Shernet Fowler, who will turn 45 next week Monday, has caught the tail end of a fleeting academic dream, and is determined to get a better hold of it.
She recalled leaving Herbert Morrison Technical High School in Grade 10 because she yielded to peer pressure and ran away from her childhood home in Montego Bay, St. James.
Months later, Fowler became pregnant with the first of her four children – Tami-Ann Johnson, who is now a 26-year-old teacher at St. James High School.
Her second daughter is pursuing a degree in Tourism Management at the University of the West Indies; the third is enrolled at Manning’s School; and the last one is attending Savanna-la-Mar Primary School.
“I push my children,” Fowler said. “I tell them that I don’t want any of them to follow my footsteps, because my footstep was heading down to destruction.”
The mother noted that, although she did not complete secondary school, she instilled the value of education in her daughters.
In turn, her daughters – especially the teacher, constantly encouraged her to return to school and pursue CSEC subjects administered by the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC).
Fowler, who relocated from St. James to Westmoreland in 1995, eventually enrolled at the Jamaica Foundation For Lifelong Learning (JFLL), formerly known as JAMAL.
She quitted, but later returned to JFLL and sat four CSEC subjects – Mathematics, English A, Social Studies, and Human and Social Biology.
She, this year, was successful in all four subjects.
Fowler scored the second highest grade attainable (Grade Two) in all of the subjects except Social Studies in which she reaped a Grade Three.
“I feel bright,” she told The Beacon.
“It wasn’t easy. Sometimes I decided that I would quit, but I remember my younger days and said, ‘if I hadn’t quit, I wouldn’t be doing this’. I regret not getting an education when I was younger and when the brain was much younger.”
Fowler recalled sometimes crying because it was difficult for her to operate the relevant technologies to complete School-Based Assessments (SBAs) for the subjects she was sitting.
She also struggled to leap over psychological age barriers.
Now that she has overcome those barriers, she tells her peers: “If you have the passion to do something when you were much younger and you didn’t do it, don’t look at your age and say you are too old now. I thought that once, but, when I went back to school, it made me feel like I am 17. Go for your dream; you are not too old to do it.”
With her newly acquired competencies, Fowler is now better able to assist her two young daughters with their school work.
She said she intends to boost her academic credentials – sitting more CSEC subjects and pursuing higher education to perhaps become a social worker or a psychologist.
However, Fowler, who has to support her young children financially, does not have enough funds to immediately continue her studies.
She told The Beacon that her financial position worsened since April 2013 when she sustained ‘life-changing’ injuries in a motor vehicle crash, which she said fractured her neck and caused her C5-C6 to slip.
“I can’t lift weight; I can’t sit up too long,” she explained.
“The best place for me to stay long is a lying down position. I have constant pain, but I tell myself that it is life and I have to live life like that.”
Fowler further stated that, due to her injuries, she is no longer able to perform jobs such as waiting – which she is qualified to do. In that same breath, she expressed gratitude to the principal of Savanna-la-Mar Primary, Megan Berry, for motivating her and allowing her to work in the school’s tuck shop.
In the meantime, Fowler told The Beacon that, although she does not regret having her children, she regrets running away from home.
“My biggest regret – and I tell my girls, is the day I left my home. That’s the time when I think everything went down for me. I didn’t have to leave home,” she said.
Fowler also appealed for children to stay at home, adding that they should seek help if they are not satisfied with their home experiences. “Whatever you are running down out there, can come after. Make sure you get a career as a young person. If you don’t have the brain, go and get a skill,” she further advised.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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