Success not out of sight for visually impaired girl

- Aspiring writer earns spot at ‘Saints’

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Afeefa Ally is a 12-year-old girl from Corriverton, Berbice, who dreams of being a writer one day. She is also entirely visually impaired, which means that she cannot see. But, her determination to succeed is far greater than any challenge her disability has presented.

Afeefa wrote the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) in August earlier this year. This is Guyana’s secondary school placement examination and is often viewed as a ‘high stakes’ assessment. And, remarkably, the young girl scored 502 marks out of a possible 527, earning a place at the St. Stanislaus College which is the third-highest ranking secondary school in Guyana.

“If you put your mind to it, you can do anything,” an excited and relieved Afeefa told the News Room after learning about the results of her hard work.

And, as a matter-of-fact, she knocked concerns about her disability and her ability to do well by emphasising that disability does not and should not stop anyone from pursuing success.

While speaking about her preparations for the NGSA, the 12-year-old highlighted that she did a lot of studying and revised the work that she learnt before the assessment. And for her, it was not challenging to grasp what was being taught and because of her aspirations to one day become a writer.

School work aside, Afeefa did also share her love for audiobooks and said that she hopes that one day, she can motivate people just as her audiobooks motivated her.

After the announcement of the results, the young girl’s mother Afsana Ally posited that her daughter always excelled at school. And, it was Mrs. Ally who relayed the great news to Afeefa, after the results were announced. She described Afeefa’s reaction as nothing short of ecstatic and said that the entire family was pleased that all their years of effort had finally been rewarded.

Still, navigating the school curriculum over those years was by no means a ‘walk in the park’ for Afeefa or her family. In fact, her mother highlighted that learning diagrams in the Science and Mathematics subject areas were, obviously, challenging for the young girl who has been visually impaired since she was a baby.

The mother did acknowledge that her daughter’s teachers and headteachers at both her nursery and primary schools tried their utmost best to attend to her special needs. Much, much more was needed, though.

Fortunately, the young girl was determined to learn and her determination was ably complemented by her parents who are both secondary school teachers. Her grandmother, too, was another guiding light.

Altogether, the girl’s family employed both creative and innovative methods to help her learn.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of schools did affect Afeefa, especially since it meant that she had to be away from her friends. Like many of the friends, though, she gradually learnt to adjust.

When asked if the family ever considered sending Afeefa to a special needs’ institution, Mrs. Ally stated that this was not an option since the only such school in the Berbice county is quite in New Amsterdam, which is an hour and a half’s drive from where the family resides in Corriverton. Because of this distance, sending Afeefq to the New Amsterdam Special Needs school was a ‘no-no’.

The distance away from family members remains a concern now that she has earned a place at the St. Stanislaus College, all the way in Georgetown. Since she needs much support from her family, she will be attending the Skeldon Linepath secondary school instead- a school much closer to home.

For the time being, however, Mrs. Ally highlighted that her daughter is pursuing a degree in Islamic Theology of which, she has already completed almost a year’s worth of studies. Mrs. Ally also confirmed that her daughter hopes to one day become a writer. Of course, Mrs. Ally said the family will support whatever her future career goals may be.

Meanwhile, Mrs Ally also proudly stated that in years to come she sees her daughter as a person who will be immensely impactful on others as she possesses a very strong and confident personality.

She also believes that the girl can be a voice for others with similar challenges which is why she is happy that her story is being told. In fact, Mrs. Ali is hopeful that her daughter’s story will be a beacon of hope for parents who have children with such disabilities and who have over time lost their motivation to continue working with those children.

To this end, the mother is imploring upon such parents to not become frustrated, stating that academics alone do not necessarily imply accomplishment and that they should endeavour to find whatever strengths their children possess and assist in the growth of that strength.

She also encouraged these parents to try and find effective means of interacting with their children and to not limit such children in the context of their respective disabilities.

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