Nineteen-year-old Navita Rampersad had mixed feelings about her success in getting an open scholarship in Environmental Studies, but she is looking forward to the possibilities to be revealed. “I am extremely, extremely proud. Very happy and a bit scared as well; it is a very good opportunity and I am trying my best to make optimum use of it,” she told the Catholic News in an interview February 18.
Rampersad’s “dream” is to be a geologist. At present, she is doing a double major in Geography and Environmental Natural Resource Management. However, she is considering switching to pursue Geology. Studying for the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam (CAPE) during a pandemic “was very stressful especially with IAs (Internal Assessments) and labs. We had to do virtual labs, we had to go in and drop labs”. She explained that virtual labs were videos etc shown by the teacher to guide students until permission was granted by Health and Education ministries for them to go to school and submit the work. Rampersad’s subjects were: Biology, Geography, Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, and Communication Studies.
To balance the rigours of exam preparation, she had movie nights with cousins, and she did “virtual all-nighters” with friends instead of studying alone. “We always took breaks and made sure each of us got work from our to-do list done. With respect to managing stress, I always prayed whenever I felt overwhelmed.” She also took breaks, “to watch a series or play a mobile game”. Rampersad is Hindu and prayed to Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesh, and Mother Saraswati. “It helped me cope with stress and my nerves writing before exams for CXC and CAPE. Every morning I would do an offering and I would fast before exam.” She joked that venting helped. “I would also go complain to my parents or brothers about how stressed I was.”
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on regional education systems and the schedule of examinations prompted the Caribbean Examination Council to have a “revised examinations strategy to yield valid grades and minimise the disruption to the education system during these unprecedented times”. As part of this, multiple choice was administered to assess students. Rampersad said she got a grade 3 in Communication Studies and rewrote the exam in 2021 and got Grade 1.
What were her challenges? “I am a bit of a procrastinator so that was a challenge for me,” she said, then laughed. Other challenges were “time management, as well as distractions, social media”. Rampersad’s family did not expect her to get a scholarship with the number awarded by the State being reduced to 100. However, the news made them very proud. “Everybody was crying; I still could not believe it. I am still kind of in a state of shock right now. Since I was in Standard Five with SEA (Secondary Entrance Assessment), I always have doubts in the back of my head. I always doubted myself and how much success I could achieve.” Rampersad said she was supported by her faith, and her parents Kumar and Joiateedavi always pushed her to believe in herself. Of her friends she commented, “We always believed in each other, we always pushed each other to achieve more.”
A major source of support was her teachers at Holy Faith Convent, Penal (HFCP).
“I am eternally grateful for them all and Ms Kylie Kovar especially because she triggered my passion for Geography at HFCP,” she said. Asked if she could give three tips to students she said: “Don’t be like me, a procrastinator”; have a support system whether it is your family or friends, and turn to God, “pray, pray, pray”.