President’s Medal winner Anjali Maharaj, of Naparima Girls’ High School, plays with her dog Bella at her home in Marabella yesterday.

Sascha Wilson

Despite feeling demotivated and sad at times owing to the pandemic, 18-year-old Anjali Maharaj just kept pushing herself.

All her hard work and perseverance paid off, as Maharaj and another student, Hillview College’s Amrit Galbaran, yesterday earned the President’s Medal for their outstanding performance in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations.

“It feels very surreal but I am very excited,” said Maharaj during an interview at her Marabella home.

She said she cried when her principal gave her the good news around 4.30 pm. While she knew she would have done well, she never expected this level of excellence.

“There are so many hard-working and smart children who did the same subjects as me so it could have been anybody,” said Maharaj, who studied management of business, entrepreneurship and accounting.

However, she admitted that it was no easy feat, particularly in a pandemic.

“The pandemic was actually very shocking because nobody expected to be in a pandemic. Honestly, I felt a little bit sad sometimes and a little bit demotivated but otherwise, I just prayed and I just kept thinking about my future goals and what I wanted to achieve and it helped push me to get what I needed to get done.”

However, Maharaj said she loved her subjects and that made it easier for her to keep going.

“It was actually just a lot of work, you just have to keep going at it and pushing at it but I actually really like my subjects. I found them really interesting, so it wasn’t too difficult for me to find the motivation to go on because I genuinely am interested in business studies and I want to advance to that sector so I was really motivated in that sense.”

Maharaj said she always gives 100 per cent in whatever she is doing.

As for her future plans, she said, “I am interested in the accountant and finance field and I want to get into that industry. I like learning about investments and maybe a career as an investment officer, maybe even a forensic accountant, they really interest me a lot.”

Maharaj admitted was sad when she heard national scholarships were scaled back to just 100.

“Honestly, it was very heartbreaking because I know so many of my friends and so many acquaintances who are studying so hard and did so well and they deserve the same honour and reward that I am getting.”

She was hopeful that whatever they got was great and to their liking and that everything works out well for them.

Thanking her family, God, her teachers, principal and vice-principal for their support, she had this advice for other students. “It is possible no matter what because there are always opportunities for everyone and next year someone else who felt the same way I did could be in my place. You might feel demotivated now but once you really, truly like your subjects and you are dedicated you will really get through it and just keep working hard and to persevere.”

Her older sister Gina Maharaj, who was involved in an accident last week, said she really needed this news.

“This just brighten everything, the pain just went away…I had to do a surgery on Tuesday. It was kinda bad but this just made everything feel so good.”

She said her sister worked really hard.

“She has always been very disciplined and nobody really had to push her. She’s just always been a hard worker. That’s just who she is.”

Her father Jinda Maharaj, a retired TCL general manager, described her as a Caribbean person.

“She went to school in Jamaica, went to school in Barbados.”

They relocated to those countries as part of his job and came back home in 2010. Shrimatee Maharaj, a retired secondary school teacher, said she worked hard with her daughter as well but noted she was always diligent and hard-working.