women who succeed in scotland

today i am thinking of j.k. rowling, winifred, sue and women whom i met succeeded in life. first, success is defined in various levels but at the core is a woman’s confidence and respect for oneself. j.k. rowling used to write in a cafe where she could only afford one coffee. she had a baby  and was jobless. edinburgh is a beautiful place but has its share of homeless and jobless citizens. i didnt know  how she started until ed and i was told by deborah, our host ,where she wrote harry potter. so we requested deborah for bragging rights, to show us the elephant house and we went there on our last day in edinburgh. in front, the signage in elephant house said ” harry potter was born here ” and as you enter the  cafe, it is a lovely and friendly place, you queue up for your food and drinks, pay the cashier and then sit where you have a view of  the edinburgh castle and a part of  its gardens. ed and i orderd a squash soup with stromboli dish and tap water which a filipino waiter brought. then we imagined jk rowling giving birth to the first harry potter adventure  “harry potter and the sorcerer’s stone.”

many children started to read harry potter when it came out and success reared its lovely head, so to speak. rowling was no longer poor and she could now afford to write in balmoral hotel, the poshiest place in edinburgh where ed and i imagined we could afford to dine but didnt since we figured our pockets were not full.

but back to the main theme, jk rowling  not only encouraged children to read but also adults who were learning-challenged . a new friend, winifred from birmingham told us ” i learned to read when i was 36 years old.” I asked why did it take so long?” Because i discovered myself and what i could do.  i  was not able to read since childhood . it was difficult and i didnt know it was not my fault then. now,it has a name, dyslexia.” winifred narrates ” I had to find a way to get a job and earn a living . ” How did you manage the application forms?” i queried. ” I asked my sister to fill it up and i memorized what she wrote.” when i got a job as a waitress, people would ask about the menu and what i recommend,” she continued,” i had my script ready and would tell them what to order. ” “there were many occasions I tried very hard to read but could only guess which words i could use in a whole paragraph. I couldnt see the lines in p or in b or in capital A. ” “How did you do it ? ” “I went to school when I found out they could correct what I dont see, and a whole horizon opened up. That is the gift of adult learning. I could now read as many books I want and be confident I learn.”   Winifred is one of the learning partners in Scotland’s Learning Partnership and she is active in  consulting with learners and providers to make adult learning a  succesfull program in communities all over UK.

when ed and i were invited  by fiona boucher of scotland’s learning partnership for the adult learning week, i imagined there would be booths where learners would demonstrate what they learned from life, for life. i didnt know it would be a grand dinner party in a five star hotel in glasgow and then a series of learning events all over scotland and UK. i was inspired by the learners and what crises they overcame as adults. there were the dyslexic senior citizens who first read when they were in their golden and diamond years, and returned to their homes literate in the fine sense of the word. i couldnt imagine being unread , as in homeless, for fifty and more years, in a nation so rich with literature, where people are famous for their poetry and prose like  robert burns and walter scott. but there is the paradox, you have both the literate and the illiterate.

so who were the women who succeeded because adult learning is part of governance? many women, from women who have been abused to women who were born with dyslexia and down syndrome. i particularly was touched by one woman who had various challenges , she had down syndrome, a lazy eye and had difficulty speaking but she went to college and stood before us with her self confidence blossoming. i remember families whose children were kept away from school because they had down syndrome, called “mongoloid” children. if only we had what scotland has –  a  policy of providing learning services for adults in the working and lower classes. i told fiona ,deborah ,tracy and her  program partners – julie simmons, john gates, cris, sue and winifred  that we should organize learning journeys with them all over the world. their success is one testimony to what  happens with empowering women and men by adult learning .

i know  now why harry potter was born in scotland. because women can raise  the bar for meeting life’ challenges in scotland. thanks to  the scottish for giving birth to many opportunities to children and adults to read across the world. thanks to fiona, sue, deborah and winifred for devoting time and passion  to adult education . the world is better when women learn to succeed in their journeys.

life is about  learning all throughout life. adult learning is discovering a world full of worthy people who grow inside and around us. these are the poets, artists, writers,essayists,scientists, the knowledge bearers from all walks of life.

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