Alanka Babb was born with impaired vision in Guyana and first lived with her grandmother in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, but was compelled to later move in with other relatives after the death of her old guardian.
From living with her grandmother to other relatives, education was never considered a priority in her household. According to Babb, her grandmother was consumed with providing basic household necessities, which made school a secondary issue.
She noted in a post on Insider that although she was expected to attend school regularly, her family was indifferent. She attended a neighborhood school where her teachers were not as qualified as those in well-to-do areas.
Her eye condition also made schooling challenging for her; she had no proper educational support in school or at home. According to her, sitting in front of the class did little to help her see the information on the blackboard. Her school did not have the tools to support a student with a disability.
However, despite her eye challenges and not being able to see what is on the blackboard, she advanced grade levels. She recalled feeling embarrassed when a teacher found out that she could not read, which was her major turning point.
She became more determined to learn how to read well and also borrowed books from the school’s library and struggled through them.
“I soon realized I loved reading, although I couldn’t pronounce many words. As I got older, I kept reading and pushing myself academically despite my vision limitations. I attended college in Guyana without support for my eye condition, but I still graduated,” she wrote in a post on the Insider.
She moved to America at the age of 28 to further her education, despite being skeptical about her decision, due to her deteriorating eyesight. However, she later discovered that America has a Disabilities Act which stipulates that universities need to provide disability-support services to students.
“At the school, I was given extra time for testing and access to my professors’ presentations before my classes. With these added accommodations, I started to thrive,” she noted.
Alanka Babb graduated in December 2019 with a master’s degree and started her Ph.D. in education in January 2020. She successfully defended her dissertation in 2022.
Despite having a disability, growing up in an economically challenging environment, and acquiring education in less endowed schools in her formative years, Alanka kept her faith alive and today, she has a Ph.D. at age 36.