Rita, 17, came to Scotland from Zambia with her mother and two sisters, and has not missed a day of school in her life. She is preparing to study immunology at Glasgow University next term, and spending her summer holidays completing summer school and volunteering for the British Heart Foundation.
She said: “I did extra work experience at the Southern General hospital and I fell in love with what the doctors do – it’s amazing work.
“My fourth year work experience was in Camstradden Primary School because I thought very briefly that I wanted to be a teacher.”
Her mother Rachel, 48, an orthopaedic nurse at the Southern General Hospital, added: “She’s already done the Access to Teaching course at West of Scotland and Glasgow universities but then she expressed her interest in hospitals and medicine, so I arranged for her to do a week in my hospital.”
Asked whether she had ever been ill, Rita said: “Not bad enough that I couldn’t go to school.”
Her mother added: “She has been ill, but she just goes. As a mum, sometimes I look at her and think she could do with a day in bed but she won’t.”
During January’s storms, Rita was the only pupil to walk to Drumchapel High School and had to be turned away at the school gates as the council had closed it.
She said: “I got there and a stranger across the street said it was closed. I texted my friend to make sure and she said, ‘yes, we’re all in bed Rita’.”
Rita was presented with a certificate from Glasgow City Council education chiefs yesterday at a special ceremony in Glasgow City Chambers yesterday. She said: “I’m still a bit surprised about getting this award. I’ll definitely be aiming to continue my perfect attendance at university and go to every lecture.”
Her mother added: “She wanted to go to summer school this morning instead of coming to the awards and I had to say ‘you’ve got your exams, you can have a day off’.”
Rita is considering “maybe” having a summer holiday but will have to arrange it around her voluntary work in the British Heart Foundation’s Argyle Street charity shop in the city centre.
She began her education in Shalom Primary School in Zambia, aged five, before moving to St Matthias and Dr Bell’s Primary School in Bristol, then joining Edinbarnet Primary School, Clydebank, Pinewood Primary School, Glasgow, then Camstradden Primary School, Drumchapel, before Drumchapel High.