July 12, 2021

Joy as product of innercity aces law exam

article reposted by Chelsea Durrant

via jamaicaobserver.com

He eyed the clock repeatedly, paced the floor and checked his e-mail for two hours straight. That was 24-year-old Kemar Setal on Monday, as he awaited the Norman Manley Law School pass list which eventually came about 11:40 am.

In that moment, a victim to nervousness and anxiety, Setal opened the list with a trembling hand and wishful eyes. His dream was realised, his prayers answered.

“Words cannot explain how I feel right now. All I can say is thank God! Only Him could make this happen. I am still in denial. After being in school from age two until 24 years old, it is stressful. And to see all this hard work paying off is amazing. Everything just feels surreal. My prayers have been answered and I continue to thank Him for what He has in store for me. To God be the glory!” Setal told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.

“I salute my parents and give them the utmost respect. Living in an inner-city community with parents who are not wealthy and was able to get this opportunity, I had to make the best out of it. My parents are my heroes. The sacrifices that they have made for this to be possible are incredible,” he said teary-eyed.

The former deputy head boy of Calabar High School resides in Seivwright Gardens, also known as Cockburn Pen in St Andrew. Setal, who started checking his e-mail as early as 9:00 am, recounted the almost three hours leading up to the one moment he anticipated for over a month after completing examinations.

“I even called the school to find out what time it will be released but I did not get a definitive answer, so the anxiety persisted. I started watching TikTok videos to ease my mind. Suddenly, I heard my friend say, ‘Thank you, Jesus.’ That was when I realised that the list was published. I didn’t receive the e-mail as yet so I was like ‘send me the list nuh mek mi look’ with my chest feeling tight,” Setal recalled to the Sunday Observer.

But in a matter of seconds, he got the e-mail notification.

“I was shaking like a leaf. When I saw that my name was on the 2021 Bar Exam pass list, all I could say was ‘thank you, Jesus!’ Mi neva waste my parents’ money.” I was stuck on repeat. The tears came to my eyes after realising what my name being on the pass list means. I was overwhelmed with emotions and I jumped and called my mother in excitement. This moment is one of the best moments of my life and I will never forget it.”

In 2016, Setal was granted a full scholarship to St George’s University in Grenada to study medicine. But that wasn’t his passion. He turned down the offer and decided to study law at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona. He said he knew he wanted to study law since grade 10.

“I chose law because I have always wanted to be the voice of people who were silenced. It has always been to advocate for others and to know the law so that I will not be taken advantage of. In this country, we tend to be abused when we don’t know the law or our rights and it is sad. I have not decided on the areas of law that I will focus on as yet,” he said, noting that he has criminal, family, sports or civil litigation in mind.

And to facilitate his dream, his parents sacrificed $1.3 million every year for five years – three years at UWI’s Law Faculty and two years at Norman Manley Law School. Setal said this money didn’t come easy, which sometimes made him crumble at the deep digs in his parents’ pockets.

“My parents had my little brother who is watching my every step, a cousin, and me to support financially, and to support me alone was a lot. It burdened me knowing that I am costing them so much money that they don’t have, especially my father who had to work day and night butchering and farming to make all this possible,” he said.

His father, Terrence Setal, is a livestock farmer who promised him he would always pay. And so he did.

“I told him gwan a school and do what him have to do. I told him to let me worry about the money,” the elder Setal told the Sunday Observer.

Responding to his father, Setal said: “I cannot thank him enough. But I never forgot what he said to me. I cried privately. Coming from a humble background, I have to appreciate everything that I have achieved thus far. I advise everyone to honour your parents because, not only will your days be longer, but God’s richest blessing will shower upon you.

“When I told my mother that I passed all my exams she said, ‘Congrats, mi boy!’ I could hear that she couldn’t wait to end the call to call the whole family. My father started telling his friends about his ‘lawyer son’.

“I am just elated that I was able to make them proud and see that they have invested in something good. My next objectives on the list are to continue making them proud and to be able to repay them abundantly.”

He added: “My older brother, Mark, is my next support system, even when my emotions got the better of me. My aunts, Shearon and Marcia, they are my number one cheerleaders and prayer worriers.”

Further, the transition from UWI to law school was not what he expected. A totally different ball game, he put it, saying the curriculum was different even though it is application of the theory learnt from the Bachelor of Laws degree. Setal added that the journey took discipline, sleepless nights, self-motivation and hard work.

“One of my biggest challenges throughout the journey was trying to keep motivated and staying focused to the finish line. Having the pandemic hitting in the middle of law school, losing two relatives, a church sister, a friend who was also a final-year law student, and being faced with uncertainties was tough to bear. But the Lord doesn’t give us more than we can bear,” he related.

“The workload is heavy. It takes a lot out of you to be prepared. I remember doing an exam on my birthday. I was in that exam for my whole birthday. It was not a good feeling. The exams in general were torturing. After each 24-hour exam, my body would feel dead, while having to continue the preparation for the next one 48 hours later. But, having some teachers who motivates you every day helped a lot.”

Another trying element was the COVID-19-influenced virtual learning.

“I did not have an environment that is conducive to learning and it was difficult to focus at home. Also, not being in the classroom to have that intimate interaction with teachers and having access to the school’s library physically was rough; not to mention when you try to log onto class only to realise that there is no Internet or the electricity went. It was a struggle.”

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