Fri | Apr 19, 2019

UWI scholar sets sight on doctoral degree

Published:Monday | September 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMKeisha Hill/ Senior Gleaner Writer
Ralisa Dawkins
Ralisa Dawkins

Just over 11 years ago, 25-year-old Ralisa Dawkins completely lost her sight.

It was the culmination of a most dreaded process that began at the age of 14 when Dawkins was diagnosed with optic neuritis, an inflammation of the optic nerve that caused her sight to progressively degenerate.

But Dawkins never lost optimism for a university degree, racking up award after award at the secondary and tertiary levels en route to her first class honours Bachelor of Science in Political Science at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, last year.

Dawkins also pursued a double minor in international relations and African Diaspora Studies.

"The sky is the limit," said Dawkins, the recipient of the Ambassador Sue Cobb scholarship during her final year of undergraduate study.

Now pursuing her master's degree in government, Dawkins said that she is determined to pursue a PhD upon completion of her second degree.

According to her, making the transition from being sighted to becoming blind was difficult, but she always held on to her mantra of believing in herself.

"I had to stop going to school during the initial phase. It was very difficult for me, but, thankfully, my family and friends were very supportive," Dawkins said.

Now, she is only able to see silhouettes.

"I cannot see people, but I can see the shadow. If I don't see someone's shadow, I can smell to know that you are there," she said.

Dawkins was attending Lennon High School in Clarendon when she became visually impaired and completed her high school studies at the Salvation Army School for the Blind and then The Queen's School for Girls.

"It was an amazing experience! The teachers were very accommodating and really helped to motivate me in my academic pursuits," she said.

Academic awards

While in lower sixth form at The Queen's School, she was awarded certificates of excellence for her academic achievements, and while in upper sixth form, she was first in her class.

At the end of sixth form, she achieved four distinctions and two passes in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination.

"I relied mostly on listening and using audio books as much as possible. My friends would also listen to them and help me to memorise what was taught. It worked, and I am very happy for my achievements," Dawkins said.

"I want to encourage persons with disabilities to motivate themselves and seek encouragement from others and be committed to what they set their minds to," Dawkins said.