By Shermain Bique-Charles
News that government has awarded her a full scholarship to pursue her passion for theatre arts has left brave Shaveesa Gasper reeling with shock and excitement.
The 21-year-old, who underwent months of treatment following a horrific attack in 2016, said that, in light of the strain that Covid-19 has placed on the public purse, her hopes of getting the award were not very high.
“I was so excited. I received the news [Wednesday] night. I am still in shock,” Gasper told Observer yesterday. “But I am totally grateful and I am happy.”
The former Antigua Girls’ High School and the Antigua State College student will be pursuing a Drama in Education degree at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica.
Although classes will be held virtually for now, Gasper said she will eventually have to move to Jamaica, possibly in the near future.
The government said it is pleased with how Gasper has rebounded from the incident that almost claimed her life.
“The Cabinet is pleased with the progress the student has made since she was nearly killed by the actions of her relative, and has shown a determination to succeed. All of Antigua and Barbuda wishes her well,” Thursday’s post-Cabinet notes stated.
Gasper, the winner of the 2015 Teen Xplosion competition, suffered second and third degree burns to about 60 percent of her body following a January 1 2016 incident in which her mother poured a flammable substance on her and set her alight. An attempted murder charge was later withdrawn following a psychiatric report.
Gasper was airlifted to Martinique and then to Paris, France, where she underwent months of rehabilitative treatment, paid for by the government.
The Freeman’s Village resident said returning to the classroom following the attack had not been easy.
“It was hard for me. Something like that could never be easy for anyone,” she admitted.
Be that as it may, Gasper said “my burns and scars never affected my ability to learn. Even at the college I felt accepted and treated fairly. They treated me like everyone else”.
She added, “I want to tell young people that, despite their obstacles or what they are going through, never give up.” A determined Gasper, who has also won several awards participating in the annual Antigua and Barbuda Secondary Schools Drama Festival, said she hopes to return to her home country and make a contribution to its future development.