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Poor, single mum desperate to stay in college

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


SHARNETTE Daley is in a frantic race to raise the funds needed to prevent her deregistration from the University of the West Indies where she is currently reading for a degree in business management.

But whether the single mother of a two-year-old boy, whose father was killed earlier this year, will manage the feat is anyone's guess. So far, her efforts have yielded zero dollars.

"I got an e-mail from the Office of Student Financing people (at UWI) and they told me they had received my application for financial aid but that I didn't get it," she told the Observer last Thursday.

That was only the 22-year-old's most recent attempt at raising the more than $200,000 needed to cover her tuition - having missed the Students' Loan Bureau's (SLB's) deadline for applications earlier this year.

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All this summer, Daley tried unsuccessfully to raise funds, sending out request letters to a variety of entities from within as well as outside of her Old Harbour community where she and her family - including her mother Valerie Fisher, father Florizel Daley, young child and siblings - live in a tent-like plywood structure with only a tarpaulin for a roof.

More recently, she tried to access a bank loan.

"I went to Scotia, but they said that I have to be working to get an education loan. Then a friend of mine, a mentor more so, he tried to get a loan from Jamaica National, but it wasn't approved so I am back at square one," Daley said.

Before that, she had looked into getting a scholarship through UWI, but did not qualify given that she is only in her first year of the programme.

Without her first degree, Daley considers that she will be confined to living in poverty with her child and family members.

"I have a son who depends on me. I have younger siblings who look up to me," said the young woman, who holds seven Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects with grades one and two from Glenmuir High (English language, English literature, history, principles of business, principles of accounts, Spanish, and mathematics) as well as several Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination units.

"My parents have been struggling with us all of their lives. If I am able to finish school I would be able to give back to them what they have been giving me for all of my life... We don't really live in a house per se... It is a two-room tent... Some of us need to make it out of here so we can change the situation for our younger siblings," a frustrated Daley said.

While things have been tough for a while, she said the death of her child's father had increased the strain.

"We weren't together when he died, but he helped to support the child. Now I have to do that all on my own with the help of my parents who can hardly find it," she said.

As she reflects on the last 12 months, Daley said that things have not gone as she anticipated.

"I was working at a co-company of Children First - Griffin Trust - and I was hoping that I was going to go back to school. When UWI sent me an e-mail (between November and December 2010), it was like icing on the cake, so I said this is it, I am going back to school," she recalled.

Up to that point, Daley had money saved toward that goal, but with the death of child's father, she had to dip into those funds.

"He died and then it was just like everything kinda crumbled... I actually contemplated not going back (to school after that), but then daddy was like, 'go because you might just stay here and end up not finishing university or having another child'," she said.

Daley followed his advice, opting to go on faith that things would work out. She ditched the political science programme she had been pursuing more than two years earlier in favour of business management and paid her miscellaneous fees with the last of her savings.

However, her progress has since stalled; there have been no offers of help. But she remains hopeful, inspired by the good fortune of her younger brother Zellmar Daley who is himself currently a student at UWI.

Two years ago, Zellmar, 20, received help from a number of corporate entities, chief among them LIME, which has been paying his tuition while offering him part-time employment during holidays.

Still, even with her commitment to remaining optimistic, there are days when reality threatens to take its toll on Daley.

"I don't think I have words for it. It is like 2008 all over again. I talk to my friends and they are positive and you try to be positive but you have been sent here and sent there and nothing has come through. It makes you feel like this is just a fairy tale," she said.

"You want it to come true and you try your best, but it doesn't seem like anything is going to come to life. You are praying for good news, but every time it is just bad news," she said.

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