JM | Sep 16, 2021

Autistic Jamaican secures full UWI scholarship

/ Our Today


Ibrahim Johari Duffus’ life is one of perseverance and triumph

Ibrahim Johari Duffus (centre) signs the Matriculation Register during the UWI Welcome and Matriculation Service at UWI Chapel. Looking on Principal and Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Dale Webber (left) and UWI Campus Registrar Dr Donovan Stanberry.

Ibrahim Johari Duffus, diagnosed with mild autism at a young age, has been voted the top matriculant of the University of the West Indies (UWI) 2021-2022 and will be receiving a full UWI Open Scholarship

The scholarship covers the cost of tuition, residence costs (on/off campus) and contributions to books and meals. 

Ibrahim’s life is one of perseverance and triumph.

He was born in St Andrew to parents Balteano and Jennifer Duffus.

They named him Ibrahim, the Aramaic name for ‘Abraham’, meaning “Close Friend of God”, which they hoped their son would be. The second of two children, Ibrahim was received his autism diagnosis when he was three and a half years old.

Being autistic, his cognitive and communication skills were weak and made it difficult for him to interact with others and make friends. As such, he realised that getting an early head start would be critical to his success and he spent no time procrastinating.

Early education was challenging

Not only did he prepare for examinations from the start of the new school year but he made sure to also assess the support level he would get from his teachers and took steps where necessary to seek out additional help. Ibrahim attended Liberty Academy, which had a programme for special needs children and with the loving support from his parents and teachers, his condition steadily improved, and eventually secured him a place at the Wolmer’s High School for Boys in 2013.

From an early age, Ibrahim recalled being told by his parents, who were both government pensioners, that they would do their best to finance him and his sister, Anika, through primary and secondary school. However, thereafter, they would need to earn scholarships to support their tertiary education.

With this in mind, Ibrahim and Anika diligently applied themselves to their studies and ended up becoming valedictorians at their respective high school graduations. Anika later won a fully paid scholarship to Princeton University, where she is now pursuing a Computer Science major.

Ibrahim’s journey to becoming the 2021 UWI Mona Matriculant saw him sitting nine subjects at the CSEC Examinations in 2018 and receiving 9 Grade 1’s , all with “A” profiles.  For the CAPE leg of the journey, he achieved 5 double units all with Grade 1’s in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Pure Mathematics.

Forced to delay full-time university studies

He also achieved Grades 1 in Unit I Entrepreneurship and Caribbean Studies and a Grade 2 in Communication Studies. Ibrahim was forced to delay his entry to full-time university studies for the 2020-2021 academic year due to financial concerns but his passion for learning kept him engaged.

He pursued online Coursera courses in “Immunology” from Rice University and “Biology Meets Programming” from University of California San Diego to keep himself occupied. He also provided online teaching assistance to several CSEC and CAPE students pursuing Biology, Chemistry, and Additional Mathematics.

Ibrahim Johari Duffus (centre) signs the Matriculation Register during the UWI Welcome and Matriculation Service at UWI Chapel. Looking on Principal and Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Dale Webber (left) and UWI Campus Registrar Dr Donovan Stanberry.

His other achievements and involvements at the Wolmer’s Boys’ School included the Principal’s Award for Excellence which he won four years prior to sitting his CSEC examinations. The prestigious Principal’s Award is normally given to students who top their Grades following the end of year examinations. 

In 2019, the Wolmer’s High School for Boys also awarded Ibrahim the Service Award for Peer Tutoring, an activity which helped Ibrahim to improve his social interaction skills and provided great fulfillment. Ibrahim’s other co-curricular involvements included membership in the Debating Club, Secretary of the Environmental Club and Volunteer Summer School Teaching Assistant at St. Richard’s Primary School.

Ibrahim’s career goal is to become a research scientist in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, with specializations in malignant diseases and the delivery of pharmaceuticals and vaccines. His career choice stemmed from his love for the sciences, particularly Biology and Chemistry. 

With Ibrahim’s deep desire to join the crusade against maladies which posed an existential threat, the COVID-19 pandemic presents an interesting opportunity to contribute to the resolution of widespread social dislocation, economic losses, and immeasurable human pain and suffering.

Ibrahim’s incredible journey to The UWI has no doubt paved the way for him to make significant scientific contributions and leave an indelible mark in society.


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