Visually-impaired teen prepares to write additional subjects

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Mekyla performing her tasks during a Home Economics class

…faces technical challenges

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the healthcare system, many students who were preparing to write various examinations were forced to overcome the unforeseen challenges the pandemic brought with it.

But Mekyla Belgrave, the visually impaired teen who had her eyes removed as a baby because of a cancerous tumour, overcame some of those challenges, securing passes at three subjects at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations.

This year, the teen is ramping up preparations to sit another three subjects at the exams although this time, the subjects, English B, History, and Home Economics are a bit challenging for her. In addition, her technical devices which she relies heavily on malfunctions.

Technical challengesHer mother explained that Mekyla’s teachers advised her that her daughter should “stretch out” the subjects since writing the six subjects at once would have been difficult for her. She said her daughter is not so sure of what career path to follow at the moment, however, the teenager has a knack for assisting others and she may choose a career in the line of social work.

Mekyla, who as a baby, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, which is a cancer of the eyes, managed to secure passes when she wrote English A, Social Studies, and Human and Social Biology at the 2021 sitting of the regional examinations. At the time she was still in Fourth Form at the North Georgetown Secondary School when she sat the examinations. However, she wrote the examinations privately through the Guyana Society for the Blind which came to her aid when the pandemic hit the public school system.

Her mother, Celeste Hercules, told this publication recently that Mekyla is preparing to write the examinations at North Georgetown Secondary with assistance from the Ministry of Education’s Unit for the Blind. The woman explained that the unit offers classes to students who are visually impaired and as such they attend classes at the unit’s offices in Alberttown.

She said that her daughter became nervous when schools reopened fully this term. Two weeks ago, classes at the unit restarted and according to her, Mekyla was still hoping she could have done her studies online. However, since she has several school-based assessments to complete, the teen is preparing to pull the bull by the horns and attend classes in person.

Mekyla Belgrave completing her tasks for a Home Economics School-Based Assessment

Mekyla is attending school three days of each week and according to her mother, for Home Economics, she undertook several practical assignments which were done at home earlier in the school year. This saw the family’s kitchen being converted into a school environment with a young woman donning her kitchen apparel as she completed the SBAs.

Her mother, who is a single parent, noted that Mekyla’s computer and her mobile phone have malfunctioned this term and since she is a single parent, she finds it difficult to secure new devices for her daughter. She said that Mekyla had been using a Samsung phone for some 5 years and she relied heavily on the device for her 2021 examination preparations.

But the device developed a technical issue. Her mother said that she bought another phone which was a bit cheaper. “We bought another phone and we had to install the talkback app but it does not work well on the phone,” she added.

In addition, the sound feature on the laptop which assists visually impaired persons has also malfunctioned a bit, and while her mother tried to find someone to fix the device, it continued to malfunction.

Mekyla attended the St Agnes Primary School and she managed to obtain 494 marks at the National Grade Six Examinations. Her mother explained that when her daughter was five months old her eyes appeared glossy. Several months later a scan revealed that a cancerous tumour was affecting her eyes. In 2005, she was diagnosed with cancer following a visit to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Trinidad and Tobago and following extensive discussions with the family, medical personnel there undertook surgery to remove both of her eyes. Although the surgeries were performed close to her brain, it never affected her cerebral functions.

Her rise throughout the school system thus far has surprised many and her mother has described her as a blessed child, noting that she has beat the odds thus far as she conquers the many challenges she has faced since she was a baby.

Anyone who is willing to assist Mekyla can contact her mother on 647-6990.