Sherida Rahaman’s damaged computer saw her through to her degree in Education
When Sherida Rahaman was reading for her degree in Education at the University of Guyana (UG), she encountered several obstacles, but one which she converted into an inspiration was her damaged computer, which she utilised until she completed the programme this year.
This determined young woman became a mother during the final stretch of the programme; and that, coupled with unreliable internet services at the remote village of Kwebanna in the North West District, is among the fond memories she keeps close to her heart as she basks in the joyful moments of the distinction she attained after completing studies at UG.
Schoolteacher Sherida Rahaman read virtually for the degree from Kwebanna, she and her husband Michael making many sacrifices as she prepared to embark on her years of study. However, Rahaman was not prepared for an incident which she now makes light of, but which had challenged her determined spirit soon after its occurrence.
“One afternoon, I asked my daughter to plug in the fan for me; and instead of plugging in the fan, she plugged in the iron, and when she realized the fan wasn’t spinning, she checked for the fan cable and plugged it in, and didn’t plug out the other one. She left both the iron and the computer plugged in for about half an hour, and I smelt something burning,” Rahaman said. “It was the iron that fell on the computer and melted it,” Rahaman said, as she laughed at the incident. The iron’s printed shape remains to this day on the laptop, she said.
She said the incident occurred a mere three weeks after she had bought the laptop, and she noted that she had started the programme at the University of Guyana (UG) only a few weeks prior.
“The screen was a bit blurred, but it (was) still going strong,” Rahaman said, noting that the device served its purpose well. “I never lost an assignment,” she said.
Today, the mother of three says she is proud of the sacrifices she made, as she noted, “This is only the beginning for me, since I also want to complete my Masters.”
Rahaman was born and raised at Kwebanna, and after completing primary school there, she attended the Santa Rosa Secondary School. She said that soon after completing her secondary education, she started teaching, and commenced training at the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE).
She noted that she always saw the importance of higher education, and attending university was always in her plans.
Given Kwebanna’s remoteness and the high cost of living there, she and her husband decided to combine their efforts to ensure her success at UG. “I had to restructure my lifestyle, and my family had to adapt to those changes,” she disclosed.
In order to pay her university fees, she and her husband would hold barbeques on weekends, and he would also help her to attend to their two children. He prepared the meals and helped with other household chores since, according to her, “UG life took up most of my time.”
She taught at the primary school in the village, and attended classes online after school was dismissed at 15:00hrs. This would see her being online in classes as late as 22:00hrs in the nights, then she would have to complete her assignments and hold discussions with her colleagues.
“My parents were also there for me when I needed them. I remember wanting to withdraw from UG in my first year,” she said, “but my father said to me, ‘Why start something only to give up on it later?’ Every time it got difficult for me, I repeated those words,” Rahaman said.
With the unreliable internet service offered by one of the country’s telecommunication providers, Rahaman knew she would be in for the long haul.
The need for qualified teachers
She said one of the main reasons she decided to pursue the programme was because she recognised that there was a need for more qualified teachers in her village.
“We needed more teachers from our village, since the teachers who came from other places eventually returned to their communities,” she said.
“Teaching is my passion, and I always wanted to be great at it; but teaching and studying at the same time is no walk in the park.”
She also disclosed, “University life was challenging, especially with the online teaching. One main challenge for me was an internet connection. There were times when I got bounced out of class and bounced out of exams. I used ‘data’, which was very expensive,” she said.
She said that after three years of communicating online and via phone, she was finally able to meet her university colleagues at this year’s 57th convocation ceremony held by UG.
“I never got to see them face to face. When we met for the first time, which was a few days ago, we recognised each other not by seeing the face, but by hearing the voice,” she said.
Attending classes after delivering a baby
Earlier this year, Rahaman gave birth to a baby boy. Attending classes had always been a challenge, and this was compounded by her new situation, but the determined schoolteacher managed to overcome the challenge by walking with her faithful laptop and phone to the Suddie Hospital on the Essequibo Coast, just to ensure she never missed a class.
“It was close to the final semester of the final year; the last week of the semester, when revision was being done, so I didn’t want to miss any of the sessions,” she said. “I had saline attached to my hand because my pressure kept going up, so I had a pre-term delivery. I believe it was because of the studies, because final exams were just around the corner,” she added.
Rahaman, who made the Dean’s Honour Roll during her time at UG for outstanding performance for the academic year 2022-2023, said her times with her computer, which she says she plans to keep as a memento of her journey to her degree, will be etched in her mind for many years.
“My faithful ‘study buddy’. I remember when you got damaged just after I purchased you in my first year, I wanted to discard you. I couldn’t afford a new one, so I kept you – a decision I will never regret. We are still going strong. It’s just the beginning, buddy,” Rahaman said of her laptop.
She described gaining a distinction in her programme of study as “a dream come true for me, and will be a great motivator for other teachers and students from my school and community who wish to attend the University of Guyana in the future. If I can do it, you can do it as well,” she declared.
Rahaman has said she is also elated to be the first from her family to graduate from the University of Guyana. “This is only the beginning for me, since I also want to complete my Masters,” the determined Rahaman has reiterated.