Against all odds: Dawnetta McLean is QC bound

– despite illness and adversity
Eleven-year-old Dawnetta McLean endured more hardship than her little shoulders should be allowed to bear leading up to the National Grade Six Assessment, including two bouts of illness, hours of travelling and many late nights, but she was determined to do well and in the end her dream came true when she was awarded a place at Queen’s College (QC).

Dawnetta McLean

Success comes after hard work it is said and McLean’s was hard as she not only spent countless hours in classroom settings at school and later at lessons but also had numerous domestic issues to deal with and were it not for her resilience she may have easily given up.

Even as she basks in the glory of being among the country’s top 100 students McLean knows that is her only reward.

What she really would like to have been awarded with is a laptop computer, an item she dreams of owning, but sadly for her it will remain a dream for much longer.

While her mother Dawn McLean would like nothing better than to grant her daughter her heart’s desire, she is not in a financial position to do so. In fact Dawn is hardly in a position to secure her daughter’s school apparel for the new school term and the nagging headache that never subsides is the everyday bus fare that she would have to find to send her daughter to the school of her dreams.

“But she must go,” Dawn told Stabroek News in a recent interview. “She worked really hard and she get Queen’s and she has to go.” Dawn explained that her daughter being awarded a place at the highest school in the land was bittersweet.


Dawn is a labourer at a large company and she makes just about $5,000 a week without overtime. Her husband, also a labourer at a timber company, makes just about the same thing.

However, the combined wages of the two are hardly enough to sustain the family of three as according to Dawn by the time they pay their bills and purchase food there is hardly any money left.

“Many days I did not have money to send Dawnetta to school but I use to tek shame out me eye and borrow from the neighbours because I say she must go to school,” the woman told this newspaper.

She explained that while she only has one child it is still difficult for the family and the fact that they live all the way at Kuru Kururu, on the Linden-Soesdyke Highway, does not help the situation. She had to find some $480 a day for her daughter to journey to and from the West Ruimveldt Primary School. At times the family doesn’t have much at home to eat and the mother who feels for her daughter is also forced to borrow money for the child’s lunch.

“What I would carry to work for lunch she would be shame to carry it to school, she would tell me the children would laugh at her,” the woman said sadly.

She pointed out that while it was a struggle sending her daughter so many miles to school she thought it was best for her to attend a school where she would have better opportunities.

“It was never easy; all the late nights it was hard but she had to go, I want the best for her I don’t want her to go through what I going through,” the mother said.

She recalled that later last year, just months after her daughter moved to West Ruimveldt from St Andrew’s Primary, she came down with chicken pox and was forced to remain at home for a lengthy period.

“When  it start to heal I send she to school but the teacher send she back home because she said it was too soon, and it was hard for her to miss school,” the mother said.

And if that was not bad enough, in January of this year Dawnetta, who always sits at the front of the classroom, was hit in the head by a falling blackboard.

Dawn recalled that for days her daughter cried out for headaches and “I had to be running from doctor to doctor because I was afraid something bad happen.” Thankfully, in the final analysis doctors told her that Dawnetta was fine even though she still suffers from an occasional headache.

Late nights

For the soft spoken Dawnetta the hardest of all was the late nights she had to travel and even though she would be tired she had to sit up and do her home work before retiring to bed.

“The teachers use to tell her that home work is for home and not to do it in school,” the child’s mother recalled.

The child, who dreams of one day becoming a paediatrician, recalled that she had to be on the road by 6.30 am to make it to school on time, or else she would be late for school and would have to clean the compound as a consequence.

She attended Sir Wilfred Success’ lessons and as such sometimes she got home as late as 9 pm, depending on how late her mother worked.

Dawn explained that she never allowed her daughter to walk the lonely road to their home at nights and would wait for her at the head of the road. However, if Dawn had to work late her daughter would disembark the bus at the Soesdyke junction and remain “where it bright and when I coming home I pick she up with the bus.”

Dawnetta told Stabroek News that she always knew she would have done well even though some days were very hard especially when she had to borrow the books from her friends.

“The exams were not difficult for me because I use to always study even long before the exams, so studying was not hard and I knew I would do well. The studying was no big deal but it was the late nights,” she told Stabroek News.

Her mother recalled that long after they received the good news about her daughter’s results the child would talk in her sleep and over and over say: “Mommy I get Queen’s College.”

The child said she is very excited to attend her new school even as her mother struggles to ensure that she is well prepared when the new school term opens.

‘One white shirt’

Dawn told Stabroek News that she is buying her daughter’s school clothes “piece by piece and I already buy one white shirt and I want to buy four more by this month end.”

A Good Samaritan has given her $1500 for the school’s tie and she has already purchased the child’s black ribbons.

“I have to do it this month, the last thing ah buying is her shoes, because next month I have to save up for her to get the passage to go to school and to buy proper things for her to take to school for lunch,” the woman said.

The child’s mother wishes that her daughter could be assisted with a scholarship to attend school but the organisations she approached indicated that they had already selected children to sponsor.
“She work hard and since she smaller she use to do well and I want her to get the best. She doing good and if she could get a scholarship that would be nice, just to buy she school things that is all I want,” the mother said.

The woman said she chose not to have any more children as she wanted the best for her child and felt if it was this hard with just one then she did not want to learn how much more difficult it would be if she had more children.

“Girl I can’t afford more children. My mother make 12 of us and I never really get to finish school. I want the best for my daughter and I know with education she can get the best,” the woman said.

For Dawnetta, her God and her mother have been very integral to her success, but she said that without the assistance of her “guardian aunt” Loris Primo, teachers Sir Wilfred Success and Miss Phyllis Jackson and her relatives she would not have done so well.

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