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Sooklal, 89, hits the books

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Never too late to learn

Ramdass Sooklal, 89, is the oldest male ALTA student and three of his daughters are current ALTA tutors. He attended the screening of The First Grader which was a feature event at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest. Bocas Lit is an annual celebration of books, writing and writers. 


At this event Sooklal, supported by two daughters, read the account he wrote of his journey to literacy inspired by the film. When he finished reading, the audience erupted into loud applause with several persons coming forward to commend him.

Here is what he wrote: 


I am Ramdass Sooklal. At the age of 88 years I went back to school. My lovely daughter encouraged me to sign up to a reading and writing course called ALTA. So like Maruge, I wanted to learn to read and write better. 


Maruge was firmly resolved to go back to school and learn to read. His motivation was his desire to read a very important letter he received from the president. So with persistence, he struggled to accomplish his goals. Nothing prevented this great man from achieving his purpose. 


My eagerness to attend ALTA class stems from my passion for the Bible. The ALTA class helped me improve my reading and writing skill so, in turn, reading the Bible became more enjoyable because I could better understand it. Watching the movie about Maruge inspired and stirred a desire in me to never give up or take things for granted. 


The reasons why I was not able to complete my primary school education at the time, was because on my way home from school one day, a stray dog bit and grasped my ankle, seriously damaging it. 


It took three years to fully recover from my injury. 


During my recovery period, my father, the bread winner in the home, fell ill. I was then informed by my mother that my brother and I will take up the mantle of providing for the household. So my opportunity of a proper education was dashed away from me. 


Later on in life, I got a job as a bus conductor and that boosted up my knowledge as I had to write down information like names and routes. I had to ask the drivers and inspectors how to spell their names and other information. I also later owned and ran a small grocery where my wife, who had more knowledge than me about reading and writing, helped me a bit. 


As a father I try to instil the importance of a proper education to children. My children willingly take my advice. Today, as a result of my hard work ensuring that my eight children got a proper education, I am proud to say that they are doing well. I too, as a result of my ALTA class, am reading and writing much better at 89.



Play your part to build literacy. If you have time, volunteer to be an ALTA tutor, a Reading Circle guide or to assist students on the computer. If your time is already booked, sponsor an ALTA student for the year (TT$500). Call 624-ALTA (2582) or email [email protected]


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