… former law teacher admitted to the bar
By Vishani Ragobeer
FAA’IZAH Hafeeza Mustafa, a 30-year-old attorney-at-law was on Thursday last admitted to the local bar to practise law by Chief Justice (ag.) Roxane George, SC, after her petition was presented by attorney-at-law Christine McGowan.
Speaking to the Sunday Chronicle, Mustafa, who has been working as a Judicial Research Officer with the Supreme Court of Judicature, highlighted that her admission to the bar was a culmination of years of dedication and perseverance, but now that she has been able to surmount these challenges, she is intent on making a positive impact in the field of law.
In 2016, she obtained her Bachelor of Laws Degree (LLB) from the University of Guyana (UG) but it was not until 2018 that she was able to start her two-year Legal Education Certificate (LEC) journey at the Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS), in Trinidad and Tobago. This delay was due to financial constraints and also due to Mustafa not being in the set of the top 25 UG law graduates, who gain automatic entry into the HWLS.
To gain entry into the law school, the young woman had to sit the entrance examination — a three and a half hours long examination requiring potential students to recall the content of five courses. Unforeseen challenges deterred her twice, but she was intent on becoming an attorney-at-law; and so, she persevered.
On her third try, she opted to resign from her very demanding full-time job and occupy a part-time position as a Sixth Form Law teacher at the Mackenzie High School in Linden, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice).
“I told myself that if I did not make it this third time, then this is not for me,” Mustafa recalled. This time around, however, she had encouragement from attorney-at-law McGowan and the support of all her students motivating her to do her best.
“Realising that cutting corners would not make me successful, I practised my responses and wrote until I couldn’t even feel my fingers,” Mustafa said, adding that she diligently practised every area of law – even the areas that were not her favourite.
And as it turned out, she was successful in this entrance examination and therefore, she was accepted into the HWLS. Importantly too, the former teacher highlighted that her students recorded a 100 per cent pass rate at the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).
But it was not a sweet ride through law school. In fact, the cost of attending the HWLS was still a daunting factor. What helped Mustafa overcome this was the support given by her family and the Ahmadiyya and Shia Muslim communities in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as some leniency from the HWLS, towards the latter part of her studies.
“At the end of my first year, I still did not have the full amount required for my second-year tuition fee, but I managed to secure a fully funded scholarship! Or so I thought, [since] the scholarship fell through because of unforeseen circumstances that the donor encountered and suddenly, I was back at square one,” the new attorney-at-law said.
Worried that she might have to discontinue her LEC journey, she explained her plight to the HWLS. Much to her surprise, the school’s administration indicated that she could proceed with her studies, but that my LEC would not be released to her until she cleared the amount owed to them.
“I found this to be extremely reasonable. This giant act of institutional compassion and kindness motivated me to learn and to study well, so that I would not waste this sterling opportunity that I had been afforded,” she underscored.
Aside from these monumental challenges, Mustafa ascertained that there were many positive moments. As a social person, she was part of many groups and found comfort from her friends and colleagues, whom she said were a crucial part of her support system. She could also always count on the support of her family- especially her mother, Faa’izah Mustafa, and her eldest brother, Mark Bentinck.
And, amid it all, she said her mantra remained: “I’m stronger than my trials.” One can only expect that this will be even more applicable when she begins representing her clients in the court of law.
“The secret to success is to be stronger than my setbacks and not to allow any bad grade or any bad experience to demotivate or deter me from achieving what I am rightly entitled to,” she said, adding: “Success is not for the frail or fickle, but for those willing to persevere while remaining faithful to Almighty God.”