By Jeune Bailey Van Keric
LIFE has never been easy for Doysha Gittens but never gave up. Gittens became a mother while at school and five years ago her world was turned upside down. The life of her nine-year-old son, Shaquan Gittens, was cruelly defeated by Brian Bob Semple, who was apparently out of base thinking.
Semple is currently serving a 23-year sentence for the heinous crime.
Gittens, who describes herself as a charismatic, fun and honest young woman, like all the challenges she has faced and overcome one by one, followed a series with her latest, graduating from the University of Guyana (AS) with her Bachelor of Education Degree in Literacy Studies.
Her story is filled with moments that may have caused her to quit but she always stood strong and found a way out of her ups and downs.
After becoming a mother at the age of 15, she was almost forced out of high school, but, with the support of relatives, wrote five subjects in the Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Education (CSEC) exam and did reasonably well.
She was not so successful in Maths but knowing how crucial that subject was in pursuing employment, she rewrote it and obtained a passing grade.
And around that time an aunt encouraged her to become a teacher. The relationship had rationalized that the profession would provide her with an income, so the life of the young mother and her baby could be sustained, while at the same time allowing her to spend quality time with her son.
She applied for a teaching post and was appointed Temporary Qualified Mistress at South Ruimveldt Park Primary School on October 02, 2002. After teaching for three years, she became pregnant with her second child, Shaquan.
Two years after his birth, the young and ambitious mother applied and gained admission to Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE), where she mastered Mathematics and mined in Science. That academic chapter in her life was also filled with challenges, which included finding a sitter to watch her children while she attended evening teacher training college.
She had to make a difficult choice of either missing classes or leaving her sons unattended. His maternal instincts chose the safety of her children. This led to her failing her major, Math. However, she was determined not to give up and after many late nights studying, she achieved a passing degree in her major. In 2011, he successfully graduated from CPCE with credit.
Everything was going well until 2015 when her world was turned upside down. She had returned home from work and her younger son was not at home, and despite looking for him that night, he was nowhere to be found. The incident that led to the discovery of his remains will be etched in his memory forever.
The next day, family members and friends organized a search party to search for the boy but their efforts to locate him were futile. Three days later, police called to say they had found a body. The body turned into the body of a young Shaquan. He was murdered by a man who was allegedly of unfounded thinking.
“People often ask me how I was able to cope with the loss of my younger son the way I did. Well, I cried a lot of days and nights. I found comfort in talking about something he would have said or done; which sometimes brought a smile to my face or tears from my eyes. I also put a huge picture of him in my living room so every day I can still see his smiling face, and when I’m not at home, I can still see his face because it’s on my display picture on my phone . I know he’s not here with me physically but spiritually, he lives in me, so I keep his memories close because he’ll always be part of me, ”she said as her eyes saw tears.
“People always say over time, the pain will ease, but that’s not entirely true. For me, ‘with time’ you learn to cope with the pain but it’s always there. I also realized that God had loaned me Shaquan for almost 10 years and I had fond memories of him and wished for more of him but God had other plans for us. ”
A few months after his death, Gittens moved to Demerara of the East Bank and took a transfer to another school to escape the unwelcome feeling of incompleteness.
“At Craig Primary School a colleague challenged me to do more … want more out of life than just follow the same daily path. So, in 2017, we applied to the University of Guyana. We both applied for the Primary General Program but that was filled.
“I later found out about the Literacy Studies Program and wrote a letter asking for permission to add it as my second option on my application and I was offered a place to read for my Bachelor of Literacy Studies.
“Over the next three years, my intellectual sisters and I had some great moments, along with a few challenging ones. We all gave the other words of encouragement and help when we felt like giving up.
“It was only after graduation that I realized I was only surviving. Shaquan’s memories along with my perseverance have made me stronger and no longer afraid of change. Better is yet to come. I’m here because God is not done with me and I plan faithfully and optimistically for the future. I am a firm believer that everything is possible with God, ”the young mother told the Guyana Chronicle.
For Gittens, April takes her on a journey of sadness, affecting her emotionally and mentally.
“I’m trying my best not to think about how Shaquan died. It’s so much better to remember how he lived. Shaquan and I shared the same month of birth and my father died the year before Shaquan’s death, which was five days after my birthday. ”
Gittens encourages teen moms who may feel overwhelmed, to never give up.
“We are not perfect but with time, practice, patience and determination, we can become better at anything we set our minds to. Surround yourself with people who also want the best for you. Life may be challenging but persevering through these difficult times makes success taste so much sweeter, ”he said.