Adrianna Suraj, 18, topped the region in Agricultural Science in the 2020 CSEC exams. The Rio Claro West Secondary student said studying during the pandemic was challenging and she wants to share the strategies she used to remain focused.
Now in Form Six and preparing for her CAPE exams in 2022, Adrianna said: “My mother is a single parent and her business has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the time my family was without an income.
“My brother, who did the SEA exams this year, and my sister, who is doing CSEC in 2023, also had to tighten their belts.
“My situation is no different to what many others are facing. Students deal with a barrage of family pressure, some students do not get three meals a day and some have to live in a noisy environment where inconsiderate people are more concerned with blasting music on a radio daily while students struggle to study.”
Adrianna said she dealt with the many distractions around her by creating a timetable and studying with a syllabus.
She admitted: “It was difficult to find a quiet space to study. If you live in a crowded house, space to study becomes a luxury, there are no libraries opened during COVID-19. One has to mentally zone out the distractions.
“Noise is the worst thing to deal with. Wearing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones with soft music can sometimes help to keep you focused on what you study.”
Adrianna said planning is important: “You have to schedule what you want to cover from the syllabus daily. I said to myself I am going to get X, Y and Z done today and I would stick to that plan no matter whatever happens.
She said students are living in environments filled with gang and criminal activities and some without enough to eat when the day comes.
She would like the Ministry of Education to acknowledge these facts and allow these students several chances at the exams.
“You must ask yourself what do you want for your life and make decisions that would benefit you. I am really trying to say one has to become a leader of themselves. We don’t have to go around displaying arrogance and wanting to lead others. We need to first lead ourselves and look at making correct decisions that would affect the way we study. Ask yourself before you do anything how will it affect your future.”
Adrianna said COVID-19 has taught her many lessons, including that poverty is not a nice place to be.
“Some people seem to be comfortable with poverty when being poor is in the minority. Then people would get hampers, handouts and grants.
“During the pandemic, this group grew. More and more people wanted hampers and at the same time, hampers and grants were harder to get.
“I want to develop several skills through my life and have various income streams coming in. My mother is in the food business and a photographer. During the pandemic, there was no demand for photographers because people are using their phones and I believe that profession would be less demanding in the coming decades.
“We saw how the food business suffered. Today it’s opened, tomorrow it’s closed. I intend to get into pharmacology and do my BSc in Pharmacy at the UWI. Before that, I plan to get into some area of agri-business.
“I want a small-scale project such as doing seedlings, hydroponics or downstream products that would bring in a steady flow of cash.
“For too long we as a people have remained in this one job mentality and we believe that partying is the only way we could enjoy ourselves. The pandemic has at least taught me that we need to keep updating and learning new skills as the only way forward on the road to financial security,” Adrianna said.