Former San Fernando TML student, Ameera Beekhoo, woke up on Saturday morning still in a state of disbelief that she had topped the country in this year’s Secondary Entrance Assessment, (SEA).
The youngster shot into the national spotlight last Thursday when Minister of Education, Dr Nyan Gadbsy-Dolly, announced the news to the nation during a news conference at that Ministry’s Port-of-Spain headquarters, which was held to honour 11 SEA students who had excelled in the 2020 examination.
“This morning she said to me, ‘daddy, this really happened? I can’t believe this happened. It’s like I’m living in a dream’,” Ameera’s father, Nickelson Beekhoo, said via a telephone interview. “So many people have been sending us best wishes—people from Australia, from England. It’s still so overwhelming for her. Words can’t explain how we feel. She’s just so happy.”
Beekhoo said Ameera, the oldest of his three children, and who will be attending Naparima Girls’ High School, celebrated with family.
“When she returned from the news conference, the house was decorated in her honour. She is such a humble child. She says she wants a fancy phone but besides that, she’s quite content.”
bmobile partnered with the Ministry of Education to award the selected students with the tools to help them smoothly transition into online learning as they embark on this next stage of life.
The “SEA Stars” were presented with the gift of technology in the form of a bmobile Technological Support Package by Gerard Cooper, TSTT’s General Manager Shared Services. The package includes a mobile device, as well as a free post-paid plan and free internet for the first five years of their secondary school enrolment.
Cooper, who was on hand to present the awards to the students at the event hosted by the Ministry commented:
“bmobile have been recognizing SEA top performers this way for over five years and each year we are inspired by the excellence and potential they represent. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the journey of these young persons for five years of their secondary school career, as they strive towards even greater academic and personal success. We are pleased to provide the gift of connectivity especially this year as we are living in a global pandemic, a time where everything has been forced to take place virtually—even school.”
This year, the Ministry did things differently, as it also honoured five pupils from schools on academic watch and two students from special-needs institutions. At the conference, Minister Dolly explained why.
“The Ministry of Education recognises our three top SEA performers, the top male student, two students from special schools and five students who have excelled from schools which have been working hard to improve overall academic performance. This year’s recognition of outstanding performance of our SEA 2020 cohort reflects the inclusive Vision 2030 society we strive to build,” the Minister said.
With COVID-19 forcing the closure of primary schools weeks before the exam and the subsequent postponement of SEA, the class of 2020 faced unique challenges.
Beekhoo shared how his family was able to overcome them.
“If she didn’t do well, I was going to tell her, ‘this isn’t the end all and be all; you still have something great to give’,” he remembers. “Our family’s foundation is built on religion and spirituality. We always tell her to give all her problems to God. It’s so much pressure on young people to perform well.”
He added: “My advice to parents: If your child didn’t get their first or second choice, tell them it’s not the end of the world. My secret is sitting with my children while they do their homework. Even if you don’t know all the answers, just be there. Be their best friend.”
Beekhoo also revealed that his daughter is not only about academics—she plays the piano, is in a choir, does karate and is a self-taught gymnast. She also started her own soap business called Sweet Pea.
This year’s top male performer, Vineet Ramsarran of Eniath’s Montessori and Prep, was also congratulated by Minister Dolly for placing seventh overall.
“I knew I was going to place in the top ten because I prayed for it, every morning and every night. I feel very honoured and proud and ecstatic to be the number one male,” Vineet gushed.
He added that he played sports to relieve some of the stress from studying.
“I played cricket and football every day, then I did my homework, watched the news and went to bed.”
Ramsarran’s mother said her son was looking forward to attending his new school (Presentation College), and thanked bmobile for their generosity.
“This gift will help him tremendously with his schoolwork. We appreciate it very much,” she said.