YOUNG and visually impaired Arielle Lewis, Jaidon Vincent and Akshay Sirju are not only daydreaming of a bright future ahead.
Born visually impaired, the three primary school students made their parents very proud by studying for the Secondary Examination Assessment (SEA) at their respective schools. They sat among their classmates and had fun times like every other child, but when it was time to study, they did not fall short, even though they all have special needs and read and write in Braille. When the SEA results were revealed last week, Arielle, 13, of Valencia, passed for Tranquillity Government Secondary School, and Jaidon and Akshay for Debe Secondary School. Yesterday, they shared their joy with Newsday.
All three had their own individual needs in coping with studies and writing the examinations. When visual impairment is present from birth, the impact on development and learning is more severe. Arielle’s mother, Anmarie Lewis, 39, is from Valencia and is also visually impaired. She enrolled Arielle, her only child, at San Juan Government Primary School, 37 kilometres from their home in Valencia. Lewis said because she works in Port of Spain, it was convenient for Arielle to attend school in San Juan.
Lewis yesterday recalled years of standing on the Valencia road with Arielle on mornings, to wait for the Blind Welfare Association bus, which started off in Sangre Grande. The bus dropped off Arielle in San Juan where Lewis walked her into school, then got back into the bus for the journey into Port of Spain. For the SEA, Ariele studied like any of her classmates, but the work was printed for her in Braille. And for the SEA exam, Lewis said, the Ministry of Education provided a reader and a writer. The questions were read to Arielle and she responded orally.
Last Wednesday, when Lewis told Arielle she had passed for her first choice, her daughter hugged and kissed her. Arielle told Newsday, “Yes, it was a challenge. Thanks to Mummy and my teachers. I also have wonderful friends in school.” Her goal in life is to become a radio announcer and while she anxiously awaits start of the new term at Tranquillity, she wants to learn to play the keyboard.
Jaidon, 12, is from Ste Madeleine, near San Fernando, and wants to be a lawyer. He wrote the SEA using Braille, and like Arielle, was aided by a teacher and also had the benefit of a digital notetaker.
His mother Latoya Tannis, 36, said Jaidon, who attended Ste Madeleine Government Primary School, has two brothers. She said she has never been so nervous as on the day her son sat the SEA.
“Jaidon is such a loving child. He wants to be a lawyer and I intend to give him all the support in high school,” Tannis said.
Like Arielle, Jaidon also wants to learn to play the keyboard.
Sirju, 11, of Penal, attended the Dyanand Memorial Vedic Primary School in Debe. His mother said yesterday that the family was mourning a death of a close relative. Tomorrow (Wednesday), the Unit Trust Corporation will honour Ariele, Jaidon and Akshay at the Blind Welfare Association Centre on Coffee Street, San Fernando, and present them with gifts. Education Minister Anthony Garcia said he was proud of the three, and recalled that in 2016, one visually impaired student passed for St Anthony’s College.
Garcia said the ministry will provide the necessary tools and aids to assist Ariele, Jaidon and Akshay in their secondary school studies. He said that their success was also due to the fact that the ministry provided those tools in the primary schools the children attended.