Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 27th 2014 Contents A7
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Continued from Page A6
Turning a corner
Then one day Debbie Jacob walked
into the prison as a volunteer English
"Meeting Miss Jacob was amazing.
"At first I thought she was just
another teacher, at the end of the day
I just wanted to pass. Then when I saw
her and she was a short white lady and
I was like. Eh, this is for real? What s
she doing here?
"The most amazing thing was that
she was bold. She didn t appear to be
scared and that stood out. She would
be serious and she would talk to you like
peers, she didn t try to talk down to you
or humiliate you," Donaldson said.
Later he was hugely thankful they
had been given a "real teacher," even
though Jacob had told them she had
never taught CXC before.
Jacob recalls the first encounter
slightly differently. Describing her first
impressions, she said: "He was the one
who I thought would give me trouble.
Just murmuring things under his breath
the whole class. If I had to pick out
one of them as a troublemaker it would
After just two classes, Jahmai was
put in "lockdown," and not allowed to
attend class for two months.
"He was always fighting. He had a
short temper," she recalled. "But we
wrote back and forth for two months.
I gave him his homework.
"I soon realised he was one of the
smartest boys I ever taught," Jacob
Though interviewed separately
by the T&T Guardian, the mutual
affection is clear in how they speak
about each other.
Donaldson talks about her
method of teaching and the things
he enjoyed, but he is reticent, per-
haps still slightly embarrassed
about the transition from bad boy
to scholar. He doesn t reveal an
important facet of his learning.
Later, when I spoke to Jacob about
his learning skills, she told me he
read classics: King Solomon s
Mines and The Lost World.
"He loved Jane Eyre.
"That was his favourite classic.
He was a real leader in class,
learned to express himself on such
an amazing level," she said.
During the two months in which
he was banned from attending
class, he realised he liked it so
much that he wanted to be back
there. He even used to hang around
waiting for another student called
Mark to come back and tell him
about class, "everything about it,
even the jokes."
The relationship between the
two has been mutually beneficial.
Jahmai passed his CXCs and is
now studying for a certificate in
psychology at UWI, the prelimi-
nary step to a degree. He wants
to be a social worker or psychol-
ogist, but for now he is very happy
to be working for a living. Realising
that one can earn money through
hard, legitimate and satisfying
work is a revelation and he thanks
his "blessed, blessed father of a
friend," a man called Ken Lee Chin
Sing, who gave him the chance to
work for the Trinity oil company.
"When I came out he grasped
me one time and asked if I was
ready. I told him yes," Donaldson
Now his days start at 5.30 am
and end late in the afternoon. He
is learning everything he needs to
about offshore drilling, gauging,
diving, welding, fabrication and
"I feel great," he said.
As for Jacob, she said: "I
wouldn t know what to do without
Jahmai in my life. He and the other
boys were like a rock. They added
something to my life. We talk a
lot and he has these great insights
which you don t expect of some-
one so young."
Both Jacob and Donaldson both
have their own families they are
very close to. But the bond
between them is a special one.
They have helped to change each
other s lives.
Encounter with 'real' teacher leads to turnaround
Jahmai Donaldson, second from right, with Debbie Jacob and other YTC inmates at the launch of Wishing for
Wings last October. PHOTO: SEAN NERO
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