Thu | Aug 17, 2017

VIDEO: Rural stories of GSAT gain, pain and struggles

Published:Thursday | June 25, 2015 | 6:00 AM

The moment was intense.

As Grove Town Primary School principal Rose Griffiths read out her Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) scores, 12-year-old Akeliah Haffenden gasped.

"Mathematics - 100, Language Arts - 100, Social Studies - 100, Science - 100 and Communication Tasks - 11 out of 12," Griffiths announced.

With that, Haffenden, overcome with emotions, fell into the arms of her celebrant guidance counsellor, Debbie Hutchinson.

It was a mark of personal achievement for Haffenden, and one in a series of success stories for the school located in the remote south Manchester community of Grove Town.

It's where there are committed teachers and happy children, a playground for break time and a band of supportive parents.

However, it is a different story at some other remote schools in the central Jamaica parish which wrestle daily with a range of challenges.

"This year, twelve students scored averages of 91.8 per cent and over," said Mayfield All-Age School principal, George Lewis.

Lewis said transportation and punctuality problems were some of the greatest issues affecting students, restricting their abilities to attend extra classes.

But with the implementation of a breakfast programme, the school has seen a 5-7 per cent improvement in GSAT performance this year.

Parenting an issue

At the Alligator Pond Primary School, there were not as many reasons to celebrate, and principal Milicent Bernard-James said the quality of parental involvement was a factor.

"We see little (of) parents," she said. "You call them for grade meetings, they don't come. They do what we call 'sibling parenting', and this is affecting most of the children," she said.

In the neighbouring parish of St Elizabeth, at the Bull Savannah Primary and Infant School, principal Colin Cameron said the results were generally good, but he, too, bemoaned the issues of inadequate parental involvement.

"Where the parent is fully involved, most of their students have passed." he said.

According to grade-six teacher Barbara Roach, the problem was compounded by the fact that some students do not have textbooks.

But Manchester's Marlie Hill Primary School seems to be most in need.

With a population of 38 students and three teachers, parental support has been reduced to a trickle.

Principal Karlene Hall says five students sat the GSAT exams and the results were not that great.

However, 12-year-old Jaiba Gregory, who achieved a 90 per cent average, was exceptional.

Hall said Gregory has set a standard which she hopes would be emulated by others.

See more GSAT stories, photos and videos at www.jamaica-gleaner/myReport.com