Braving the odds to excel in the midst of a pandemic

By Rehana Ahamad

DESPITE of all the disasters that characterize 2020, it was a year that revealed the sheer resilience and incredible courage of many people, especially Guyanese, and more especially those who were at the center of various academic activities when the coronavirus pandemic struck. Whether in the National Sixth Grade Assessment (NGSA), Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Education (CSEC) or various tertiary programs, Guyanese has weathered the storm to victory.

Sursattie Bholaramsingh

There are many people like Sursatie Bholaramsingh, who lost her job, and struggled with depression while pursuing her Master of Laws (LLM). Because of the pandemic and all the violence that surrounded our six-month General and Regional Elections, many suffered income losses and closed their businesses.
“I couldn’t afford the basics. My family’s income dropped, but the cost for everything else stayed the same: Light bills, water, Internet, university fees stayed the same, ”Bholaramsingh told the Guyana Chronicle.
Bholaramsingh’s husband, who owns his own company, also faced challenges of reduced profits and contracts. “This whole thing was depressing to me,” said Bholaramsingh.

She remembered that she faced a heartbreaking decision, which led to a break in her children’s education. “I had to stop my children from pursuing their studies, and that really broke my heart,” said the woman.
Bholaramsingh said her family’s finances, along with the local election drama, and the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, have taken a significant toll on her mental health.

“I refused to go out or meet or talk to friends and family, because of how I felt; depression is real, ”he asserted.
Despite the many challenges, Bholaramsingh continued her studies, which were already underway. He recently completed his LLM (Oil and Gas) with distinction at the School of Incorporated Nations.
“I was over the moon,” said Bholaramsingh, explaining that her journey to excellence was no easy task. She explained that she had been forced to self-study through the Internet.

“We can’t understand the Online studies half the time,” noted Bholaramsingh. He said his challenges were further exacerbated by poor Internet connections, and in many cases, the usual doses of blackout.
“I took the textbooks, and I also did extensive reading with articles I downloaded and printed when I had some Internet, but nonetheless, the printing was still quite expensive,” Bholaramsingh related.

Despite having an LLM, along with a Masters in Business Administration and a Degree in Accounting, the state of the world meant that Bholaramsingh was unable to secure a job. As it stands, she remains unemployed.
“With over 20 years of experience, my desire is to work with the Oil and Gas Industry, but nothing has been panicking out,” he lamented.

The woman explained that her main focus at present is to enable her children to continue their studies. “… And that takes away an arm and a leg,” posed Bholaramsingh.
Even with all the obstacles to completing her LLM, Bholaramsingh said she remains committed to pursuing her doctorate. “Education is important,” he said.


Education, for Dominique Clarke, 22, takes on the same level of importance. In 2020, she had been pursuing a Bachelor of Laws Degree at the University of London, through the University of the Nations Law School, in the midst of major challenges, the most significant of which was that she was classified as an essential worker, and enforced so to work. when rotating during the height of the pandemic. “It seriously affected my study schedule,” said Clarke.

As per her usual practice, Clarke said she worked 08:00 hours to 16:00 hours, after which she would attend classes between 17:00 hours to 19:00 hours. Clarke explained that she would then schedule in her nap time from 21:00 hours to midnight; then she would wake up and resume studying from 01:00 hours to 05:00 hours.
As staff rotations begin, Clarke said her schedule is getting haywire. Things got even worse, as exam time drew near.

“I had taken my annual leave for exam preparation in April, just to get the exams pushed to July,” the young woman related.

Instead of succumbing to the changes, Clarke said she decided to use her time wisely, and study even harder. But the exams suffered even more delays, due to the pandemic.
“Second exam delays started to take a toll on me mentally; I felt drained, and at the end of my judgments, ”he noted.
Because of her family’s financial challenges, Clarke said she was forced to self-study. “I was a little disappointed, as I wanted to graduate with Upper Second Class Honors, but I was awarded Lower Second Class Honors,” he noted.

Clarke said that while she wasn’t too keen on experiencing the many challenges that came her way in 2020, she appreciates the lessons she learned.

“I’m much more diligent and resilient. As I am preparing to embark on my Masters Degree in International Business Law at Bedfordshire University through the University of the Nations, I am positive that whatever gets thrown my way, regardless of workload, can excel, ”Clarke maintained optimistically.


Tonesia Jacobis

Similarly, for young Tonesia Jacobis of Linden, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice), the coronavirus and all the events of 2020 have aided her growth as a more resilient person. In the heyday of the pandemic-inspired locksmiths and the harsh curfew, the 18-year-old girl was preparing for what would be one of the biggest auditions of her life. Mackenzie High School student was preparing to sit the 2020 Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam (CAPE).

“I had to adjust to school being Online,” said Jacobis. She highlighted that her major challenge was having to self-study, while learning and adopting time management skills.

“This was a big obstacle for me,” said the young man.
Jacobis said locksmiths and curfews had no social effects on her life, as she had always been essentially introverted.

“I’m used to being at home, then at school, so social distance, curfew and COVID quarantine weren’t so bad for me,” he said.

The young student said that while she did not achieve the desired results, 2020 had taught her to be content and happy with being alive, and to have the opportunity to continue her studies. Jacobis, in 2019, was a top student at Mackenzie High School, copying nine Ones Degrees, and two Twos Degrees.

“For CAPE, I wrote four subjects: In Economics, I got a Grade Two; Business Management, I got a Grade Four, and Communication Studies, Grade Three. In Accounting, I didn’t get any degree; something that CXC (Caribbean Audit Council) has yet to rectify, ”said Jacobis.

She noted that despite everything that 2020 meant, she remained grateful.
“In some way, I would say my biggest lesson in 2020 is to take simple things for granted that you now realize are really big bargains,” said the young man.

She noted that the past year has inspired her to re-evaluate the things that matter.
“… And take note of the things that are not, and prioritize my life better, and never give up and keep moving forward,” says an optimistic Jacobis.