PORT OF SPAIN –– Imagine getting a mark of one out of 100 in mathematics. Then five years later, getting a Grade 1 in the same subject in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC). For Shamika Henry, achieving that grade was one of the happiest moments of her life.
Henry, a legally blind pupil of Holy Faith Convent, Couva was ecstatic when she received her CSEC results on Tuesday, passing all but one subject with good grades. Henry, 18, said she was able to get the highest grade in mathematics only because of the support she had.
Her mother Allyson Rebiero said: “One of her greatest accomplishment is her grade in maths. Up till Form 4 she was not passing the maths at all. As a matter of fact they [teachers] would just give her one out 100 so that she would not feel bad.”
The teenager who was born with a visual impairment officially became blind at age 13. After darkness set in, Henry had much difficulty with the subject.
She said: “I felt so frustrated over the maths because it was compulsory. I could not consider just dropping it. In Form 1 when I was sighted, I used to get 80s and 90s, but after I lost my sight it became extremely difficult.”
In the second term of Form 1, Henry had to quit school for almost two years after her diagnosis. During that time, she attended the Blind Welfare Association where she learnt to use the Job Access With Speech (JAWS) programme and read Braille. A two-year programme, Henry completed it in five months.
She returned to school and was placed in Form 3 with her friends.
Henry said: “I would be so embarrassed sometimes if my friends asked me how I did. I would say I kind off scraped through maths and I passed with a little 50 per cent when it was really two, three, five per cent, and they [teachers] would only do that so it would like I did something on the paper.”
In the fourth form, Henry was introduced to a teaching aide and a maths software programme designed by RSC International. In the last term of Form 4 she passed the dreaded subject for the first time since going blind.
“I got 50 per cent that time and it just went up from there. I felt as if my hard work was being paid off like if I was reaching somewhere, making progress and that I can do it once I keep my mind on it and work towards that. I was determined,” she said.
Henry said: “ When results came out and I saw the one, I was extremely happy I felt as though I can do anything now I can take on the world.”
Her passion, however, lies in the arts. She wants to become a literature lecturer and is working towards her goal. She hope to pursue literature, business management and Spanish for the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).
Henry had passed for her first choice school while attending Mon Repos Roman Catholic Primary School and being 60 per cent visually impaired. She already has a collection of poems and short stories and hopes to publish them someday. And if Henry was not blind, she would have never known she had another talent – singing.
Rebeiro said: “It was only when she went blind she realized she could sing because she started to sing to comfort herself. Then we realized she had a voice. So prior to going blind, we did not know that Shamika could have sang. The Bible says anything the enemy means for our bad God turns it around for our good and that sums up Shamika Henry.”
Drama is another of Henry’s passion.
On September 18, Henry will be in America attending a space camp. It will be the first time, she will be travelling to America, other than for eye surgeries. She said she was looking forward to the trip and would like to be rewarded with shopping spree.