Fri | Jun 18, 2021

Kids thrilled to be back in school

Published:Tuesday | May 11, 2021 | 12:11 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Fayval Williams, minister of education, youth and information, listens to Collettia Christian, student of Dunoon Park Technical High, on Monday, the first day of the resumption of face-to-face classes for students sitting external exams.
Grade six teacher Elizabeth Daley-Johnson oversees Tyoneil Robinson reading at St Anne’s Primary in west Kingston on Monday. In the background is Omar Thomas, principal of St Anne’s Primary.
1
2

Tamesha Dixon, a fifth-form student at Dunoon Park Technical High School, is grateful for the opportunity to attend face-to-face classes as she gears up to sit exit examinations.

“When I’m at home, it is very distracting. In the community, gunshots always firing, little children outside running up and down and screaming,” said the student who resides in McIntyre Villa, St Andrew.

She did not take up the option to defer exams until next year, telling The Gleaner that she is 50 per cent prepared to sit the six subjects for which she has been registered.

Dixon reasoned that though it is hard to focus at home, she would be willing to continue with that mode of learning because “it’s safer at home health-wise”.

For Ayeesha Brown, who will be sitting eight subjects, the learning experience online has been a challenging one.

“I learn better when I’m at school. Teachers have the chance to explain things to me better, so I’m very glad to be back at school,” she said, reflecting on the last few months of online classes.

Mikyle Duckett also found online classes difficult and is hoping that the group study sessions he has had over the past month, coupled with exam prep classes, will adequately prepare him for the regional examinations.

Principal Shawn Aarons said 90 students were expected but only half that number turned up owing to a decision to hold two classes online.

Aarons said that students pursuing technical subjects were eager to return so they could receive more practical experience.

“We believe that other than the practical areas, which have really taken a battering this year, we have made lots of strides with the online classes to get students ready,” he said, adding that 75 per cent of students are equipped with devices.

He could not immediately say how many students were not being reached online as analysis is under way.

Education Minister Fayval Williams was on hand to observe the COVID-19 protocols at Dunoon Park.

STILL DANGEROUS

Williams warned that Jamaica was still “in a very dangerous part of the pandemic” as more than 500 schools reopened on Monday morning.

The pace of infections has slowed since longer weekend curfews were imposed in late March, with COVID-19 hospitalisations falling below 200 on Saturday for the first time in months.

Last week, the Caribbean Examinations Council released a 47-page-document detailing the topics for the 2021 June-July exams.

“Students can look at the list and narrow down their study. Those are some of the actions that have been taken to assist students in addition to the delay in the submission of school-based assessments,” the minister said.

Williams said the ministry would be looking at hosting summer school to address learning loss, but the mode has not been fully agreed on.

“We have to do all that we can to recover from what we’ve lost during the pandemic,” she said.

At St Anne’s Primary School, just over 80 per cent of grade six students showed up for classes on Monday.

Principal Omar Thomas told The Gleaner that one in every 10 exam students was not fully engaged in online classes, and there were some from grades one to five who were often found roaming in the streets.

He was heartened by the resumption of in-person interaction.

“The students are a bit timid about going into the exams in two weeks’ time and being unprepared, but the teachers have confidence in them,” said Thomas.

“There are some students who will always shine while you have those who are a little bit slow and need a little catching up, but for now, we are looking good going in.”

Grade six teacher Elizabeth Daley-Johnson, an educator for 19 years, was longing to return to the classroom.

As soon as COVID-19 vaccines became available for teachers, she went and got her first dose.

“A lot of my students don’t have full access to the Internet, so I was very glad when I heard that face to face was coming back, so I can give them the last push that they need for exams,” she said.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com