The Holy Month of Ramadan has brought a special blessing for St Augustine Girls' High School student Nadimah Mohammed. Mohammed, 18, is one of two students who copped the President's Gold Medal in three subjects–chemistry, literatures in English and French.
The other is Chantal Cave, of St Joseph's Convent in Port-of-Spain. In the Cape examinations, Mohammed got nine distinctions. Yesterday, celebration raged like wildfire at SAGHS, and the Mohammed clan in El Socorro. Accompanying Mohammed to her alma mater at Evan Street, Curepe, was her mother Lystra Mohammed, a former payroll clerk at Trinidad Publishing Co Ltd. The younger Mohammed said: "I am ecstatic. I am thankful to my family, teachers and parents and my father (sports commentator) Fazeer Mohammed. It has not sunken yet." From all appearances, it was a routine day for Mohammed–attending school at UWI and preparing for mosque in the evening. She is pursing a BSc in psychology with a double minor in international relations and sociology. She worships at the Nur-e-Islam mosque in El Socorro.
Mohammed said: "A friend called my mom and told my mom about it. Then we began listening to it on the radio. Then my principal Kathleen Anderson called and this is how I confirmed it." But for a moment, reality hit. "My mom and my sister Amenah started to cry. My grandmother Rebeekah Mohammed started to cry. It was an emotional moment. We couldn't believe the blessing that had come from Allah." At SAGHS, everyone was waiting with open arms to congratulate her. The feat had not been repeated since student Karen De Freitas took gold in the science category in 1991. Mohammed said: "The principal called an assembly. She was running down the corridor. She was jumping for joy. My teachers are so happy for me. "They are happy it is the English and languages field. The sciences tend to get more prestige in different sectors of society. "My friends began calling my cellphone. 'Is it true? Congratulations!'"
Strategy for success
Quizzed on her strategy for success, Mohammed said: "It's a lot of dedication. I have a lot of passion for what I did. When I chose my combination, people were wondering what sense does it make to do those three subjects. I can't perform at my best unless I love what I am doing, or I won't do it." While she developed a natural aptitude for chemistry, she found literature a bit challenging. "I am a bit of a crammer. For the final Cape exams, literature was the greatest challenge...It took a lot of notes, practising writing essays and analysing," Mohammed said. "For French, it was practising orals and becoming familiar with the book...studying to internalise it. I love chemistry. But I had to put in extra hours."
She paid kudos to her French teacher Paul Carrington for how he brought the text to life. She said: "I was able to understand what the author brought across. I grew to love chemistry because of Joanne Mahadeo. I have to thank my literature teachers Sharda Ramsundar and Carolyn Harnanan. The two of them were an amazing team. I have to thank vice-principal Katherine Bahadur." Coupled with her diligence, Mohammed paid kudos to her parents for setting her on the path to academic prowess. She said: "My parents Lystra and Fazeer are my best friends. I think they balance each other nicely. My father is very much into academia. He's witty and challenges me to think critically. We discuss the issues. "My mother is supportive and dedicated to my sister (another SAGHS student) and I. She has given her life to us. They are truly my heroes."