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Aisha Aadil Memon with her family. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Last week, her picture was splashed all over the media. Aisha Aadil Memon, 15, came out with flying colours in the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Class 10 results with a 94.7 per cent from The Central School, Dubai.

While that may sound great, only Memon knows the challenges she faced before she could put her heart and soul back into studies so that she could give the exams her best shot.

“Last year was terrible for me to say the least. My mother, my little sister and I were stuck in Mumbai,” she said. Aisha, now a grade 11 student, had left for Mumbai from UAE last year for a short trip, only to be stuck there for months. “What was supposed to be a week-long trip ended up being a five-month ordeal,” she said.

Gulf News had even covered the plight of Aisha and her family separated for months last year owing to the flight restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aisha, her mother Anta — a housewife — sister Atiyah, 10, were separated from the children’s father Aadil Rafik, an assistant manager at a private firm in Dubai, last year during the lockdown. Rafik had contacted this newspaper last year to share his plight, following the lockdown. Gulf News had reported how he was waiting for ICA approvals so that his family could return to the UAE.

Aisha said she just could not bear the separation from her father as he was always such a big support for her and the rest of the family.

‘No access to proper WiFi’

“Mumbai was under a lockdown. It was very difficult for me to stay there for so long. We were staying with our relatives. The toughest part was during the curfew. I neither had any books to study, nor did I have access to a proper WiFi connection as we lived in the outskirts of Mumbai,” Aisha said. She said things got worse when three people in her building were infected with the COVID-19 virus. “Our building was kept under observation by the government and it was part of the ‘Red Zone’ [due to a high infection rate]. None of us were either allowed to step out, nor was anyone allowed to come inside our building.”

That was a very worrying phase for Aisha.

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A screenshot from gulfnews.com, showing Aisha and the other toppers. Image Credit: Supplied

‘Stuck in a containment zone’

“I was very scared as by then, the CBSE grade 10 strategy plans had been uploaded. Unfortunately, I was not able to cope up with my studies — stuck in a containment zone without any guide or book to study from,” she added.

In addition, Aisha said it was a bit hard for her to concentrate on her studies as she was staying with a large family. “I couldn’t concentrate when the classes were going on as there would be a lot of disturbance with children around me in the house,” she said.

Thankfully, this did not go on forever. The curfew was slowly lifted in Mumbai and the building where Aisha lived was taken off the containment zone. “My mother arranged to buy the books for me. She also arranged 10th grade guides with the help of my uncle who is a doctor in Mumbai.”

Support of family and teachers

So, gradually, Aisha started adjusting her life around the lockdown and started formulating a study plan for her CBSE Class 10 exam. Today, when she looks back at those months spent in Mumbai, she feels that every bit of her patience and perseverance have paid off — the 94.7 per cent she has earned bears testimony to that.

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The merit list, showing Aisha. Image Credit: Supplied

She said this achievement would not have been possible without the support of her family and teachers. “My family back in India — particularly my maternal grandparents — gave us shelter for which I am so grateful. My teachers worked a way around the crisis and took extra classes for me. And my father is my hero. Though he was not physically present near me, he supported me through and through.”

Aisha said: “It was a hard lesson for me last year, but one that will remain with me all my life. I have realised that challenges will always be there in life. One needs to work around them. More importantly, never give up on your dreams and goals. One day, you will surely realise them.”

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CBSE results

This year, CBSE board exams for both Class 10 and Class 12 (whose results came earlier on Friday) were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students were instead marked on scores based on their school-level internal assessments.

More than two million students in India and other countries received their results earlier this week, with a record high overall pass rate of 99.04 per cent. In the UAE, all schools who have so far shared their results with media reported a 100 per cent pass rate.