Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth years ago, doctors initially said Josiah Atiba Mandela Thomas may never walk or talk.
Today, however, Thomas, now 18, a former student of Rio Claro East Secondary School, is celebrating attaining six subjects in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC).
Beating the odds has not been an easy task for him but Josiah has proven that he has the strength, determination and will power to overcome his challenges.
“To be honest, I had some ups and downs but I keep the faith. I was praying until exam results came up. I was praying to God, saying Lord I want ones, twos and threes. Look at where I am today. I am very proud to see how many subjects I got,” beamed Josiah yesterday.
He received Grade 1 in Information Technology, Grade Two in Integrated Science and Principle of Business and Grade Three in English, Principle of Accounts and Clothing and Textile. He did not pass Mathematics but intends to repeat English and Maths, as well as pursue A-Levels in Information Technology.
Thomas thanked his teachers, teaching aid, friends and family for their support, but said his mother Sharon Thomas, 57, has been the driving force behind his success.
When he was born, Josiah could not move his hands, which were curled against his chest and his feet were positioned in a peculiar angle. He has since undergone four surgeries, a dental surgery, speech therapy and physiotherapy.
Speaking to Guardian Media at their Robert Village, Tableland home Saturday, his proud mother, a housewife, said she has been “running” with him since his birth, which was exhausting, but she steered the course.
“I start running from birth and I had the determination. I say God send him like this, I know one day God will call me home and I want him to be able to take care of himself.”
Thomas attended the Princess Elizabeth Centre in Woodbrook and then at age six was enrolled in the Poole RC Primary School in Rio Claro. About a month before his CSEC exams, however, he fell, chipped the bone in his ankle and had to wear a cast.
“I was unable to attend school for April and some of the days in May. I took that time to study. It did not keep me back from doing my exams,” he said.
“Describing himself as positive and a jovial person, Josiah, who follows the Independent Baptist faith, said he draws his strength from God. Unable to write properly, Josiah typed most of his notes on his laptop in class. He also moved around in school in his wheelchair, as he cannot walk for long distances without assistance.
“The school is very good. They have wheelchair accessibility. I did not have much challenges it had one or two children who will pick on me but I did not really take it on,” he said.
“I am that type of person. I am always on a positive note, so I don’t really let the negativity bother me. I like to inspire others.”
After he finishes school he wants to pursue a career in online trading, but his dream is to one day open his own computer repair business.
His mother said most days she spent approximately $70 in travelling to and from his school.
“One day I just spent the day in Rio Claro sitting on a bench waiting for him to finish school to bring him home because I did not have much money to travel,” she recalled.
To compound matters, Thomas said earlier this year Social Services cut the special needs grant saying she was no longer qualified for it. Thomas, however, advised parents with children with disabilities to never give up on their children.
Josiah also offered words of advice to persons with disabilities,
“Don’t let it stop you from going towards your goal. Take for me example, I suffer from cerebral palsy. The doctor said I could not walk, I could not talk, now look at where I am today. I finish secondary school and I have six passes under my belt. So that goes to show that once you have the determination and have God on your side anything is possible.” Josiah, who also lives with his father Junior, a carpenter, and brother Joshua, 21, also called for more ramps, or even escalators and elevators, in schools and other establishments to make them accessible for physically challenged people.
Congratulating Josiah on his success, Moruga/Tableland MP Dr Lovell Francis said his achievement was due to sheer grit, determination, hard work and support of his loving and dedicated mother.