EXCELLENCE: Shamika Henry

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Blind girl aces CSEC exams

...Shamika Henry wows everyone

By Sue-Ann Wayow sue-ann.wayow@trinidadexpress.com

IMAGINE getting a mark of one of 100 in mathematics. Then five years later, getting a Grade One in the same subject in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC). For Shamika Henry, achieving that grade was one of the happiest moments of her life.

Henry, a legally blind pupil of Holy Faith Convent, Couva was ecstatic when she received her CSEC results on Tuesday, passing all but one subject with good grades. Henry 18, said she was able to get the highest grade in mathematics only because of the support she had.

Her mother Allyson Rebiero said: " One of her greatest accomplishment is her grade in maths. Up till Form Four she was not passing the maths at all. As a matter of fact they (teachers) would just give her one out 100 so that she would not feel bad."

The teenager who was born with a visual impairment officially became blind at age 13. After darkness set in, Henry had much difficulty with the subject.

She said: " I felt so frustrated over the maths because it was compulsory. I could not consider just dropping it. In Form One when I was sighted, I used to get 80s and 90s but after I lost my sight it became extremely difficult."
In the second term of Form One, Henry had to quit school for almost two years after her diagnosis. During that time, she attended the Blind Welfare Association where she learnt to use Job Access with Speech (JAWS) programme and read braille. A two year programme, Henry completed it in five months.

She returned to school and was placed in Form Three with her friends. Henry said: " I would be so embarrassed sometimes if my friends asked me how I did, I would say I kind off scraped through maths and I passed with a little 50 per cent when it was really two, three, five per cent and they (teachers) would only do that so it would like I did something on the paper."

In the fourth form, Henry was introduced to a teaching aide and a math software programme designed by RSC International. In the last term of form four she passed the dreaded subject for the first time since going blind.

"I got 50 per cent that time and it just went up from there. I felt as if my hard work was being paid off like if I was reaching somewhere, making progress and that I can do it once I keep my mind on it and work towards that. I was determined," she said.

Henry said: " When results came out and I saw the one, I was extremely happy I felt as though I can do anything now I can take on the world." Her passion, however, lies in the Arts. She wants to become a literature lecturer and is working towards her goal. She wants for pursue literature, business management and Spanish for the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).

Henry had passed for her first choice school while attending Mon Repos Roman Catholic Primary School and being 60 per cent visually impaired. She already has a collection of poems and short stories and hopes to publish them someday. And if Henry was not blind, she would have never known she had another talent - singing.

Rebeiro said: "It was only when she went blind she realised she could sing because she started to sing to comfort herself. Then we realised she had a voice so prior to going blind, we did not know that Shamika could have sang. The Bible says anything the enemy means for our bad God turns it around for our good and that sums up Shamika Henry."

Drama is another of Henry's passion.

On September 18, Henry will be in the US attending a space camp. It will be the first time, she will be travelling to the US, other than for eye surgeries. She said she was looking forward to the trip and would like to be rewarded with shopping spree.

Rebiero said she was grateful to all who supported her daughter on her road to success including her husband Joel Rebeiro, music teacher Sandra Tuitt who volunteered to transport Henry every day to and from school, Henry's Mathematics teacher and teaching aide, staff and parents at Benedict's College, San Fernando where Rebeiro teaches and also the staff at Holy Faith Convent Couva. But like most things, nothing comes without challenges.

Rebiero sent a message to parents with disabled children. She said: "Continue to support them even though they have that disability. Still try to impress upon them that they can achieve what a normal child can achieve and even more. There is always a silver lining in every cloud. Challenges will always happen to us. Once you put God in front anything is possible."

Henry said she would like to see the government make accessible text books in braille and school's infrastructure be made to accommodate persons who have difficulty with mobility. Henry who turned 18, the day she received she received the results is now eligible for the State's disability grant.
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