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The ones who missed out

Published: 
Thursday, July 20, 2017
ALTA LESSONS Part IV

Marise Warner came on board as an Alta Tutor in 1997 and never left. She has played many different roles at Alta – first as a tutor, then coordinator of one Alta’s venues, facilitator during the annual Tutor Training Course and she now sits on Alta’s Board as the Legal Officer. Today we share the penultimate piece of Marise’s Alta experience which was first published in 20 years of Alta (Alta’s 20th anniversary magazine).

“I believe that the greatest compliment I have received (in the past 20 years at Alta) was that I was a good teacher. The truth, though, is that I often considered myself an unsuccessful one. I lost so many. I could not, even with all the will and all the hope I had to impart, hold on to the young men who passed through my class. There were so many. Two stand out—two men with immense potential who could have led remarkable lives, had just a few things been different.

“One came to me accompanied by his older brother while still attending a reasonably reputable five-year school. He struggled with combination letter phonics but had a gift for technical drawing and did quite well in practical assignments. But, he crossed my path too late. Alta offers no immediate remedy. And, with less than nine months before his CXC examinations, there was not enough time to bring him to a level at which he could do well enough at CXC for him to realise that education was a viable path for him. He disappeared after CXC to assist in his family’s roti-making business, never believing as I did that, with his ability and talent, he could have been an architect—if only our primary school system had met his needs.

“Another was a young man who by his own admission wavered on the cusp of a life of violence. He spoke often of his great anger at those who disrespected him, how he was tempted to retaliate and his struggle to resist what he called “the influences”. He was an eager student and an earnest person, always late because he insisted on going home to shower after work but was always willing to stay back to catch up on what he had missed. One day he simply stopped coming to class, and I was unable to track him down. Both men were ensnared by the cyclonic forces that keep some of us marking time, trapped in a vertical loop. Low literacy limits job prospects and limited job prospects restrict opportunities to become literate. And, as we know, violence is self-sustaining. So intertwined are the root and branch that they are often indistinguishable.”

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