­ing Cen­tre can ac­com­mo­date.

Adol­phus ex­plained that the teach­ers are paid through the Min­istry of the Pres­i­dency but the pro­gramme, which is one of three pi­lots, is still in need of ma­te­ri­als, such as fur­ni­ture and other teach­ing aids.

“There are sim­i­lar pro­grammes in Fes­ti­val City and Soes­dyke, which like this one, emerged when Nor­ton recog­nised that many in the com­mu­nity had two or three sub­jects. The thresh­old for em­ploy­ment and fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion is five sub­jects so this emerged as a means to build the res­i­dents to that thresh­old,” Adol­phus ex­plained.

He noted that as some­one who holds a Masters in In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and De­vel­op­ment he de­cided to use his skills to as­sist the mem­bers of the com­mu­nity, in which he has lived for 10 years.

“I could not have these skills and not use it to help my own com­mu­nity. Sophia is a space where the nar­ra­tive can some­times be too neg­a­tive. I and the other mem­bers of the de­vel­op­ment as­so­ci­a­tion want to show that even in a space where the so­cioe­co­nomic stand­ing is be­low av­er­age, much can be achieved. Our motto is ‘Em­pow­er­ing through Com­mu­nity Par­tic­i­pa­tion and De­vel­op­ment’ and that is ex­actly what we hope the pri­vate sec­tor can help us do,” Adol­phus stressed.

“It’s about giv­ing peo­ple sec­ond chances,” he added.

Artist Alice Cameron knows all about what a sec­ond chance can do for you.

The busi­ness­woman, who se­cured re­sults sim­i­lar to Cle­ment, noted that it was a chal­lenge as an older stu­dent who has not stud­ied for years and it was dif­fi­cult for her to get back into the right mind­set.

“I am grate­ful that I was able to get good grades and I am ready to move on and fur­ther de­velop my­self,” she told Sun­day Stabroek, while not­ing that if not for the sup­port of her fam­ily and fel­low stu­dents at the school, she would not have per­se­vered.

Both Ni­cola and Alice will be re­turn­ing to the school; Alice to pur­sue Math­e­mat­ics and Ac­count­ing so that she can build her busi­ness and Ni­cola to pur­sue Math­e­mat­ics.

They will be joined by an­other class­mate, 32-year-old mother of six Chan­drawat­tie Ally, who was grate­ful to the night school for help­ing her to gain a Grade III pass in English.

Ali noted that hav­ing achieved poor re­sults when she first wrote the ex­ams in 2002, she was dis­cour­aged but this suc­cess has bol­stered her and has made her will­ing to con­tinue to work for more.

The Sophia Night School is cur­rently of­fer­ing classes in English Lan­guage, Math­e­mat­ics, Elec­tronic Doc­u­ment Prepa­ra­tion Man­age­ment, So­cial Stud­ies, Prin­ci­ples of Ac­counts, Prin­ci­ples of Busi­ness, Of­fice Ad­min­is­tra­tion, In­te­grated Sci­ence, Hu­man and So­cial Bi­ol­ogy and Agri­cul­tural Sci­ence.

Ni­cola Cle­ment tells new stu­dents at the Sophia Night School about her chal­lenges.

Sophia Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion Pro­gramme Direc­tor Leroy Adol­phus (at left) lis­tens as Alice Cameron tells her story.

A sec­tion of the group present for ori­en­ta­tion at the Sophia Night School.

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