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WHEN sisters Millanese and Cyrilene Mascoll left school several years ago with no certificates, they had to endure constant nagging from their disappointed mother. Undine was a single parent who had worked doubly hard to send her three girls to school and to provide for their needs. So she was understandably upset when all of them failed to live up to the educational expectations she had for them. But two weeks ago, 65-year-old Undine watched with pride in her heart and a contented smile on her face as Millanese, 48 and Cyrilene, 46, walked up to the podium at the University of the West Indies (UWI) graduation ceremony to collect their degree scrolls. Millanese received a Bachelor of Science in management while Cyrilene successfully completed a Master’s in business administration. And even more pleasing for Undine was that she also got to witness her 25 year-old granddaughter Tracia graduate with her mother Millanese, receiving her BSc in business as well. For her, the family curse had been broken. “I felt so proud of them. I felt so good knowing that we came up poor and I couldn’t afford to help them with their education when they left school but they did it on their own,” gushed Undine, who is getting ready to retire from her job as a maid at the Barbados Water Authority. Cyrilene, the executive secretary to the director of the Barbados Vocational Board, credits her mother’s tough love for opening up her mind about the importance of education. She recalled how her mother constantly complained about her daug hters leaving school without any certificates. “My mother had sisters and brothers who had children who had done very well academically. She would tell us that she sent us to school and everybody else children did this and that but we ain’t do nothing. That was my motivation and I always used to say I want to walk up UWI’s red carpet and have my mother there to witness it. “When I finished school at Springer Memorial at 17, I left with what I went in with – my birth certificate. I remember when I got home that Friday evening as soon as I opened the door Millanese was lying down on the chair and I said to her, ‘Millanese we got to get up and go and look for work’.” With no qualifications to their names, they both knew they had to start at the bottom, and the next day they went to Newton Industrial Park seeking work in one of the industries. The two were hired on the spot at an electronics company. Of her days at the company, Millanese said she worked during the day and studied on evenings, taking courses in production management and customer relations at The Barbados Institute of Management and Productivity (BIMAP). Over time she moved up the ladder, finally landing the position of production planner. Four years ago she took up her present position as clerical officer in the Ministry of Agriculture. Cyrilene also went back to the classroom to study for CXCs and also did various business courses. She spent several years at the Caribbean Policy Development Centre as executive secretary and other temporary jobs before taking up her present position. Older sister Millanese was the first to apply to do her degree at UWI, but she let Cyrilene, who was working temporarily at the campus, fill out her application. The next year, her daughter Tracia, a product of The St Michael School, joined her at UWI while Cyrilene did her Master’s in the university’s online program. That all three found themselves doing a degree in business was no coincidence. Millanese said she watched how the economy was going and decided that would be the most advantageous field while for Cyrilene it was a natural progression. The time spent at UWI doing the same courses bonded Millanese and her daughter, as they sometimes also engaged in group assignments together. She admits that she was happy to be able to set a good example for Tracia and share their educational dreams together. But Cyrilene laughingly points out that she was the librarian for the group, providing them with notes, books and passing on her knowledge when it was needed. The sisters hold strong to the concept that you’re never too old to learn but at the same time they emphasized the importance of taking advantage of Barbados’ free education system. “Even though we left school with nothing, we worked hard and we achieved quite a lot. We each have our own homes and we have done well for ourselves,” said a contented Cyrilene. She is now planning to do her PhD while niece Tracia is looking forward to eventually doing her Master’s. The sisters and their mother have finally been able to convince their younger sister, who worked for several years as an administrative assistant at the former Thompson and Associates Law Firm, to follow in their footsteps. And they are looking forward to her also attaining academic success.