The hurdles of no texbooks, and sometimes no lunch money, did not deter Tashana Brown, a York Town Primary School student who aced the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) examinations and copped a place at Glenmuir High School in Clarendon.
Compounding the challenges of an already-strenuous school life, Tashana was forced to venture into a neighbouring community each morning, where she could get access to Wi-Fi for virtual school as necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tashana’s father, Devon Brown, told The Gleaner that his attempts to get Internet access at their home in York Town were hindered by financial woes. “God know, me couldn’t use the likkle food money put up Wi-Fi,” he said. Brown, who burns coal and do other odd jobs for a living, said that even amid the challenges, he is not surprised at his daughter’s success, citing her relentlessness to achieve.
“It is not a surprise because I know the dignity that she have. She light lamp and study pan the bed. When yuh wake up, yuh see her pan the bed a night a study, so it was not a easy road, but Father God help her through,” he said. Brown, who shared that the family could not always afford textbooks for Tashana, said he was impressed at the efforts she made over the years, toiling many nights as she wrote pages of notes from textbooks she had borrowed overnight from classmates. Noting a myriad of struggles, the father told The Gleaner that his children, however, never missed school, even if they had to go without lunch money.
“We affi mix sugar and water and beg somebody put it up fi freeze. But without them do that, we cyaa come out a poverty; and them tired fi see we in a poverty. So whatever Tashana get, a something weh she fight fah. Is not a easy road; it’s a rocky, stony road she walk pan. She walk on the tar pan the road from York Town [Primary] come down yah so ‘til the shoes bottom bun out. Sometime we nuh have no lunch fe give them, a likkle breakfast them eat. And them go school and nuh eat nutten, and them study them book and come home and them get dinner, ‘cause we nuh have it fi cook two or three times,” he said.
SHE HAD IT ROUGH
Natalina Lindo, Tashana’s mom, said she jumped and screamed when she got news of her PEP result. “She did have it rough, ‘cause sometimes me cyaa afford the textbooks. Sometimes me give her $100 for lunch, and she say she buy a bag juice and a banana chips for her lunch. Sometimes she don’t even eat anything, she save the $100 fi go evening class,” said Lindo. Amid the challenges, however, she said she was expecting great things from Tashana as she is a determined student.
Tashana, who emerged the top girl at the 56-year-old institution, attained a 94 percentile rank among all test takers in the grade-six test. Her grade-six teacher, Susan Bennett, described her as a hard-working student who works assiduously to stay on top academically. “Tashana is a student who epitomises the motto of the school – ‘Excellence Is Our Goal’. She persevered and ensured she understood the concepts being taught. She is not a surface learner; she digs deep in reasoning out situations in a critical manner. I am very happy for her; however, I am not surprised that she has done well, because she has been a top performer since grade one. I know Tashana will continue to do well in high school,” Bennett said.
Speaking on her determination to succeed, Tashana said, “I was mainly motivated by the situation that my parents are in. I have two older siblings that are going to school, my dad does not have a stable job and my mom does not work. They find it very hard to make ends meet and provide for us on a daily basis. I believe that the area I live in, education is the only way for me to get out.”
The young scholar told The Gleaner that she is adamant to break the cycle of poverty within her family. “When I was old enough to realise just how deep in poverty my family was, I told myself that I had to be the one to break the cycle. At times I wanted to give up, because I was tired of having to walk in the hot sun every day to my grandmother’s house just so that I could attend my classes online. I just want a better life for myself and my family,” she said. She noted that the journey to attending her “dream school” was no easy feat. “Studying for my exams was very hard at times, because I found some topics more challenging than others. The pandemic caused me to have to change the way I went about learning and studying, but I adapted and made the most of it,” she said.