Ayana McCalman-Dover: Buxton Brilliance
By Ruel Johnson
November 30, 2003
This is the third article in Pepperpot's series on the outstanding achievers in each faculty at the University of Guyana's 2003 Graduation.
`I am sure that there are many other young people who are also living examples that Buxton still has some remnant of the history of scholarship that its residents were renowned for in the past rather than the negative images that are being perpetuated and portrayed everyday.' Ayana McCalman
THERE is this joke, one among so many of the kind, about a lawyer. The attorney's client, a crafty pickpocket, has finally been collared by the law. After an unsuccessful legal defence, the learned judge fines the crook a goodly sum. The lawyer for the defendant stands up and appeals to the judge: "Thank you, your honour, for your esteemed judgment. My client has only half that sum upon his person, but were you to grant him a few minutes in the crowd..."
Ayana McCalman-Dover, this year's recipient of the Pro-Chancellor's Medal for best graduating student in the Faculty of Law is the farthest thing from that stereotyped image.
Ayana was born in Buxton in October, 1982. She grew up in a single parent family, the parent being her mother, Merle Dover.
Merle remembers her daughter growing up a very quiet and very focused child. Ayana's early years were spent mostly between the Friendship Primary School and the Arundel Congregational Church in Buxton.
Even in her early primary school years, Ayana's ability was obvious to teachers. In an online interview with the Sunday Chronicle she revealed that she had to skip Prep B, going straight from Prep A to Primary 1 at Friendship Primary, a move that put Ayana in the position of almost always being the youngest student in her classes.
Always at the top of her class, Ayana graduated from Friendship Primary and went on from there to North Georgetown Secondary.
After two years, at North Georgetown, the headmistress saw potential in the young student and recommended that she be transferred to a senior secondary school. With limited spacing available at most of the top schools at the time, Ayana and her mother made the decision for her to attend Brickdam Secondary, then ranked higher than North Georgetown.
Though it may not have been the school she initially had wanted to be transferred to, Ayana grew to see her experience at that school as an invaluable one. She graduated from Brickdam with passes in nine subjects.
"I was grateful because the teachers at Brickdam were excellent and it also demonstrated to people that you did not necessarily have to go to a "top" school to do well."
After Brickdam, on the advice of a relative, Ayana applied to and was successful in her bid to attend, you guessed it, President's College to do A-level courses in Economics, Accounting and Law.
"I was living in for most of my A-Level years," she said. "I was able to effectively learn to deal with persons of different backgrounds and [it] allowed me to develop a greater sense of independence and self-motivation."
She says that A-Level work was a challenge "but God granted me success and I graduated at the top of my class." She scored C's in Economics and Accounting and a B in Law, the latter attributable, she says, to the excellent tutorship of Magistrate Elizabeth Hinds. Ayana was voted Valedictorian when she graduated from President's College in 2000.
Her performance impressed the community development group, BESAC - Buxtonians for the Educational and Social Advancement of the Community - which gave her a full scholarship to undertake the University of Guyana's Law programme. Ayana says that she recalls vividly how she felt the first day on campus.
"It was exciting because I knew this is what I wanted to do, but at the same time it was challenging. I was uncertain of all [that] the programme entailed. But I love Law and I was confident that by God's grace I would be successful," Ayana said.
Just like in her primary school days, Ayana McCalman-Dover dominated her class. She received the Cavendish Book Award for the Best First Year Student in UG's Faculty of Law in 2001; the Faculty's Anne Blue Award for Best Second Year Student (2002); she was vice-president of the UG Law Society; and in 2003, she capped off her streak with the Pro-Chancellor's Medal for the Best Graduating Law student.
Even before she graduated with the top honours at UG, Ayana was continuing to impress members of the very institution she grew up in, her church. President of the Youth Body of the Guyana Congregational Union (GCU), until she left for Trinidad two months ago, Ayana was awarded a full scholarship by the Council for World Mission, the international body with which the GCU is affiliated.
"I was truly grateful for this since the cost of attending Law school... is at this time almost prohibitive."
It is obvious that the religious body feels strongly that Ayana is well worth the investment. This December, she will travel to Jamaica as a trustee of her church's youth representative on the board of the CWM's Regional Empowerment Fund, a half-million pound sterling fund set up to promote church work in the Caribbean. At the relatively young age of twenty-one, Ayana seems at ease and confident about this responsibility.
"At this time we are in the process of determining how the monies will be disbursed and my background in Law helps tremendously. [This position] also jolts me to become even more accurately aware of the issues affecting the lives of all [of] us as Caribbean people and I am honoured to have the opportunity to make a difference in this way," she said.
So far, she finds Hugh Wooding fun and exciting. But she is still fully aware of why she is there. "Law is something that I love; it's not something that I do just to get a passing grade. It allows me to be creative and analytical. I'm at Law school and seeing the practical side of Law. It gives me a greater sense of purpose knowing that I can use my knowledge to offer solutions to those in need and [to] some of the problems in my country."
The thing she misses the most when in Trinidad is being with her mother.
"Living on my own away from Mom is not so easy, but she has given me enough life skills to manage efficiently..." The adoration that Ayana feels for her mother seems equally reciprocated. During our interview with her, Merle Dover said that she and Ayana, her only child have a very close and functional relationship.
"We work," says Merle, "in a partnership. We weigh each other's opinion."
Ayana hopes to eventually go into Corporate Law although, according to her mother, one professor has been suggesting that she would prove to be an exemplary criminal lawyer. No doubt, Ayana's final decision is going to be a result of the same mother-daughter consultation process that is typical of their relationship.
Finally, Ayana spoke about her success and the implications that it might have for the image of her troubled home village of Buxton.
"I am sure that there are many other young people who are also living examples that Buxton still has some remnant of the history of scholarship that its residents were renowned for in the past rather than the negative images that are being perpetuated and portrayed everyday".
"I love my village and if by my example and the example of others, other young people can be inspired to achieve great things for Buxton, that would give me a sense of true joy," the scholar said.