Fri | Mar 23, 2018

Mom goes for Maths - Finally literate at 46, grand mother aims at external exams

Published:Sunday | January 24, 2016 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
JFLL graduate Veronica Robinson 'beats the books' as she gets ready to sit four CSEC subjects.
Robinson, with books in hand gets ready to face the world.

At 46 years old, Veronica Robinson is about to sit CSEC mathematics for the fourth time.

But while fearful, the high-school dropout is also excited because she has been approved to do four subjects in the upcoming regional examinations, which she hopes will help to qualify her for a full-time job.

Getting pregnant when she was just 15 years old had derailed Robinson's professional ambitions as she had to drop out of school. But the introduction of the Government's High School Diploma Equivalency (HSDE) Programme in 2014 has bolstered her confidence and has given her the impetus to go after her dreams.

Robinson was one of 5,700 adult school dropouts who signed up with the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL), which administers the HSDE programme.

She has been steadily improving her grasp of various subject areas and, come May, she, along with several other school dropouts, will try to secure CSEC passes in an effort to become certified high-school graduates.

Although Robinson sat both mathematics and English independent of the JFLL some years ago, she was able to secure a pass in only English. Come May, she will be sitting mathematics again along with social studies, biology and a business subject.

"I have a problem with maths. I have done the maths three times and I have got four the three times," the mother of four confessed to The Sunday Gleaner.

"In class, I am all cool and do all that I can do, pass test, end-of-year test, everything quite fine, but when it comes on to the CXC, I have nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and everything. I am praying to God that I can overcome that fear," added Robinson.

For a long time, Robinson was content with just helping to give her children the educational opportunities that she had to sidestep so she could go out and make a living to guarantee their well-being. But then reality hit in 2008.

"I got redundant from JUTC in 2008 and I saw an advertisement in the paper about the Canadian programme, and I went by the Ministry of Labour and applied for it, and when I did so, I had all the criteria to go on the programme, but I didn't have any school-leaving certificate because I got pregnant in school and dropped out from grade 10," she said.

Robinson knew then that she had to get her CSECs, but then she found that most of the private schools offering classes in preparation for the examination were charging more than she could afford.

Although she had always heard about the JFLL, formerly JAMAL, her decision to visit the agency was primarily due to her need to assist a friend. She went there to find out how her friend could join the programme, and the information she gleaned motivated her to join as well.


The HSDE programme is based on a second-chance concept, where those over 17 years old and without a school-leaving certificate are given an opportunity to become qualified.

The programme is three-tiered with a basic, intermediate, and proficiency level.

"As the core product of the JFLL, the HSDE has completely replaced the High School Equivalency Programme and the JAMAL Literacy programmes, as it incorporates and supplements all the material of the two programmes to provide learners with a three-level programme that allows them to qualify at the basic (grade 6), intermediate (grade 9), and proficiency (grade 11, CSEC) levels," explained executive director of the JFLL Worrel Hibbert.

Robinson believes the initiative is a good one as she has come to realise that not having academic qualifications in today's society comes with a number of consequences. Her self-esteem has improved significantly since going back to school.

"You can enhance your abilities, your self-esteem and everything at the same time, because you know sometimes you are talking to people and they are using certain words, you don't know what it is, and so you have to wonder how to answer. That used to reach me. You have to know when to use a word and the right way," she said.