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Footprints: Thelma Stewart - A trailblazer in education

Published:Monday | July 20, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Thelma Stewart

Thelma Stewart was born to Samuel and Ivy Stewart in the rural town of Frankfield, Clarendon, 94 years ago.

Being of humble circumstances, she realised that education was the route to take her places. She was an 'A' student from the word go, excelling at the pupil teacher's exams, and at The Bethlehem Moravian College - Malvern, then continuing the tradition at Pratt Institute of Technology and Columbia University in New York.

She was to top it off with a doctorate in education from Walden College in the early '80s.

While on this journey, she taught in several schools across the island, where she was a great inspiration to teachers and students alike. Also of note, she cared for her younger siblings financially and ensured that they were making use of educational opportunities.

She was a caring person who stressed to others the importance of sharing with the less fortunate.

After completing her master's at Columbia, she returned home and joined the Ministry of Education as an education officer, eventually attaining the position of senior chief education officer.

She brought much innovation, vigor and foresight to those positions.

Stewart was one of the pioneers who conceptualised and implemented the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), and Professor Sir Roy Augier remembered her sterling contribution to the inaugural committee.

She wrote some of the CXC textbooks on home management, and was an examiner for many years.

Stewart was also managing director of the Family Life Education programme in the Ministry of Education, a project set up to introduce the subject in schools. She wrote handbooks on the subject. These were in demand both in Jamaica and further afield.

In later years, she wrote a book on the elderly, which outlines a wide range of topics pertaining to the elderly, the process of aging, caring for and nutrition, investment, wills, etc.

She served on numerous committees, particularly those dealing with population, the elderly, and home management.

Stewart is survived by seven of her 11 siblings and many other relatives and friends.

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