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Keisha Hill/

Senior Gleaner Writer

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


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


“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


Now, she is only able to see


“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.


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


“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.

Blind and brilliant


HE UNIVERSITY of the West Indies

(UWI) is the top tertiary institution

in the Caribbean on the 2018

Times Higher Education


According to the index, of the 129

best universities in the Caribbean and

Latin America, The UWI is ranked 37th.

“This phenomenal recognition by



is even more significant when it is

recognised that there are dozens of

colleges and universities in the region and

Latin America that are older and havemore

financial resources than The UWI,”said Vice-

Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles.

The Times

had ranked the best 129

universities out of the more than 1,500

in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In 2015, The UWI began an aggressive

strategy to enhance its global brand

and reputation.

Beckles said that information relevant

to hundreds of departments, dozens of

faculties, institutes, and centres had to

be identified, collated, and analysed.

“The concept of four campuses one

university had to be made real for

assessors,” he said.

The UWI operates campuses in Mona,

Jamaica; Cave Hill, Barbados; St Augustine,

Trinidad; and an Open Campus.

“No university in the Caribbean has

produced as much first-class academic

research across as many disciplines,

generating as much regional and global

impact, and produced as many

regionally and globally distinguished

graduates and scholars who have won as

many global academic awards, including

Nobel prizes, as The UWI,”Beckles said.

He said that at 70, The UWI should

celebrate the legacy of its academics,

chancellors, vice-chancellors, principals,

management, and the membership of

the community.

UWI rankings:

4th – global outreach and impact

26th – impact of academic research

37th – overall quality

Ralisa Dawkins.


Top-ranking UWI