Subash Jamuna overcomes cerebral palsy to be a lawyer

A joyful Subash Jamuna overcame the challenges of cerebral palsy to become a lawyer. - PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI
A joyful Subash Jamuna overcame the challenges of cerebral palsy to become a lawyer. - PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI

For most of Subash Jamuna's life, everyday activities like walking up a flight of stairs or crossing the street have been major challenges.

But neither he nor his family has allowed these difficulties to hold him back in any way.

Jamuna has cerebral palsy, a condition that affects his brain and results in a group of disorders that affect movement, balance and posture.

His latest achievement is succeeding in getting a law degree and being called to the bar last month, an academic journey that spanned almost two decades.

Speaking with Sunday Newsday, Jamuna, 38, said he was excited to enter a new phase of his life as an attorney and believes the lessons and experiences he learned have equipped him with the strength and skills to excel.

Born and raised in El Socorro, Jamuna says despite his condition he was fortunate that his family treated him like any other person, encouraging him to do tasks on his own, sometimes without assistance to develop his strength.

"My parents treated me like any other child.

"My dad wouldn't pick me up and carry me up the stairs, sometimes he would encourage me to climb up the stairs on my own, so they didn't cuddle me.

"They always challenged me to develop my own independence."

Jamuna later attended the El Socorro Hindu Primary School where he had his first interactions with other children.

While some children can be mean-spirited towards people that look differently, Jamuna said he had good experiences with his classmates. During his school day, he had to use a walking aid to attend classes.

Subash Jamuna says growing his family and schoolmates never treated him differently and encouraged him to be self-reliant.

This support from his peers continued through secondary school when he attended St George's College, Barataria, and his friends encouraged him to be self-reliant.

"Even my friends in form four or five would assist me with my bookbag or going down to the cafeteria ever so often but they would also urge me to do it on my own.

"They knew they wouldn't be doing me any favours if they continued to wait on me, they would say 'You know you should try and do it on your own,' and I did."

The difficulties caused by his condition would not be the only hurdles in the way of Jamuna during his time in secondary school as he also admits to feeling unmotivated to study.

While he enjoyed learning about literature, Jamuna said, he preferred to read and learn things at his own pace rather than following a rigid class schedule, but gradually focused on schoolwork with encouragement from his parents.

"As a student, I struggled academically. I had a hard time learning. I just wasn't focused at all that was when I was 12 to maybe around 17 years old.

"In high school, I saw schoolwork as a chore, it wasn't something I enjoyed, this was before the internet so I used to visit the school's library and read the encyclopaedias and learn facts about history and so on.

Lawyer Subash Jamuna looks out at his home in San Juan. Jamuna says more can be done to allow society to see special needs people as productive citizens. - PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI

"I really buckled down when I got older and I saw my peers getting high marks. When I got threes and fours for CXC, that was when I decided to get focused.

"My dad, Bobby Jamuna, never gave up on me. He always saw the potential in me and my mom, Dotsie Jamuna, urged me to go back to school after CXC which I did."

After taking a year off from schooling, Jamuna enrolled at the St Augustine Community College where he resumed his education from the form four level and worked his way up.

After passing his CSEC exams with satisfactory grades Jamuna went on to sit CAPE exams where he earned six passes before enrolling at the Academy of Tertiary Studies.

He then left the academy during the second year of his LLB and joined the Institute of Law and Academic Studies (ILAS) where he completed the programme.

For a while, Jamuna's studies went well as he was focused and driven to earn his degree in law until the death of his father in 2006.

"I remembered I told him I wanted to study law and he was very supportive.

"I had to start schooling in about two to three days after his death so I also had that to deal with."

Despite dealing with the grief of losing one of his biggest supporters, Jamuna continued to excel earning an A in law and continuing to study for his bachelor of laws from the University of London in 2008.

Even with his renewed approach to studying, Jamuna admits his time in the programme had its challenges, describing the period as a "see-saw" schedule from 2009 to 2015.

Despite the challenges, Jamuna made no excuses and dedicated himself to a strict study schedule that occupied all of his weekends and free time with research and past examination papers.

"Between 8 am to 3 pm I would drill myself in past papers and all afternoon on Sunday into the night.

"Of course I would take breaks in between but I was dedicated to achieving that."

Sunday Newsday also spoke to principal of ILAS Reagan Rowans who said he was impressed with Jamuna's strong work ethic which set an example for other students.

"He never complained about his personal challenges, nor his school work.

"He remained focused and humbly pioneered through his studies, even when he experienced setbacks. This beautiful human being made so many friends while at ILAS, as he often had to spend the day at school awaiting transport. He engaged in conversations of all kinds, ever respectful and unassuming."

After eventually earning his law degree, Jamuna's journey did not stop there as he enrolled in Hugh Wooding Law School to study for his Legal Education Certificate (LEC) where the workload increased exponentially.

It was here Jamuna's ability to organisational skills came in handy as he was regularly called on to work in groups, sharpening his time management, coordination and public speaking skills.

Even amidst the demanding schedule and complicated course material, Jamuna said he was grateful for the assistance of his fellow students and the administration for understanding his situation.

"The school was very helpful. I got extra time for certain examinations because they understood that my situation was not like everyone else's and I'm happy they gave me the opportunity to do my best."

Jamuna earned his LEC in September and was called to the bar on November 26.

While his father was not alive to see his son's achievements, Jamuna credits his success to both of his parents who challenged him to pursue his dreams.

With several degrees and certificates to his name, Jamuna's academic career has been fulfilling but he maintains his passion for learning is still very much alive, as he hopes to continue learning in this new phase of his life.

"At this point, my direction is just to learn as much as I can.

"I want to work at my own pace and make no mistake it is a lot of work. I'm going to see how much I can offer society and put as much of what I learned into practice."

In terms of society's acceptance and treatment of the disabled, Jamuna says while there has been some progress, there remains a lot of work left to be done.

He says while infrastructure like ramps instead of stairs and washroom stalls for the disabled is still largely absent from some buildings.

Outside of these facilities, he said while attitudes and perceptions of the disabled are changing, he maintains that more can be done to allow society to see special needs people as productive citizens.

For now, Jamuna says he is taking his career and his life one day at a time and is ready for what can happen next.


"Subash Jamuna overcomes cerebral palsy to be a lawyer"

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