“You can’t overwork, you have to take some time for yourself.” This was the statement of the top SEA student in Trinidad, Kirsten Ramsaran of the Rousillac Presbyterian School. The 12-year-old is the first student from that school to top the SEA examinations.
Speaking to the media following the SEA recognition ceremony on Thursday, Ramsaran, who passed for Naparima Girls’ College, said,
“Sometimes I would study and sometimes I would take breaks.
"I spent time with my cousin because we live close to each other, so that helped me relieve my stress from school and doing all the practice test for work. I prefer online school but going to physical school would help me make new friends as I’ve been separated from my friends for two years now.”
Her mother Anushka Goomansingh said it was difficult adjusting to online schooling, as she also had to work from home.
“She managed well, she really had to look after herself while her father and I were working, and she was great. A lot of her extracurricular activities had to stop.
"She was a very balanced child but, when it all went online, it was a lot of computer work but she did it and did well and we’re very happy for her. We didn’t foresee this happening.”
Goomansingh said both the family and the school believed in balance between extracurricular activities and schoolwork.
“Every teacher from first year up believes in balance, that children should not have to go home and do hours of homework. They have extracurricular activities and clubs and she took part in karate, gymnastics, swimming, piano, ballet, you name it. We always try to let her explore her interests, we never kept her back, it wasn’t all schoolwork, she plays online, she loves all different sorts of activities and we’ve always encouraged that. We just want to encourage other parents to do the same and give your child a balance, they’re only a child once, and we wish that same sort of thing for them.”
Acting Principal Robert Seerattan said he was overwhelmed by the result, even though Ramsaran had always been a good performer.
“We try to balance and allow children the extra flexibility with the extracurricular activities. We try to break up the monotony of the academics and in doing so, help them to focus better on the same academics. She is a product of the system, she did a lot of different things, it is one thing that help you excel better in academics.”
Second place student Vineetha Kattamanchi, who will be moving from the Maria Regina Grade School to St Joseph’s Convent, said preparing for the examination online was hard work.
“I practiced at home instead of at school so to come in a classroom for the first time on SEA day and do the exam was kind of stressful. The WiFi connections are always a problem, there’s not a 100 per cent guarantee that you’ll be able to hear everything, and be very attentive in class, without the instructions as well.
“I miss physical school and I’m looking forward to returning to school. I’m from Diego Martin. I like to swim, I compete and I’ve won medals. I didn’t think I’d have won second place, I just hoped I’d pass for my first choice, I never expected this.”
Her father said she was a hard worker who worked hard to get into her first choice and he was proud of her.
'I like working on the computer'
Special needs student Aisha Lewis from the Audrey Jeffers School for the Deaf, speaking to Newsday through an interpreter, said she was excited to hear she had been recognised for her hard work.
“I had to prepare for Maths, Language Arts, Writing and I continued to practice and learn. The grammar questions, there were many topics I had to cover and I also had to practice the poems. Everything was school, strictly school, continuously.
"I like working on the computer so it wasn’t that bad, and I like chatting with my friends on the computer. I need to go back to physical school.”
Leanna James from the Valencia Government School, who was recognised from her district as a high scoring student from a school with improved academic performance, said she didn’t expect an award.
“I’m proud of myself because last year I repeated and this year I didn’t expect to be in the top students, so I’m very proud of myself. Online classes were a bit frustrating with the extra lessons, you’re sitting in front of a camera, your butt is hurting, it was just frustrating for me, and you can’t really move around.
“To help me keep focused I just moved to a quiet place, and I did get my focus. I didn’t have any extracurricular activities, it was all work.”
The students were among 17 recognised at the ceremony. There was a five-way tie for third place place between Anya Sybella Ali of the Specialist Learning Centre, Raveena Basdeo from Montrose Government, Sy’rai Joseph of Arima Girls’ Government, St George East Private Candidate Aishani Ramsewak, and Isharra Sookdeo of Clarke Rochard Government. The top male student, Tyler Ramroop of El Dorado North Hindu School placed eighth.
The other special needs student recognised was Curlan Highley of the Cascade School for the Deaf.
In addition to James, other high-scoring students from a school with improved academic performance from each district were recognised. They were Kahyin Young of Arouca Government, Khalil David of Pt. Fortin AC, Tristan Craig of Rosary Boys’ RC, Shemar Bowman of Waterloo Presbyterian, Reese Charles of Robert Village Hindu, and Melicka Redhead of Marabella Government.
Each student received free Broadband at Home services from Bmobile and a tablet device inclusive of a data SIM.