Ad astra per aspera!

Ad astra per aspera!

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

~Nelson Mandela


You’d all agree with me when I say that Covid-19 has impacted all our lives, whether directly or indirectly. This year has been tough and scary, and it’s still not over yet! But despite the many challenges and setbacks that 2020 has brought, we’re all learning to adapt and overcome.

In this post, I’d like to highlight a current hurdle of a past colleague, and a good friend of Aaron and I. His name is Jonathan Ramtahal.

I met Jonathan in 2015 when I was a new Teaching Assistant in the Faculty of Science and Technology, at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. One morning when I paid a visit to my department’s Life Sciences office, I greeted a new face, a smiling and bright-eyed young gentleman. It was his first day on the job. He was quiet and reserved, yet warm and friendly. I introduced myself, and invited him to meet our department’s lab demonstrators and teaching assistants. We were a close-knit group, and I wanted him to feel welcomed.

Already in possession of the relevant qualifications and skills, our department granted Jonathan’s request to become a lab demonstrator, or “demo”. He didn’t just become our co-worker; he became a member of our Life Sciences academic “family”.

During my two years as a Teaching Assistant, Jonathan was one of the most intelligent, hard-working individuals I’ve had the privilege of working with. His curious mind, and passion for teaching and learning made him one of our assets; someone we could depend on when it came to planning ahead for labs and tutorials, developing rubrics for coursework material, or just general brainstorming when any of his peers got stuck. His input was invaluable. And for the times he didn’t know something, he took the initiative to research the subject matter and share what he had learnt.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve observed him helping students tackle and understand difficult course concepts or labs, many times sacrificing his lunch hour. No matter if he was busy or stressed, Jonathan didn’t hesitate to make time for his students, or peers.

Jonathan not only strived to be fair to his students, but also reminded us to show a bit of compassion. He would recall that there were tough times when he was an undergrad and that he got through them with the support of his demonstrators, lecturers and peers. His words stuck with me.


“You never know what people are going through, sometimes they just need a chance.”


His caring attitude didn’t end in the lab, or classroom. When I injured my knee after making great strides to rebuild my physical fitness, I felt so angry and frustrated. Without judgment, Jonathan was a pillar of emotional support. I never forgot that.

Fast-forward to 2020, Jonathan was awarded a scholarship to pursue his Master’s Degree in Japan. Unfortunately, this golden opportunity coincided with the time Trinidad and Tobago closed its borders and entered “lockdown” due to Covid-19. As a result, his arrival plans have been delayed to later this year, and he is now faced with additional expenses he must cater for on his own: testing before his flight and quarantine costs (inclusive of food/living expenses) for a period of 14 days after his arrival in Japan.

To cover these costs not catered for by his scholarship, Jonathan has created a FundMeTnT campaign online to help raise the TT$12, 000 he needs. He’s got halfway to go!



We understand many are feeling a strain on their finances during this time but if you can, please donate here.


If you can’t, you can still help by sharing the link below:


Let’s give Jonathan a chance. He has strived to make a difference in the lives of others. Please help make a difference in his.


“The most important attitude that can be found is the desire to keep on learning.”

-John Dewey

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