Despite having been told it was not possible for him to pursue two levels of academic study simultaneously, Chaitram Mohamed, a 2016 economics graduate of the University of Guyana (UG) who has already begun reading for his Masters, was determined to prove his naysayers wrong whilst staying on track to fulfil his dream of attaining his PhD by 25.
A former top student of St Rose’s High School (SRHS), 20-year-old Mohamed has completed a BSc. in Economics, placing third for the Economics class of 2016 with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.75.
Two years ago, the economics major was honoured as the top performing Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) student at his Alma Mater as well as the best graduating business student having attained nine grade ones and two grade twos with a GPA of 3.9.
His performance had exceeded his academic achievements of 2012, when he was honoured as the second best graduating student at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations, while placing among the top 20 students countrywide with his passes in 16 subjects.
Originally from Foulis Village, East Coast Demerara, Mohamed said he began concentrating on academics just before writing the secondary school entrance exam at the Enmore Hope Primary School. And though he was determined to excel at that time, he was faced with the challenge of studying without electricity since the village had none.
He opted to study at least one hour every day after school, mostly practicing Mathematics which was his favourite subject.
He had hoped to gain a place at Queen’s College, but was awarded St Rose’s High School in 2007 which left him a bit disappointed. Nonetheless, he promised himself that he would make the best of the opportunity.
Describing his high school experience as the best he could have wished for, Mohamed said he was encouraged by his teachers, specifically his first form teacher, Beverly Selman who had high hopes for him.
His decision to join the business stream came from the study materials that were available at the time since his parents had previously purchased books for his older brothers specific to the business stream and thus he became interested in economics.
“I know that this was my area of work as it was very challenging, involved a lot of analytical thinking and also had Mathematics. So, I decided I was going to pursue this area of study after high school,” he related.
However, the scholar said his high school experience was not always that “flowery” since he was often left drained from his daily commute to and from school. Additionally, his parents were not working which made it difficult for them to cover the cost of extra lessons.
“I did not give up though, I took lessons only in areas that were challenging and practiced the others at home,” Mohamed shared.
But even in the light of his most recent academic achievement, what is not common knowledge is the fact that while he was pursing studies at the CAPE level, Mohamed was also enrolled in the economics programme at University of Guyana (UG).
Asked about his decision to pursue studies at both the CAPE level and at UG, Mohamed said it was all about challenging himself while pursuing his goal of attaining a PhD by the age of 25.
“It was not easy, it was indeed very challenging. I remember going into my classes at university after school and classmates would be looking at me in a perplexed manner. I felt a bit uncomfortable as some of them told me it was not possible to do both CAPE and UG, including lecturers. I told them that it was my decision and I can do it,” the graduate said.
“I remember my [CAPE] graduation day in 2014. It was one of the best nights, I felt that I was halfway there in fulfilling what I set out to do… Whilst I was giving my valedictorian speech, I could hear many of my friends cheering me on and also see the smiles of my parents, brothers and teachers. I had never felt so proud,” he recounted.
“I struggled a lot, sometimes with sleepless nights and multiple exams in one day but there was no turning back. I got support from my teachers at SRHS who assisted me a lot in the internal assessments and extra classes,” Mohamed related.
His experience at university, he said, was a “whole different world” as there was no room for anyone to be spoon-fed the curriculum.
“I was exposed to the real world where life is a rush and a struggle. I tried as much as I could to learn and also receive good grades,” the young man related.
This process was aided some of the more friendly and helpful lecturers in his faculty such as Errol La Cruz, Dr Thomas Singh and Anand Persaud.
With regard to his courses, Mohamed favoured International Finance, Applied Microeconomics and Mathematics for Economics, all of which he said allowed for analysis and application.
On the other hand, the scholar said Sociology and Computer Studies were his most challenging courses since he preferred the “pure” economics.
And while he would have liked to join his graduating class at UG’s 50th convocation, Mohamed was halfway across the world in India finishing an economic essay for his Master’s programme in which he is currently enrolled.
This, he said came as a result of being awarded an Indian scholarship just about five months ago to pursue his Masters in Economics.
“I got accepted into the University of Hyderabad before completing my undergraduate degree because my grades were sufficient,” he said, adding that the university was one of the top five in India.
Mohamed said he has made himself comfortable at the Tagore International House where he will reside until he completes his Master’s programme.
“So far, it is a very nice experience. Meeting people from all over the world is fun since I’m learning about their way of life. I have met persons from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Germany, United States of America, Sri Lanka, Dubai, Norway, Tajikistan, Ghana, and Gambia,” he added.
With regard to his studies, Mohamed said though the courses are a bit tough, he is confident that his hard work will once again pay off.
“Sometimes, I go without sleep for three days straight because minor exams occur every week,” he said.
He plans to focus on the areas
of financial and developmental economics in his senior year;
these areas, he said are of significance to him since he hopes to one day hold the position of Finance Minister in Guyana.
Apart from the challenges of the programme itself, Mohamed also finds it difficult being away from his family and friends.
“I knew it was going to be difficult before I left Guyana. I do not plan on returning to Guyana until my Master’s programme is completed because it is very costly, so during the winter and summer vacations, I plan to visit the other states in India and explore as much as I can,” he shared.
As regards his goal of completing his PhD before the age of 25, Mohamed expressed the hope of being awarded another scholarship to complete those studies in the United States.
However, if this does not materialize, he will be content with returning home to work before going back to his focus of attaining his PhD.
Additionally, Mohamed also plans to further his studies in Corporate Law and Accounting before taking a break to travel the world.