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– Tonia De Santos defied the odds
Becoming a mother is by no stretch of the imagination an easy feat and for Tonia De Santos, life as a teenage mom was extremely difficult.
“My struggles as a teenage mother were difficult because I dropped out of high school while my peers continued, just the look of disappointment on the faces of people in my community and Linden was significantly overwhelming. There were times when I just wanted to sleep and she was crying and I started crying and I started saying to myself, like why me, my friends are in their bed sleeping and I have a kid I have to look after,” she related.
Throughout her challenges, De Santos said she put her daughter, Tolania Thom first. She said she recognised that despite her initial stumbling blocks her desire to ensure her daughter had a life she could be proud of was her motivation.
“I had to put shame aside and realise that this was my journey and I was determined to get the best life for her, although there were hurdles that both of us had to cross,” the young woman told Village Voice Guyana.
De Santos’ daughter, now 11, just completed the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) examination, where she secured a place at the St. Roses High School with a total of 502 marks.
The proud mother, who is now a trained teacher at the Christianburg Wismar Primary School said her struggles have made her stronger and she is proud that she has been able to instill in her daughter that which she gave up some 11 years ago.
Due to De Santos’ pregnancy, she was forced to leave the Mackenzie High School. The woman said dropping out of high school was hard but she doesn’t regret her journey this far. She told Village Voice Guyana that with the help of her mother, she enrolled at the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (IDCE) where she sat several subjects at the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC). She was successful in all she pursued.
The proud woman said her decision to pursue higher education was also to repay her mother for her many sacrifices. She thanked her mother for her unwavering support during her pregnancy.
“I wasn’t going to be left behind because of my shortcomings. I am extremely grateful to my mother who was always there for me, for those times that were difficult, she was always present, willing and able and it is even bringing tears to my eyes right now expressing that feeling because nobody knows,” the emotional woman said.
De Santos told Village Voice Guyana that after completing her CSEC she enrolled at the School of the Nations to pursue a Law Degree. However, because of her financial situation, she was unable to complete the programme. Instead, she enrolled at the Cyril Potter College of Education (COCE) where she completed the two-year programme and became a trained teacher.
The emotional woman said her challenges were many noting that many times her financial constraints limited her ability to go beyond where she is currently. She explained that when she received news of her daughter’s success at the NGSA she was reminded of her struggles.
De Santos explained that though the challenges posed by COVID-19 affected her household, she was able to prepare her daughter for the national exam. She credited her daughter’s efforts as she was an independent worker.
The young woman said her success and that of her daughter ought to serve as a lesson to all who have difficult circumstances that too can overcome.
“I was determined not to be a victim of my situation and so I developed myself and as I was developing myself, my daughter was there…success comes with hard work especially if you are a single parent, but it is not impossible,” she told Village Voice Guyana adding that “As a teenage mother, it is not how you fall but how you choose to get back up.”
The mother of one encouraged others who may be in a similar situation as she found herself to “be determined, complete your education or find a skill.”
“All of us cannot be teachers, doctors or lawyers, somebody has to cook, cater, do floral decoration, just find a skill and something that you love to do. This is not the end of the world. Life goes on… your child will get big and it will get better for both of you,” the proud mother said.