By Rehanna Ramsay
Although she was formally introduced to the school system some four years ago, and suffers from a rare condition that restricts her ability to move around, Shontay Hawker is among the successful candidates of this year’s National Grade Six Assessment Examinations, (NGSA).
The 14-year- old was awarded 427 marks and a place at Tutorial High School at the NGSA.
But according to her medical history, Shontay was diagnosed with Spina bifida, a condition which is part of a group of birth defects that specifically attacks the area of the brain linked to the spinal cord and the tissues that enclose them.
As a consequence of her condition, Shontay is bound to a wheelchair having been incapacitated in the lower region of her body from birth.
Given these special circumstances, Shontay has seen her fair share of obstacles on her path to academic success.
Last Friday, Kaieteur News caught up with the bright-eyed teenager at the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre; a place she has called home, for many years.
While she eagerly shared her story, the teen said she could not have made it without the help of her teachers and friends at Stella Maris Primary School.
“I am grateful for all the help I received from the teachers, especially from Miss Wonetta Plass and Onica Forde.”
Shontay noted, however, that the root of her academic success began with the staff and nurses at the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre. The nurses were often her study partners while preparing for the exams.
“When I started attending the centre for therapy, my teachers saw my potential and encouraged my parents to get me into a regular school. But before that I was attending classes at the centre.”
She began attending classes at Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre from age nine.
By the time she was formally introduced to the school system, Shontay was already eleven years old.
Her Guardian at the Centre, Miss Joan Jacklyn Butcher, explained that “when she first started teaching at the rehab centre, I realized that the condition had not affected Shontay’s brain, that she was quite functional and had the potential to excel in the regular school system.”
There was only one problem, finding a public school that caters Shontay’s unique needs. The child was eventually enrolled at Stella Maris Primary School.
Prior to that, Shontay attended a vacation programme at Success Elementary School, during the August holidays.
“Because she didn’t really have the foundation, she faced many challenges especially with writing because she never had to do so much writing all her life. Then there were the facilities at the school. I think the teachers eventually gave up one of their toilets to facilitate Shontay.
And because she has such a sweet personality, Shontay was able to make many friends very easily. They will all miss her.”
Miss Butcher has been the her guardian for the past few years. Her desire is to see Shontay successfully complete her schooling.
“I want her to excel at the Caribbean Secondary Examination Council, (CSEC) and further in her life. “
Meanwhile, Head of Centre, Cynthia Massay noted that girl’s parents are also very proud of her.
“Her mother resides overseas but she supports her and her dad would visit her at the Centre from time to time.”
“We all knew that Shontay has perfect intelligence; she is not intellectually impaired in anyway, so I am not surprised that she passed her exams.”
Besides achieving success at the level of academics, the teenager loves listening to music and reading books—her favourite include mystery novels Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys.
Although she will miss her Primary School teachers and friends, Shontay is looking forward to attending Secondary School.
Quoting her school motto, Shontay says “Not because you’re in a wheelchair, it means you can’t reach for the stars.”
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