Girl who lost sight at 10 months excels at CSEC
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Mekyla Belgrave (centre) with her mom, Celeste Belgrave (right) and her other siblings
Mekyla Belgrave (centre) with her mom, Celeste Belgrave (right) and her other siblings

VISUALLY impaired student, Mekyla Belgrave, 17, has yet again risen above the limitations of her disability, securing passes in three subjects she wrote at the 2021 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations.

Though only a Grade 10 student at the time, Mekyla wrote English A, Human and Social Biology and Social Studies, through the Visually Impaired Resource Unit of the Ministry of Education. She obtained a grade one and two grade twos.

Belgrave decided to write the subjects on the encouragement of her teachers, who were confident that she will do well. Though apprehensive, she decided to go ahead and is now happy that she did not limit herself.

“When one of my teachers suggested I write CSEC, I was so nervous and unsure but then I felt so good and happy about my performance,” the North Georgetown Secondary School student told the Guyana Chronicle.

Mekyla was able to write the exam through the use of a scribe and a reader, along with other measures put in place to accommodate her disability. Like other students, her preparation for the examinations involved a lot of virtual classes due to the closure of school as a result of COVID-19.

Now that she is in Grade 11, Mekyla plans to write three more subjects at the 2022 CSEC. She is hoping to become either a social worker or a psychologist. .
Her mother, Celeste Belgrave, could not contain her excitement over her daughter’s performance.

Mekyla Belgrave is a student of North Georgetown Secondary School

“I felt overwhelmed, joyful, and happy. It was very emotional. It is all praise to God and I was just thanking him when I saw the results,” Celeste expressed.
Mekyla’s results are indicative of how much she continues to stand out as an inspiration to other visually- impaired persons — that living a normal life is still possible for them.

Over the years, society would have learnt about Mekyla through many media articles. She had lost her sight when still just an infant.
In 2016, Mekyla was a standout performer at the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA), where she rose above her disability and scored enough marks to gain a place at the North Georgetown Secondary School.
Mekyla is one of six visually-impaired students who attend the school.

At just three months old, Mekyla was diagnosed with bilateral advanced retinoblastoma, a cancerous tumor that affected her eye sight. To treat the disease, at 10 months old, she had both of her eyes removed and underwent six months of chemotherapy at a hospital in Trinidad and Tobago.

GREAT SUPPORT SYSTEM
“It was very sad and very emotional. I cried a lot but I tried to be positive. My family members, and her father’s family members were really there for us though, we had a good support system,” Celeste shared.
Celeste said at that time she did not have time to worry about what quality of life her daughter would lead as a blind person because all she wanted was for her child to survive this disease.

“My hope and purpose was just to get my daughter back to Guyana alive and not a dead child. I prayed and trusted God for a live child even though she is blind. I don’t have a problem with that,” Celeste told this publication.

However, afterwards she did worry about the kind of life her daughter would lead, and at times she can still be overprotective of Mekyla. Celeste said there has been no limitations for Mekyla, who has a remarkable level of independence and who assists in helping to take care of her three other siblings and can even do some amount of cooking on her own.

“She can take care of herself, dress herself, make up her bed, go to the stove, fry things. My sister was teaching her the other day to clap roti. Even with her little sister she would dress her and put on her clothes, and do it good,” Celeste shared.

Celeste explained that she grew more confident about Mekyla’s ability to be independent after being inspired by the other visually impaired persons working at the blind institute.
“I have the support of her teachers, some of whom are blind, some are visually-impaired. I see what they can do so I know my daughter can do great in the future,” the mother said.

Notwithstanding the success, it has not been all smooth sailing, and Celeste and her family still have to face their share of challenges as Mekyla navigates the school system as a special needs child.

DIFFICULT AT TIMES
“Sometimes it’s difficult, it’s like you have to fight for everything and it could be difficult. The teachers at the school don’t always understand how to teach the children or how to relate to the children [who are visually-impaired]. How to deal with them, or how they will get their notes,” she explained.

She added: “A teacher from the unit is also supposed to be with them but one year a particular teacher was always not there when she was supposed to be. She would come to sign in her time and that was it. I complain but nothing was ever done. These children are blind, anything could happen to them. Somebody could trouble them, they could fall down, people could interfere with them and the teachers have to be there to prevent that from happening. Eventually, I decided I could not take it on and I sent my child by the grace of God knowing that anything could happen to my child.”

However, with Mekyla now in her final year at secondary school, Celeste is hoping that the worst is behind them. And she is focused on continuing to see her daughter live life as normal as possible.
“I forgot to say that I am very proud of her and always will be,” Celeste said.

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