Achieving High School Diploma at age 60, Rebecca Heilman offers words of inspiration to peers, kids
Thirty years ago, Madam Rebecca Heilman, 60, now a mother of seven and three grand children, completed the 9th grade, but thereafter dropped from school as a result of pregnancy. On Friday, August 2, 2019, Madam Heilman, walked out of high school with a diploma having obtained a desirable average of 85 percent.
Not only did she obtain a diploma having completed the Ministry of Education prescribed curriculum, Mother Heilman is one of those that made a successful pass in the West African Senior High School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) of 72 candidates the school registered this year.
No one ever thought she would continue to finish her high school studies, but she finally completed the journey. Born in 1959 in Sanoyea District, Bong County, Madam Rebecca, otherwise known as “Ma Bindu,” remembers how her parents kept her only for farming activities, and with the perception that woman education was to promote prostitution or ‘gronna’ (wayward) activities.
But not to waste time on her past, Rebecca Heilman said finishing high school is not the end for her. In fact, she told the Daily Observer that she plans to go to college and study nursing as her chosen career.
Mother Heilman believes that age cannot be a hindrance to pursuing her dream. She said that ever since she was young, she had dreamed of becoming a nurse.
“I had it all planned. I said to myself, I will get married and have a dozen children, who I will raise and send them to school so later on, they will return what I have spent. But, unfortunately, none of my seven children want to take education serious. I sent all of them to school, but they all dropped, so since they are not serious, it is better I do it for myself instead of depending on them for future support,” Madam Heilman said.
Now, she has every reason to celebrate, having obtained her high school diploma on Friday, August 2, 2019 from the Kerkula Giddings Elementary and Senior High School in Sanoyea District.
“My young people, do not allow your parents to stop you from attending, but to encourage them to send you to school, because you will redeem them from the bondage of hardships. So do not make the mistakes some of us made by entering into early marriage that tied us to where we are today,” she urged.
Holding her diploma, the excited Rebecca Heilman said her parents did not give her the opportunity to go to school, “because my mother in particular had always wanted me around to help with the farming activities, and cooking.”
At the mention of her name at the recent graduation ceremony, the entire audience went wild with excitement and jubilation, because she made it with good grade point at her age.
“I hope the young people, particularly the girls, would pay more than the usual attention to my story, and make the right decisions. Never get into early marriage. When one starts attending classes at a tender age, it is good to continue to the end. This is what is happening with me. With life in me, I will finish college and become a professional nurse,” she told some of the school-aged children.
“Why I came back to school is to help the society and encourage others who feel they cannot have education due to age, but they forget to know that education has no limit.”
Madam Heilman said her biggest challenge in returning to school was the mockery she received from her peers in the community, as well as her classmates. “They used to call me all sorts of names the first day I wore the uniform, but that did not discourage me in anyway,” she said.
“With the latest step taken by me to complete high school, most of my peers in the community are now appealing to the school administration to consider opening night session for some of them to pick up,” she said with pride.
The principal, Ms. Annie G. Paye, confirmed that in the school, the younger ones, including some of Mother Heilman’s classmates used to refer to her as “grandmother,” but interestingly, that did not deter her until she graduated that day with some of the very students.