Most students bend the rules to get the answers; Simon had to bend the rules just to get the questions.
Sitting in an overcrowded government school classroom, Simon could not get close enough to read the board and his teachers did not notice he had a vision problem.
The determined young scholar came up with ‘sneaky ways’ to make sure he didn’t fall behind.
“I did not ask for an answer but I had to ask ‘what’s the question?’. In class exercises I could not see on the board, but with the exams I could have the questions near,” he explained.
“When I was in public school, I was first in exams but I was last when it came to class exercises.”
Simon said the difference between his results would make teachers suspicious, and he did not want to think about what life would be like if he had not been enrolled at St Jude’s.
“If I failed (at school), I wouldn’t be here in Form 5. If I wasn’t here in Form 5, I wouldn’t be Rotaract Vice-President and I wouldn’t be the Discipline Prefect,” he said.
“Glasses have made a very big difference – it’s a very small thing that can make a very big difference. They have allowed me to participate in a lot of stuff, and work towards achieving my goals.”
Simon said the attitude at St Jude’s also improved his confidence.
“When I came to St Jude’s I felt freedom,” he said.
“It was a different system – it was more accommodating. If I couldn’t see a question, I go for it, I would go to the front (of class) to check on the board.
“My teachers realised, and here they were friendly and concerned and did something about it. They questioned why it was happening.”
Once the teachers noticed a problem with Simon’s sight he was referred to the Medical Check Team, a group of international doctors who volunteer at St Jude’s each year.
The Medical Check Team has had a long history at St Jude’s, following up concerns raised by teachers and providing the expertise needed to diagnose conditions.
In March, the 2016 team of 15 medical professionals spent two weeks at St Jude’s to ensure our students were healthy.
Simon was among a group of 12 students with vision problems who the team members took to an optometrist in town. Additional requirements for follow-up equipment or treatment for the students is usually arranged through their parents.
This year marked the first time members of the Medical Check Team provided mentorship to St Jude’s graduates who are interested in becoming doctors.