ALTA Trailblazers – Yvonne

i Jul 8th No Comments by

When ALTA started in 1992,
‘adult literacy’ was an unfamiliar term which only a few deemed relevant to
Trinidad and Tobago. Despite the low literacy clearly evident within the school
population, all adults were assumed to be literate. Then, as now, the greatest
hindrance to higher literacy in our nation was the stigma associated with low

More than two and a half
decades on, ALTA looks back to celebrate those students in the 1990s who not
only had the courage to address their inadequate literacy, but took the bold
step to speak publicly of their literacy struggles and ALTA.

We kick off our Trailblazer
series with a two-part article featuring Yvonne Greenidge, the very first ALTA
student to go public. This was a newspaper article on International Literacy
Day 8th September 1994, later followed by an interview on TTT’s Dateline with
Allyson Hennessy.

Here is what Yvonne had to say.

I get a braveness

About two years back I came to
class. A friend told me about this class and I get interested about it. I like
to learn to read my Bible.

It was hard growing up. I lived
in Shanty Town (now Beetham Gardens) and from small would collect bottles from
the dump with my mother.

My mother gave me to a washer
when I was about seven years old and I had to wash heavy clothes by hand for
her before I went to school. I used to take the clothes around for the owners.
So I always reach to school late. (Morvant RC School)

Then I get in a accident at about
eight years. I only is girl. I was carrying some clothes for some person and
them, when a car come round the corner and hit me in the back of my head. I
fall down. I stay a whole week unconscious, so that throw me back a lot.

They say I was to die. So my
mother bring clothes to bury me ̶ a white dress with lace. I still remember it.
They was to carry me in the mortuary. God bring me back.

School was very good before I
got in the accident, but I didn’t learn a lot. I never go back to school
because the doctor tell me I really feel the effect of it. You know, you push
your head to learn something, but like it does get blank. I notice I does know
the words, because I spell ‘children’ and thing, and after, you see it again,
it gone from me. I don’t know if it is the brains. I don’t know what causing

(At class) I’m learning very
much because what I couldn’t have done what I doing now. I get a braveness to
tell anybody I learning to read. I was a shy person like that before. I afraid
to speak out my mind because I might say something, the sentence don’t be
right. I always catching myself when I talking. From the beginning of the
sentence, I going in the middle, and like I myself don’t know what I was
saying. Reading has helped me a lot to clear my thoughts.

You know, this breaking up of
the syllables, it coming kind of easy to me. In church I read ‘Welcome’. Years
I seeing it big at the front and not knowing what it say. But I see ‘come’ and
then I go back and see ‘wel’ and I get it out. I feel so happy.

Next week we continue Yvonne’s
interview and give an update on where she is now.

If you or someone you know is
interested in joining an ALTA-V class, enhancing their literacy through ALTA
Online Level 1 or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email

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