Graduated from high school at the age of 87: "I have not been a great student, but I have been very happy at school"

Luis Martín Montejo had to abandon his studies at the age of 14, in the hard times of the Spanish postwar period, but he recovered them when he retired in 1990. First he graduated from school, then he passed ESO and now, at 87 years of age, he has just obtained his baccalaureate degree from the Basque Institute of Distance Education (IVED-UHEI) in Bilbao. His teachers define him as an “exemplary student”. He takes credit away: “I haven’t been a great student, because I didn’t get good grades. But I have been very happy at school.” This veteran high school graduate has no plans to make the leap to university —“these are big words,” he says—, but he won’t sit idly by either. He wants to continue writing about health and promises to develop a prototype “endless” power generator.

“It is a model of self-improvement and an example of the success of the 2013 law on lifelong learning,” says Xabier Valle, director of IVED. Located in one of the upper neighborhoods of Bilbao (on a slope of Mount Artxanda), plagued by steep slopes, Luis Martín has been attending this center almost daily for the last 10 years, the time he has needed to finish his Baccalaureate . “I liked coming to class,” he says, sitting in a classroom at the institute: “I wanted direct contact with the teacher to consult any doubts that arose when I studied at home. I used to come to class from eight to nine in the evening, after taking care of my three grandchildren. They treated me so good”. It took just over an hour to make the journey from his native Sodupe (17 kilometers from the Biscayan capital) and the institute.

The teachers highlight his “constancy, dedication and commitment” that Luis Martín has put in during all this time he has been in school. Fatherless since he was five years old, at 14 he had to leave school to start working in a village because in his maternal grandparents’ house “there was a lot of shortage of everything” after the Civil War. Two years later he joined Astilleros del Cadagua, where he started as a painter painting boats. Later he became an assistant officer in the gauge room and progressed in the company until he reached the technical office, where he ended up working for 25 years as a draftsman: “I learned as I went and managed to do innovative things,” he says.

With the reconversion of the naval industry, Luis Martín retired at the age of 55, in 1990, and at that time he enrolled in a center in Santutxu (Bilbao) to obtain his school degree, which he achieved in two years. He planted a vegetable garden, he began to love reading, he was in charge of managing the neighborhood community when they decided to install an elevator… “I realized that I was beginning to forget some things when I went to run errands,” he says. “So I signed up for a memory recovery course at Zalla and took the opportunity to get my ESO at Sodupe.” With this title, he was encouraged in 2011 to enroll in the aforementioned distance education center in Bilbao, although he wanted to do it mainly in person due to his lack of new computer technologies.

At IVED in Bilbao, Blanca Yeregui, a Latin and Greek teacher and a member of the management team, highlights “the courage and strength” of Luis Martín, whom she defines as “a very responsible, exemplary student, who has taken everything very seriously. I laughed”. He, shy and humble, replies that he has only “pretended to be a good person.” Slowly, but with good lyrics, he has needed a decade to reach his goal. Each course was enrolled in two or three subjects, until completing the entire cycle. And, meanwhile, he has combined these studies with learning Basque, until he reached level B1.

He was a victim of the coronavirus, which took him away from the institute for a year: “I was admitted to the Cruces hospital for 26 days and 360 days passed until I was discharged” from the doctor. Mathematics has been the most difficult subject, he admits, although now she has prepared some notes to help her grandchildren find it easier to learn this subject. He proudly shows a text written in English titled “My little history”. Bilbao’s IVED wants to pay him a simple farewell tribute: “We will give him a diploma and a souvenir from the center, and we will have a small lunch with him,” says director Valle.

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