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Action, Debbie Jacob believes, eases uncertainty and fear. “You’re always feeling better if you’re doing something, rather than being a passive observer”


to find some solution, academically, for that rage.” So Jacob has offered to teach additional classes — including A-level classes at YTC and an O-level English language class at the adult prison nearby — so that she can reach young men eighteen and older. Action, she believes, eases uncertainty and


fear. “When you can give like I gave, and teach and see results, you feel like you have control over something in society that seems uncontrollable,” she says. “You’re always feeling better if you’re doing something, rather than being a passive observer.”


and filmmaker Kim Johnson is producing it, and has brought on board award-winning Spanish director Miquel Galofré, whose 2013 film Songs of Redemption, set in Jamaica, also dealt with life behind bars. “Instantly upon reading it,” says Johnson of Wishing for Wings, “I saw its potential. I thought, ‘This will make a good film.’” One of the remarkable things about Jacob’s story — and the


reason she overcame obstacles and got good final results — was her willingness to do whatever it took to get her students to succeed. She wrote them letters of encouragement, and got teachers from her school and her daughter Ijanaya to do the same. She requested and collected book donations for them. She even essentially ignored the recommended texts for the exam syllabus, encouraging the students to read and analyse by using song lyrics and books that reflected their interests and culture. The class would often watch and discuss movies. She took them to an opera, a Christmas concert by a celebrated local choir, and an adaptation of the musical West Side Story. Jacob’s commitment hasn’t flagged, even after the stabbing


of her twenty-three-year-old son last year by a group of young men. He almost died, she says. Instead he suffered such severe wounds to his arm and face that he had to receive plastic surgery. Some of Jacob’s charges in YTC would have delivered similar agony — and worse — to other people’s lives. But the attack didn’t


lessen Jacob’s will to teach these troubled youths. It


strengthened it. “My reaction was, these are the boys I have to target now,” she says. “These are the boys I have to understand better. I have


J


amai Donaldson, who had attended a “prestige school” and already had two O-level passes before he fell into trouble, earned a grade one pass (the highest)


through Jacob’s


English language class at YTC. He also sat the human and social biology exam behind bars, earning another grade one, and the maths exam, earning a grade three. The last was remarkable, because the prison was not able to find him a maths teacher, so he had to cover the syllabus himself. The majority of inmates at YTC require and receive primary-


level education. Recruiting and keeping teachers for classes at the higher academic levels is a challenge. Many times a course will start and end after a semester, says Donaldson.“That’s why I kind of fell in love with Ms Jacob. She was consistent,” he explains. Jacob’s “straight talk” and advice, he adds, led him to do the three O-level subjects he needed to go on to the next level of education. “I didn’t have the vision of how to pick back up the pieces of my


life,” he says. “She helped give me the vision. Also, she was right there going through the process with me.” But perhaps the most important thing Jacob did for her students


was whet their appetite for reading. It provided wisdom and a diversion from situations that would have led to confrontation. “It made me able to deal with them people inside there. It


takes your mind away,” says Marc Friday, twenty-three, another of Jacob’s former students who’s out of prison and wants to be a writer, a skill he discovered he had in Jacob’s class. “You can read and leave the place,” he says, “leave Earth if you


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