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UG’s Top Students detail trials and triumphs in journey to academic glory amidst pandemic

Trials, Triumphs and Academic Glory). How does one get to be among the top 5 in 2500 University peers? Behind every academic success, there is a unique and interesting story of hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and in most cases, a relentless and difficult journey of overcoming adversities in every sense of the term. It is no different with the University of Guyana’s top students for the Class of 2020.

In a historic first, due to the need to adhere to the physical distancing and other Covid-19 health protocols, the University of Guyana has concluded a series of 5 virtual graduation ceremonies which encompassed graduates from the Turkeyen and Berbice Campuses and those from the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (IDCE) programs.

For the 2019/2020 Academic year, two “warriors” have emerged as valedictorians – Deepa Amrita Odit, an aspiring pharmacist and Savitree Budram, an educator, representing each of the two main University Campuses; Turkeyen and Berbice respectively.

These graduates, along with their colleagues from the University’s various Faculties, Schools, and Institutes, have proven that they have what it takes to excel in the most difficult of circumstances, especially at a time when the institution was forced to suddenly move from face-to-face to online learning.

Odit, 24, read for a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy and earned a GPA of 3.98, while Budram, 36, read for a Bachelor of Education, (Administration-Secondary) and earned a perfect GPA of 4.0. They both are very much deserving of the President’s Medal for the best graduating Bachelor’s Degree Student.

Odit, a soft-spoken and extremely confident young woman, began her educational journey at the Dharmic Rama Krishna Nursery School and then continued at Rama Krishna Primary School where she secured a spot at Queen‟s College. After completing her secondary education, she was faced with choosing the next step which was what she wanted to pursue as a career.

“My thoughts never went towards being a pharmacist and it wasn’t one of those career options I wrote in those compositions in school that were on “what I wanted to be when I grew up,” the Campbellville, Georgetown, resident explained.

Odit relayed that her decision to pursue a Bachelor of Science Degree in Pharmacy at the nation’s premier tertiary institution came when she realized that she particularly liked chemistry and wanted a career in the healthcare profession. She further noted that she grew to love certain aspects of the profession and is content with the choice she made.

Detailing her journey through UG, and more so over the past year in trying to cope with the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, Odit observed that the road traveled to reach this stage was filled with many hardships but, she, along with her colleagues, was able to overcome them.

During her powerful and uplifting valedictorian speech, Odit recalled: “This journey for most, if not all of us was not an easy one, it was one filled with self-doubt, anxiety, stress, tears, thoughts of dropping out, many overwhelming moments especially with multiple deadlines hitting you all at once and constantly reciting the mantra “I just need to get through this week. Then we found ourselves amidst a pandemic.”

She added: “The last few months have been unconventional, hectic, filled with worry, difficulties, and many uncertainties and it definitely was not how we expected to spend the last few months of our final semester. We didn’t know that our last day on campus would have really been our last day on campus until we were sitting at home behind the screens processing the news of a pandemic and transitioning to online learning.”

“Moving forward, there will be highs and lows because that’s just how life is, but it is how we handle those low moments is what matters. No matter what, keep going, continue learning and becoming the best versions of yourselves, create those opportunities or open those doors yourselves if you have to but please keep going and celebrating your accomplishments no matter how little or big it may be,” she encouraged her fellow graduates:

Outside of academia, the young scholar enjoys spending quality time with those close to her, watching various TV shows and movies, and recently; learning and participating in a few home improvement projects she had at home.

Meanwhile, Budram, 36, read for a Bachelor of Education (Administration-Secondary) and was given the nod as the Valedictorian for the University’s Berbice Campus after she secured a GPA of 4.0.

A teacher by profession, Budram was born and raised in the Cinderella County of Essequibo. She recalled the many difficult times she was forced to grapple with as a child.

“My father passed away when I was very small and, along with my sister, we were left to be cared for by my mother,” she explained, adding that this placed an additional burden on the family.

Budram‟s educational journey started at C. V. Nunes Primary and after writing the then Common Entrance Examinations, she was awarded a place at the nation’s top Secondary school; Queens College. “My mom could not have afforded to send me so I was transferred to Anna Regina Secondary where I obtained my secondary education,” she said.

During her teenage years, Budram developed a love for Mathematics and Science and aspired to have a career in the medical field but due to financial constraints, this was not possible.

However, in January 2001, she joined the teaching profession and recognized the need for her academic and professional development and as such got enrolled at Cyril Potter College of
Education (CPCE) in the said year.

The mother of three, who now resides in Berbice, further explained that after starting her family life, she felt that the responsibilities of a wife and mother were of utmost importance and as such did not entertain thoughts of attending the University of Guyana.

Budram detail that in 2014, she decided that it was time she moved up the teaching profession ladder, she began reading for a Degree in Mathematics. This was however short-lived as not long after she was involved in an accident which left her bed-ridden for months… it was uncertain as to whether she would ever walk again.

“I never lost hope and was thankful that I had a second chance in life. This became the principle of my existence and I vowed to never waste a day in my life, and in 2017, I commenced my studies at UGBC,” the determined scholar related.

Like her colleague Odit, Budram, in her valedictorian speech detailed the challenges in completing her final year of studies. “Three years ago, we pursued our studies with many uncertainties, but we persevered. Then just when we thought we had it all figured out and the finish line was within our sight, COVID – 19 sprung upon us as an unimaginable force and robbed us of physical space at UG. We felt that it was unfair, but as Bill Gates observed “life is unfair, so get used to it‟. And we had to confront and outmaneuver the COVID monster because we wanted to reach this milestone.”

The young educator added: “We have had sleepless nights completing the steady flow of assignments, preparing for presentations, reading handouts and we even had exams that activated all our brain cells. My fellow graduates, I can relate to your distraught feelings, having to move abruptly from classroom sessions to sitting in our homes staring at computer screens or just listening to the lecturers‟ voices emanating from speakers and the recordings.

But we did not surrender. Instead, like true warriors, we defied the odds and triumphed”. Budram, who is presently attached to Rosignol Secondary as Senior Mistress, plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Education shortly.


The Prime Minister Medals 

There were two categories for the award of the Prime Minister Medal; one for the best graduating student in the School of Medicine and the other for the best graduating student
with the Degree in Public Management.

The Prime Minister’s Medal for the best graduating student in the School of Medicine was awarded to Jonelle Europe. Europe read for a Bachelor of Medicine (Bachelor of Surgery) Degree and earned a GPA of 3.74 while The Prime Minister’s Medal for the best graduating student with the Degree in Public Management went to Ms. Desiree Noble who read for a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Management and achieved a GPA of 3.85.

In her final year of study, Europe explained that COVID-19 made its way around the world and the University of Guyana‟s MBBS program was not spared. When asked how the pandemic affected her completing her degree she related; “The pandemic really made things more difficult.

You’re more concerned about your loved ones and their livelihood, yet you had these major exams that you were expected to focus on. It was tough” Overwhelmed, satisfied, and grateful are all words she used to describe her feelings upon completing her studies and emerging top of her class. Dr. Europe stated that she began her journey in hopes of becoming a paediatrician.

However, she confessed that she is also considering a career in Family Medicine. One thing is for sure she says is that her decision will be “wherever the Lord permits me to be”. Similarly, Noble, who hails from Kuru-Kururu on the Soesdyke Linden Highway, detailed that her journey was also filled with many stumbling blocks but with the support of her
family, friends, and lecturers, she was able to reach the finish line.

Reminiscing on her tenure at UG, she detailed that she had to endure many long hours of studies to get her assignments and coursework done, and when the pandemic came, it was even more difficult to cope as online learning was the new norm.

“Never, never, never give up” is one of her favorite quotes from Winston Churchill that has resonated with her throughout her academic journey and life thus far. “I began my academic journey with hopes of becoming a Lawyer like my aunt but later found interest in Public Management with the intention of one day becoming a Public Management Specialist,” she explained.

List of awardees for the 2019/2020 Academic Year:

1) The President’s Medal: for the best graduating Bachelor’s Degree student, Deepa

Amrita Odit, College of Medical Science, Bachelor of Science (Pharmacy).

2) The Chancellor’s Medal: for the second-best graduating Bachelor’s Degree student,

Mahadeo Singh, Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Bachelor of Science (Civil with
Environmental Engineering).

3) The Prime Minister’s Medal: for the best graduating student in the School of
Medicine, Jonnelle Europe, College of Medical Science, Bachelor of Medicine (Bachelor of

4) The Prime Minister’s Medal: for the best graduating student with the Degree in Public
Management, Desiree Noble, Faculty of Social Sciences, Bachelor of Science (Public

5) The Pro-Chancellor’s Medal: for the best graduating law student at the University of
Guyana, Shawn Shewram, Faculty of Social Sciences, Bachelor of Law.

6) The Council of the University prize: for the graduating student who has attained at
least a „Pass with Credit‟ and has made the greatest contribution in other areas of University
activities. Farnaz Baksh, Faculty of Natural sciences, Bachelor of Science (Computer
Berbice Campus:

1) The Award for the Best Graduating Student: for a student who has completed a
Bachelor‟s Degree with the highest GPA, Savitree Budram, Faculty of Education and
Humanities, Bachelor of Education (Administration Secondary).

2) The award for the Second Best Graduating Student: for the student who has
completed a Bachelor‟s Degree with the second-highest GPA, Carlettea Teresa Kursatte,
Faculty of Social Sciences, Bachelor of Science (Public Management)

3) The Award for the Best Graduating Student: in the diploma/ certificate/ associate
Degree programs, who has attained the highest GPA, Deborah Tombran, Faculty of
Natural Sciences, an associate of Science (Mathematics).

Reposted from the University of Guyana