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Azarius Ali

Jesse Ramdeo

Two students’ high hopes of chasing their academic dreams abroad are now on the brink of being dashed due to problems in raising funds to cover high tuition expenses.

Christin-Lee Maharaj already has one foot into a leading UK university. However, the pandemic has disrupted fund-raising efforts, leaving her in limbo.

“I was given three interviews and I succeeded in all of them and I eventually chose the University of Leicester, that is my dream school.”

The former St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain student recently had a crowning moment in her lifelong academic journey at her school’s graduation ceremony, when she swept the awards ceremony.

During an interview with Guardian Media yesterday, Maharaj listed some of her accomplishments that earned her an additional scholarship.

“In Form Five I topped my school. I placed first in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Additional Mathematics. I also placed fourth in the region in Biology. I also placed in my CAPE studies as well.”

As she endeavours on her path to pursue medicine, Maharaj must overcome the high cost of turning her dream into a reality.

“In Leicester, it is actually 250,000 Great British pounds and that translates to 2.4 million TT dollars,” she said.

With COVID-19 restrictions barring much-needed fundraiser activities, Maharaj and her parents, both school teachers, have been forced to dig deep to meet the demand.

“We are also looking at the GoFundMe page, which is a fundraiser for my tuition and that is one of the last resorts we have had to look at, because we exhausted loans, credit unions, all that we’ve exhausted.”

The 19-year-old has also resorted to giving lessons to supplement her family’s income, as hopes of gaining temporary employment in other areas were dashed by the pandemic.

But within the problems posed by the pandemic, the aspiring doctor has found purpose.

“If I were given the chance to make a difference, I really want to do that in any way I can, so it has encouraged me and given me a deeper appreciation for all healthcare workers and frontline workers, it has given me strong reinforcement.”

Maharaj lamented that the financial fallout exacerbated by the pandemic and the challenges of even raising the necessary funds could prevent some of the country’s brightest minds from accessing international tertiary level education.

“I want to point out that a lot of our students are getting into the top Ivy League universities throughout the world and it is unfortunately common that many cannot afford to go to these universities despite their potential.”

The pandemic has also prevented casino worker Ruiz Ali from generating financial support to cover his son’s expenses to the University of Kansas in the United States.

His son, Azarius Ali, a former Fatima College student, has received a partial scholarship.

“Every day I wake up is a day closer to the deadline and it’s like an extra brick on my shoulder and I’m trying to push this GoFundMe page to see how much as possible and maybe pay it off,” Ali told Guardian Media.

Ali said as a parent, it was heartbreaking to see his child’s dream fade. To assist Christin-Lee, you can visit the GoFundMe page “Help Christian become a doctor” and for Ali, it is fundmetnt.com/campaign/funds-needed-for-partial-soccer-scholarship.