A market vendor who fills her bags with CSEC subjects
Meet Petagay Pinnock — story of hard work, determination paying offSunday, October 24, 2021
BY ROMARDO LYONS
While filling customers' bags with vegetables and ground provision, 31-year-old Petagay Pinnock, a market vendor, filled her bag with Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects.
As she served customers and made change after their purchases she was in virtual classes at her stall taking notes.
After dropping out of school due to teenage pregnancy, Pinnock wasn't able to sit the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) papers then. And so, she joined her mother selling at Coronation Market in western Kingston.
Today, after attending evening classes at Mountain View Academy, she has bagged five subjects — a grade one in principles of business, English language and human and social biology; grade two in social studies; and a three in mathematics.
“I'm overwhelmed with my achievement, because I left school at the age of 15. I was always going back, but was never able to finish because of financial issues or just not making the time. The moment I saw my grades, I cried. It took about two hours for me to calm down, because there were so many doubts that I had in myself before results came out. I graded myself with a two, three threes and a four, not knowing all my nights staying up [and] forming study groups would pay off so positively. Even now I can't believe I got three ones,” Pinnock told the Jamaica Observer.
“I started selling in the market because my mom does it. At first, it was with her and she would pay me, and then I got pregnant again and was at home for a while. Then I started working in a bar to make ends meet. I went to HEART to do food preparation and only did level one and stopped. After that I started to sell for myself for a couple years,” the Rockfort, east Kingston, resident said further.
Pinnock told the Sunday Observer that she got pregnant with her third child and then continued selling in the market. She has two sisters who were already vendors and, as a result, she said her mother told her to get her act together.
“My mom was in my back telling me that I should go and do something with myself, because she don't want so much of her kids in the market selling,” she recalled.
“So, I told her I'll come and sell with her and go to school to do some subjects, because no one going to hire me without qualifications. It also made going to school easier. It worked together well. I would reach town by 5:00 am, sell, then bathe in the market and reach school every day by 5:00 pm or earlier. And, yes, selling also helps me take care of my kids and myself,” she said.
Janet Findlay, her mother, told the Sunday Observer that she is on cloud nine.
“When she shared the results, I was so happy. I went and tell all a mi friend dem. I am joyful and very much proud of her. I knew that she could do it. Mi just happy. She decided to do this thing and it worked out, suh mi give God thanks,” she said.
Despite prying outsiders with questions of doubt, Pinnock said she was steadfast in attaining her subjects and satisfying her heart's desire.
“Some people would ask why I am going back to school, and I would tell them my life does not end in 'town'. And, as old as I am, I would like to make my mother proud, and I would like to make a difference within my family. I'm going to sign up for the JCF [Jamaica Constabulary Force] now that I've received the qualifications needed,” she declared.
But even with her hunger for more, difficulties swarmed the voyage. Pinnock praised her 10-year-old daughter Jesanya, who was instrumental in her studies. She said the girl would cook and assist her with chores around the house while she was at class or studying.
“The journey was hard — I won't lie. I went to school sometimes six days out of the week. Sometimes it was online, sometimes face-to-face. I had to be up very early to reach town by 5:00 am, so I would do homework or studying at the stall. I would be home by 9:00 pm and studying until 12:00 am, get a few hours' sleep, then back at it again.
“My biggest challenge was handling my three-year-old while trying to do any schoolwork. She hardly slept and was up with me most nights. And having to do online class at the stall was another challenge. Sometimes I'm unable to go home, so I'll stay at the stall for class, but it's hard to concentrate.”
Pinnock told the Sunday Observer that even the very inception of the CXC journey was demanding.
“The workload was a lot before starting this journey. I was shy, didn't read aloud, didn't know how to express myself, didn't know how to type properly, and I was not a group person. So I had to open up and learn how to prioritise… I sometimes set alarms. At one point they asked about who wanted to defer, and I thought about it, but I would still have to sit the exam another year, so I put mi mind to it and work. Everyone was happy, but this achievement gives me more confidence in myself,” she said.
Pinnock said she also did it to set a precedent for her children to follow.
“I did it to show them that success comes through hard work and determination. My two big kids spent countless nights asking questions from my question book. My big son would constantly ask if I could remember so much things,” she recalled.
“When I read the results, my son was videoing to capture the moment... he's so, so good. My daughter screamed non-stop and said, 'Mommy, mi proud a yuh.' I always tell them to work hard and it will pay off, and I'm glad I got the opportunity to prove it to them.
“My advice to persons out there facing challenges and think they cannot overcome them, is that there is always hope once you decide to take that step and go straight to the finish line. Nothing is out of your reach. I'm currently doing principles of accounts and information technology, and I am thinking about attending college after these two. The sky is the limit for me.
“I would also like to thank all the great teachers at Mountain View Academy. I could not have done it without their great teaching and encouragement. And thanks to my cousin, Tamara Francis, for always encouraging and pushing me to go back to school and believing in me when I didn't believe in myself,” she said.
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