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Jamaican to become barrister after more than a decade

BY ANIKA RICHARDS Sunday Observer staff reporter richardsai@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, June 22, 2014    

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THOUGH the five-year journey to becoming a barrister has taken more than a decade for Damain Drummond, with him occasionally having to perform shoemaking duties along the way, he is finally about to realise his dream.

Four months shy of being called to the Bar by Middle Temple Inn after completing the Bar Professional Training Course at City Law School in London, England, Drummond, now 33, has endured numerous challenges to get to this point.

"I am closer to practising as a barrister in 2014 than I was in 2001 when it was all a dream and nothing more than that," Drummond told the Jamaica Observer.

From being unable to fund his education, bouncing from home to home for shelter, lacking the very basic amenities like water, to having nothing to eat and walking more than three miles to get to school in London because he could not afford transportation, his is quite the tale.

"(I was) unable to buy lunch during the academic school term resulting in deprivation of food, that is persistent hunger, torn clothing being worn to classes," Drummond told the Sunday Observer, when asked about some of the hardships he faced. "(I remember) walking with Pattex glue in my backpack to perform shoemaking duties on my shoes in the event they fell apart whilst attending classes, which they did a few times.

"While at Bethlehem (Moravian College) it was mandatory to wear uniform, with black pants being one of the stipulated colours, and I had to undergo ignominy of my black pants losing its colour and becoming white," said Drummond, adding "and I had to buy dye and dye it to restore its colour".

But the struggles of the St James native did not stop there.

"(There was the) inability to pay water and light bills which resulted in both being disconnected and me studying during daylight hours because I had no electricity at nights to study for exams," stated Drummond. "Due to my inability to pay for my medical I had to beg the school-designated doctor to conduct the mandatory medical that is required to register for the course for free for three years."

Admitting that his challenges have been tumultuous at best and embarrassing at worst, Drummond told the Sunday Observer that it is because he struggled that he can now tell his story as a testament that he is "strong-willed and determinative in achieving my goal of becoming a barrister".

But, despite everything, it was not until he came face to face with expulsion and the possibility of appearing before his university's disciplinary board that he realised "that poverty is like a cancerous tumour that inhibits growth and restricts upward mobility".

"The most challenging experience that I have endured throughout my academic pursuit is one of continued search for money to pay tuition fees," Drummond told the Sunday Observer. "The failure to pay my tuition and defaulting on the payment plan culminated (in me being lectured) in a meeting by the school administration manager.

"I was at university and had owed significant amounts of money on my tuition fees and this was turned over to the debt collectors," Drummond recalled. "I was told by letter to discontinue my study as I was deregistered, which meant I should not venture onto the university's premises and (was) blocked from the Information Technology facilities."

Drummond said, essentially, that he was not part of the student population and that any absence would go against the mandatory number of classes that he needed to attend to be successful.

"I disobeyed the directions of the letter and that of my personal tutor and head of the programme and attended classes," said Drummond. "I was summoned to appear for a meeting with the administration manager for my course. He categorically told me that I am trying to use a service which I am unable to pay for and my responsibility is to pay for the service.

"He told me, in no uncertain terms, that if I am poor and cannot meet my tuition obligations I should have thought about it and, in fact, it does not merit much thinking because being unable to pay meant I was defaulting on my due payment and as such if I am found attending classes, I will not be suspended but in effect I will be expelled from the university," Drummond told this tabloid.

Drummond also said that he would've been summoned before the disciplinary board had he continued attending classes and that would've affected his chances of being called to the Bar.

"(This) was the first time it put things into perspective that it was only money that would alleviate all my suffering and while (having) my goodwill and great ambition, without money, for me to become a barrister was nil," Drummond said.

To overcome this challenge, Drummond said he begged and beseeched people "to believe in my dream to which some acceded and others simply rebuffed".

He eventually completed the required training in May 2013 but had to defer being called to the Bar because he again had outstanding tuition fees. However, Drummond said one of his benefactors who has been assisting him since he started his journey in September 2001 had agreed to make the payment on his behalf.

To try to cover his food and living expenses, Drummond told the Sunday Observer that he worked as a labourer with a relative, renovating properties in the United Kingdom, and as a pre and grade school teacher in the US Drummond said he also worked with the Bank of New York Mellon.

His circumstances never deterred his path to academic success; in fact, Drummond received several recognitions over his tenure of study.

The William Knibb Memorial High School graduate's journey began at Bethlehem Moravian College in September 2001, then he attended Monroe College in New York, where he majored in accounting, and finally in September 2009 he started reading for his LLB at the City Law School, all the time receiving several scholarships, grants and numerous recognition for his outstanding performance in academics.

Drummond, who said he was deregistered for 17 of the 18 months he was reading for his LLB, spent most of his formative years in Clark's Town, Trelawny, before moving to Cataboo district in Slipe, St Elizabeth.

At 12 years old, Drummond said that he remembers his mother, a higgler who sold shrimp on King Street in downtown Kingston, having to run from the municipal police who were accompanied by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

"I can still see her clutching the box in her hand running and that image is still etched in my memory," said Drummond, who has four siblings. "I realised that I needed to excel, and excel at the highest level so that I could offer my mother an alternative from selling on the street."

Drummond, whose father was a member of the Jamaica Defence Force before he worked at Sandals Montego Bay in the water sports department until retirement, said he is also motivated by his drive to achieve his dream and desire to deliver and not disappoint his benefactors who have believed in him and contributed financially to his education over the years.

"All my actions since September, 2001 through to May 30, 2013 were geared towards fulfilling this lifelong dream and aspiration, and the most important thing is that I have endured and joined the line looking for an opportunity to practice," said Drummond.

"I admire individuals who have risen from the depths of poverty and elevated themselves beyond what they ever thought they could have achieved academically," Drummond, who will in October be able to realise his ultimate goal of becoming a barrister -- specialising in crime, fraud and human rights, shared. "With that said, what drives me is the passion and determination to succeed and to tell my story of emancipating myself from the scourge of poverty through academic pursuit, which may be a long and treacherous road, but one that will reap great rewards in the future and bring economic prosperity and financial independence."

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