When Gian-Paul Baker began Grade 6 in September 2012, he told his mother that he will place first 15 times before he leaves primary school.
Baker, then 10 years old, had already been number one 12 times and there are only two end-of-term exams in the final year of primary school.
But the Kingstown Preparatory School (KPS) student had it all worked out. Number 15 would be the Common Entrance Examination (CEE).
Baker, son of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Nicole Bonadie-Baker and Kenny Baker of Pembroke, was the top performer in this year’s CEE, with an average of 95.16 per cent.
1st – Gian-Paul Baker, 95.16%, Kingstown Preparatory School
2nd – Areanna St. Luce, 94.89%, Calliaqua Anglican School
3rd – Kelcy Allen, 94.62%, Kingstown Preparatory School
“I am satisfied. I worked hard and I earned it,” he told I-Witness News on Friday.
“I like to challenge myself, set goals, and when I do achieve them, I feel good,” the soft-spoken boy further said.
Baker’s mom, like most parents whose children wrote the exam on June 7, spent an anxious week wondering when the results would be announced.
Unlike other parents, however, she had to live through the torture of heading the Ministry that deals with the exam.
“I believe I was probably more anxious than some parents because here I am sitting in the Ministry of Education since the examinations were written and I don’t dare ask the Chief [Education Officer] anything, obviously,” she told I-Witness News in a separate interview, also on Friday.
“And at the same time, I am thinking, ‘God, the anxiety is killing me. When is the Chief going to wrap up her business with her team with the Exams Unit downstairs and when are the results going to be ready?” Bonadie-Baker further told I-Witness News.
And, on Friday, Bonadie-Baker’s pride had nothing to do with her job.
“I am just proud to be the mother of the top performer, period,” she said one day after she learnt of her son’s performance.
“I am beaming, as you can see, from ear to ear. It sank in overnight and I am proud and happy,” she said.
Bonadie-Baker said she found out about her son’s performance from Minister of Education, Girlyn Miguel, who called her into her office after Cabinet met on Thursday.
The Permanent Secretary said the Minister prayed with her and told her she had joyful news that her son had topped the CEE.
“I actually cried tears of joy,” Bonadie-Baker said.
“My son, he is so motivated. … I am beaming, because he entered the Prep School, … he hasn’t repeated and he has placed first 15 times by his own target.”
Bonadie-Baker said her son has “a lot of parents” who helped him prepare for the exam.
But when asked separately who helped him to balance his love for computer games, his karate lessons and his schoolwork, Baker said, “Mom. It was my mother.”
“My son, if you allow him, will be playing computer games all day and all night,” Bonadie-Baker said.
“People don’t believe me when I say this. But, Gian-Paul is a typical child. [He was] exposed to computer before he was three, and he loves the games. And I had a battle with him year after year to get him to do some work before you go and play the computer games.”
Bonadie-Baker said her mother, a retired teacher, helped Baker with English and his father helped with mathematics.
It fell to her to help her son with health, science, social studies and the other subject areas.
“So, he had his free time, but at the same time, he had his family, with a little bit of expertise working with him.”
Bonadie-Baker has been her son’s Sunday School teacher at Chauncey Methodist Church for the past three years.
She said he understands that his talking to and having a relationship with God played a role in his success.
Bonadie, who was transferred from the Ministry of Science, to the Ministry of Education, told I-Witness News that she understands some persons would try to link her son’s performance with her current portfolio.
“I say to detractors, … his track record is there, his report book is there for all to scrutinise. … All of the examinations which he wrote in the Kingstown Preparatory School, in which he came first — 14 times, they are not set by the Ministry of Education.
“So, my son achieved being top of his class, over 90 per cent — between 92 and 96 [per cent] consistently… Why is he coming first all the time … and suddenly now, I am going to have to cheat for him to be first. … All of these tests, he aced. Only one was set by the Ministry of Education.”
Bonadie-Baker told I-Witness News that she will try to shield her son from detractors who would want to discredit his performance because of her job.
But the youngster, who aspires to be a scientist because he likes “to discover things, make new things that could make other people’s lives easier”, will have no such focus during the long summer vacation before he enters the St. Vincent Grammar School.
Baker, a brown belt, has a karate tournament in Barbados this summer.
But asked how he will spend his summer vacation, he had just one word for I-Witness News: “Computer.”
His advice to other students: “Work hard and you will achieve.”