Shivani passes ultimate test of character with flying colours

A student was in critical condition, barely able to survive, but came back to school and scored 88.4 per cent on her educational assessment test.

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DUBAI // Battling meningitis, memory loss, brain swelling and blockage in her lungs only months ago, Shivani Premchand had little hope of survival.

But against all odds, Shivani, 17, not only survived, but she went on to complete Grade 12 at Our Own English High School in Dubai and pass her CBSE exams with an outstanding 88.4 per cent.

"It's unreal how I got this because none of us - my parents or teachers - were expecting much," said the pupil, who plans to apply for a bachelor of business administration programme at a university in Dubai.

After being out of school from September until the end of November, Shivani was able to resume her classes for only half a day, a few days a week.

"It was very difficult to go through it all and then come back for these examinations," she said. "It was stressful as I couldn't concentrate too much while studying.

"I used to get headaches and almost developed pneumonia during the time, too.

"But my classmates and teachers were very supportive. They would photocopy notes and mentor me."

In September, after an operation in Kerala for carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition that affects the nerves of the wrist, Shivani immediately developed meningitis and was in a hospital intensive-care unit for a month.

Her vital signs began to drop and she had to be kept on medical support.

Shivani's mother, Anjali Premchand, said teachers and doctors were against her decision to continue her studies.

"There was a situation in September where the doctors said there may be no hope and just pray," her mother said. "Despite losing all the study time she said she wanted to give it a shot.

"She said, 'Will you be upset with me if I get low marks?' I told her forget about it, we are happy that you are alive and that is all that matters."

Anjali said that when she saw the results yesterday, everything was blurred for a while.

"I couldn't stop crying and had to keep checking to see if it was true."

Usha Balachandran, head of the senior school, said she had been surprised by Shivani's resilience.

"I remember before the exams, she walked into my office and said she wanted to give it a try," said Ms Balachandran.

"She was really determined. I think her confidence also came from the support the teachers and school gave her."

Ms Balachandran said the school had asked the central board administrators for extra time so Shivani could complete her tasks.

But the student's greatest fear of being left behind was her biggest motivator.

"I did not want to lose a year," Shivani said. "It's depressing to see your friends move ahead and you are stuck to repeat."