“My Physical Condition Did Not Prevent Me From Going After My Dreams” – Rajni Persaud, UG Graduand

Twenty-year-old Rajni Persaud, a bubbly and confident young woman, has beaten the odds in every respect to achieve what many others would have found difficult to believe was even
possible. Rajni, who hails from Coldingen, East Coast Demerara (ECD), is one of the over 2,500 students who will be graduating when the nation‟s premier tertiary institution, the
University of Guyana, holds its first virtual Convocation ceremonies later this month.

But she is special. Rajni, like many of her peers who will be receiving their diplomas, stands out for her courageousness and determination, and certainly deserves much admiration and
respect. In spite of being physically challenged and facing many obstacles in her life due to her condition, Rajni has persevered and will be graduating with a Diploma in Accountancy
with a Distinction pass.

Months after she was born, Rajni was diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP); a disorder of movements, muscle tone, or posture that is caused by damage that occurs to the immature,
developing brain, most often before birth. Signs and symptoms vary among people and over time. In Rajni‟s case, she depends on a wheelchair to move around.

Rajni, who is one of two siblings, was determined that her diagnosis would not prevent her from pursuing her dreams. She enrolled at the University of Guyana in 2018 to pursue a
Diploma in Accountancy. She was awarded a Government of Guyana scholarship following the intervention of Ganesh Singh, Programme Coordinator of the Guyana Council of
Organizations of Persons With Disability (GCOPWD) and the National Commission on Disability (NCD).

Rajni, a former student of President‟s College described her journey at the University of Guyana as a „roller coaster‟. One of the major challenges she faced in the initial stages was
that of accessibility to the various buildings on Campus to attend classes. “It was sometimes difficult to get into some of the classrooms, but that did not stop me from
achieving my goals. Quitting was not an option, no matter what happened,” the aspiring Software Developer pointed out.

Rajni was quick to add though that in addition to her parents who have been her bedrock of support her entire life, she was fortunate to have extremely good lecturers and colleagues
who always provided assistance to her when needed and encouraged her to keep the faith in order to reach the finish line. The University Office of Student’s welfare has recently
developed a disability policy and the University is already earmarking more institutional resources to support students with mental and physical disabilities to succeed as special

Sharing a bit of background information in relation to her reason for deciding to pursue studies in Accountancy, Rajni explained that the School of Entrepreneurship and Business
Innovation (SEBI) building which was recently constructed was equipped with a ramp which made it easier for her to access classes with much ease.

The SEBI was launched on July 7, 2017. Its core mission is to educate and develop entrepreneurial and innovative leaders and managers with the skills, competencies,
predisposition, and habits of mind to contribute to the social vitality and sustainable economic advancement of the nation and the global community.

Professor Leyland Lucas, Dean of SEBI commented: “It is often said that the character of an individual is defined by his/her ability to overcome adversity. Rajni, on a daily basis,
demonstrated that ability to overcome adversity. One is always impressed when interacting with her. A smile that demonstrates a high degree of confidence, a humility that reinforces her
focus on quiet success, and an implicit drive to succeed at all costs. Her classroom performance is highly commendable. She has shown that no challenge is unsurmountable.
SEBI is honoured to have been part of this journey and we look forward to her future success”.

Meanwhile, according to Rajni, her educational journey does not stop with just a Diploma. For her, education provides one the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and to become
successful in life. “I will pursue my BSc in Computer Science. I will continue doing what I love the most, which is, creating solutions for some of the most complex problems facing
Guyana and the world as a whole,” the determined young woman said.

Vice-Chancellor Xi, Prof. Paloma Mohamed Martin who was on-hand to see her take her graduation photo assured the young grad that the University would do whatever it took to see
her succeed in the field of her choice. “You are a miracle and an inspiration. You must go on. You will do great things. Congratulations to you, your lecturers and your Mom and family

When asked what her best memories of UG are, the prospective graduand explained: “the best part is definitely interacting with other students, listening to their stories, sharing
knowledge, experiences and also words of encouragement”. Rajni‟s advice to prospective and current students is to choose a programme that they are passionate about so that they would be eager to explore the different concepts and enjoy their academic journey and University life in general.

“Always remember why you started in the first place, never quit. My physical condition did not prevent me from going after my dreams and it should not prevent anyone else too,” she
encouraged.In a brief comment, the GCOPWD said, it is extremely proud of Rajni‟s exemplar performance. “Rajni‟s achievement is remarkable considering all the challenges she had to
grapple with in terms of accessibility,” GCOPWD said.

The organization, however, noted that it is pleased that more persons with disabilities are registering to attend the University. It also underscored the need for more resources to be
available to ensure that persons with disabilities are supported in every way to access education, not only at UG, but at educational institutions across the country.

All citizens of Guyana are entitled to equal treatment, equitable opportunities for self-improvement such as education, and equal access to services. This includes Guyanese who live with disabilities, or who may be referred to as differently-abled. Guyana signed on to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007 and ratified the
Convention in 2013. In 2010, the Persons With Disabilities Act was passed by the National Assembly.

When Rajni proudly walks the virtual graduation stage later this month, it will serve as another reminder to fellow students and many others that no matter what the circumstances
are, with a sense of focus, determination, and hard work anything is possible. In Rajni‟s own words: “your patience, determination and confidence will decide where your journey takes

Reprinted from the University of Guyana