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23-year-old Nareema Alli, a journalist attached to DTV8, copped a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture at University of Guyana Berbice Campus (UGBC). She is the third of five children (all girls) and grew up in Vryheid Village, located in the Western Bank of the Canje River, Region Six (6).
Nareema attended the Lochaber Nursery School, then Therese’s Primary School, where she sat the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA), acquired 507 marks, gained a spot at St.Joseph’s High, and an acceptance letter from President’s College. However, she completed her secondary school education at the New Amsterdam Secondary School (NAMS), where she graduated with passes in 10 subjects. Nareema loved science hence, she was in the Science Stream during high school.
Immediately after school, Nareema wanted to pursue a career in veterinary health science at the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) but her parents didn’t like the idea of her leaving home to study in Mon Repos.
“After being bored at home for a few months, I applied for a job as a reporter at Channel 8 News at Dave’s Television Station. The next year I applied to GSA and was called for an interview but my parents didn’t want me going there even after an entire year passed,” Nareema said.
Further, she added, “In 2019, my parents told me that I had enough time away from school and I should commence my tertiary education. All the while, I was still working at Channel 8 News and similar words of encouragement were echoed by the late Tony Rambarran.”
For Nareema, growing up in the countryside meant she was always actively involved in the cultivation of cash crops in her family’s yard. Every home in Vryheid had a kitchen garden and Nareema’s family was no different. She would assist in preparation of seedlings for the crop, land preparation, transplanting seedlings, weed control, pest control (when necessary), fertilizers application, irrigation, harvesting and post harvesting.
“My father is a mastermind when it comes to these things and he knows so much about plants that it’s sometimes intriguing. When my father was away for work, I used to take it upon myself to pick up that role. I was never asked to do it, but it gave me a sense of accomplishment knowing that I could. Up to this day my siblings still trouble me about going in the garden after school with the radio for a bit of entertainment and singing loudly while watering the plants,” Nareema told this publication.
Her mother told the neighbors about her hobby and they started purchasing their vegetables from her. Even though she wasn’t a large scale farmer, it made her proud to earn something from just investing a few hours daily in the garden.
In 2019, Nareema started her university journey at the UGBC with about 8 other students, but by the end of the first semester, there were only 4 students left, Nareema included.
She added: “At first, I was a bit intimidated, seeing that I took a two year break and everyone else either worked in the agriculture sector or came fresh from school. Nonetheless, I was determined to succeed, setting a goal of graduating with a distinction. It was tough, especially working while attending a full time program. Eventually, I realized that I needed to make a schedule so that I’m never sidetracked.
I’m happy to say that it worked for me. The pandemic resulted in our batch completing the second second year via Skype, google classroom and later on zoom.”
Nareema was happy to have her classes online, since it would be more flexible for her, but after having frequent disruptions due to power outages and losing connectivity, it was a nightmare.
Many times she would be knocked out of classes, lose connection during a presentation, have to restart multiple times and even experience audio issues.
“Writing an online exam was the most stressful thing ever. I can’t say I was the perfect student, because I too would be frying plantains during my zoom classes, or not notice my mic was on and answer a call from my boss. The prolonged periods of zoom classes caused frequent headaches as well as neck and back pain. When I started my final year, I was thrilled to know that classes were face to face because this meant no more virtual lab sessions or missed field trips,” she said.
With physical classes back, Nareema got to interact with her classmates more, attend agri club activities which were much needed, and was exposed to practical activities. Even though she and her classmates complained about removing nut grass from our crops in the hot sun, she looked back on those memories and smiled with gratitude.
While attending university, Alli faced several challenges; online classes were stressful for her, as well as having to pull the weight for group assignments since she had to complete quite a few with students that refused to participate. On days when it was too overwhelming for her, she’d sit next to her dad or sisters in the hammock and rant about everything, and their little words of encouragement would be calming for her. When that didn’t help, she’d pray until that uneasy feeling went away.
In the future, she would like to earn the title ‘Dr. Alli’, so that would involve her continuing her studies with a Masters and then doctorate. In furthering her studies, she was hoping to acquire a scholarship this year to study a masters in Soil and water management and conservation, but she was unsuccessful. However, she is exploring her options and researching programmes that she can pursue, hopefully next year.
Nareema advises youth like herself, by saying, “Be prayerful, be persistent and prioritise your mental health. UG is no walk in the park and everyone has so much that they’re juggling aside from their academics. This year, I’ve been constantly telling myself I needed to eliminate the things that wouldn’t help me evolve. By doing this I think I was able to focus more on my ultimate goal.”
She graduated recently with her Bachelor’s Degree in Science (Agriculture) and was deemed the best graduating student in my division (for the agri programme). Knowing she couldn’t have done this without the grace of the Almighty, for that I say, Alhamdulillah. Nareema extends her gratitude to her immediate family and has shown her support every step of the way. She also extends thanks to her supportive friends, classmates, lecturers; particularly Mr. Courtney Bullen, Bissessar Persaud and Lacram Kokil as well as the Rambarran family as they were all instrumental in her success.