Faye Stewart makes Mahdia proud

By Alva Soloman

She is well-known across the country as an eloquent presenter on the National Communications Network (NCN) and in many regards, she stands out as a unique communications talent from the town of Mahdia.

Faye Stewart in her graduation apparel

Meet Faye Stewart, a young woman whose ambitious pedigree has scored her yet another accomplishment; a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies. Like many other Guyanese, Stewart is graduating this month from the University of Guyana (UG) with a tertiary qualification which will take her into the next phase of her life.
For her, the accomplishment may be significant. But for the town of Mahdia, being the first Indigenous person from the area to host programmes on national television and radio is even greater. Stewart said she is also the first from one side of her family to attend university.

Challenging start
Stewart recalled leaving Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) in 2018 to pursue higher education in Georgetown.
“I applied to go to UG at 2 o’clock in the morning one night and I got accepted sometime after. I left Mahdia with no idea of how I was going to survive for the first couple of months in the city. I had some savings and I decided to pay for the first year at UG,” she said.

On set at the National Communications Network

She said she doesn’t have many family members in the city except for her sister but she didn’t wish to impose too much on her sibling. She said she moved in with an adoptive family and they provided her with much-needed support.
Stewart eventually found a job and the young mother tried her best to adjust, even as she attended classes at the university’s Turkeyen campus. But she found it difficult to manage the two and soon after she decided to leave. She then landed another job. This time at NCN, which was easy at first but things began to get a bit difficult when the class and work times clashed.

Attending university
Stewart eventually left a permanent job at NCN but she remained focused on the classes at UG. Thankfully, she said a month after leaving the job, she was offered a freelance position where she could balance her studies with work. “Overall, I generally had a good experience at UG. The people of the Centre for Communication Studies have been very supportive,” she said.
According to Stewart, attending university may have been a far-fetched idea in her mind while she lived in Mahdia, where she had lived all her life; even her first job was in that mining community.
“For students coming out of the hinterland to study in Georgetown, it is very difficult. First, you have to secure a place to stay and as long as you find a place to stay then you have to finance yourself, that is if you are not coming on a scholarship,” Stewart added.
She said the opportunity for her to attend UG did not come about until she was 27. “That was working after all of my life coming out of high school and then saving a little bit of money just to give me that start and of course a lot of motivation,” she added.
As regards the latter, she said she had become very motivated to study although she wasn’t sure how life would have played out once in the city.

Adjusting to classes
Thankfully for Stewart, the CCS at the university already had systems streamlined for students in terms of providing them with the requisite information regarding class venues, such as the George Walcott Lecture Theatre and other aspects of study preparations such as timetables. “The CCS helped us in familiarising ourselves with the environment,” she said.
She said she had a few experiences which weren’t too favourable and one of those was the English grade in her first year at UG. “I couldn’t understand, I had to rewrite that course during the summer, I paid for it all over again and to this day I do not know why I was given that grade, I really do not know what had happened,” she said.
She said a similar occurrence came about in her final year but she was mentally drained at that point. She said she recovered and was focused on finishing the programme completely. “Those were my worst experiences,” she said.
On the flip side, Stewart said one of her fond memories of the study institution was working on group assignments and according to her, her colleagues were always supportive and dedicated to the cause of the task at hand.
There are perceptions by some who work in the media that obtaining a degree in the communication field at UG may not be worth the try. But Stewart begged to differ. “There is this disposition that you shouldn’t attend UG because you may not learn anything new but that is a very wrong opinion on what the university offers,” she said.
She said she found the university’s communication programme to be “holistic” in that one is taught how to cover various beats such as science, culture and the arts. In addition, she noted that there are cross-faculty courses which exposed her to other aspects of the study.
“In my first elective I did archaeology and anthropology and then I went on to study diplomacy and international negotiation as another elective and I also did technical communication,” she said. Stewart said those courses allowed her to have a wider perspective of academics. “This is to show that the communication programme is holistic and comprehensive and I think it encompasses a whole lot,” she said.
She said persons who work in the field may be exposed to the realities of journalism and communication but the academic side of things widens that perspective.

Balancing studies
Stewart said her greatest challenge while at UG was balancing her studies with work. She said to get by, at one point she held down three jobs but most of the time she was working two jobs while studying. In addition, her daughter was preparing to sit the National Grade Six Examination and assisting her was also another challenge. “I had to work. It was either I work and not attend class. But it was not like that for me, I had to do both,” she said.
Currently, Stewart is a freelancer at NCN where she is a broadcaster for both radio and television, including the Guyana Today programme. She hosts programmes on both mediums at NCN.
She is also the network relations coordinator for EduFM, the Ministry of Education’s radio station where she was offered that position given her talent. The station is in its developmental stage. Her task entails visiting the relay sites of the station across Guyana and sensitising schools to the programmes on the station.
“Everything that I am doing now in relation to work, they are all related to the field of communication,” she said. As for her future, the young woman plans to explore her academic talent as well as opportunities which will catapult her into her dreams of being a successful product of Mahdia.