Tue | Oct 19, 2021

Principals in St Thomas react to Ministry directive on face-to-face teaching

Published:Wednesday | February 24, 2021 | 2:17 PM

Education Minister Fayval Williams' announcement this morning advising schools to focus on students preparing for exit exams has drawn mixed reactions from some principals in St Thomas.

The minister has advised that only students at grades 6, 11, 12 and 13 should be accommodated for face-to-face learning while the rest of the school population should be engaged through other established modalities.

Though acknowledging the necessity of the decision in light of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, at least two principals in St Thomas admitted that this move will pose a great challenge, especially to those lower school students without proper devices and internet connectivity.

“Face-to-face is the preferred way to go, but, based on what is happening now and as it relates to the safety of both students and staff, the adjustment is necessary. However, we had some issues some time ago with our internet connectivity here at the school, so while at work we are able to function, my concern would be for those students who live in the remote areas and are also still struggling to be connected,” principal of Seaforth High School.

He shared that approximately 95% of the school’s population has been accounted for and were being engaged since the return to face-to-face classes and that the institution has been managing well.

 “For those who have not turned up, it wouldn’t be because the space has not been provided for them, because we had made provisions for all the grades to come in three days per week. At present we are doing internal exams and the students have been turning out in full force. This new development will indeed interfere with that.”

Concerns surrounding the disruption of internal exams are also shared by principal of Yallahs High School, Mark Malabver, who revealed that no more than 40% of his student population are able to join online classes.

 “We were in the middle of internal exams. With this move, it is going to be challenging for us. We’re currently exploring the possibility of sitting some of those exams for the lower school students online but that again will pose challenges because of internet device and connectivity issues. We have the capability to administer the test online but there’s a challenge for the students,” he said.

The institution has been wrestling with COVID-related implications since the start of the year and as of Sunday, February 21, a total of two teachers and two students reportedly tested positive for the virus, while others are suspected to have been exposed.

End-of-Term exams set for earlier this week were disrupted after face-to-face classes were forced to be suspended for the second time in two weeks. These classes and exams were scheduled to resume tomorrow.

Now, with the government’s directive to only allow exit exam students on campus, Malabver’s woes have heightened.

“Most of these lower school students do not have devices. I would want to see some decision being made in terms of the laptops that would have been given under the e-learning initiative to the upper school students. Because they (the upper school students) will be coming in for face to face classes, it would make sense for those devices to be redeployed to those students who will not be coming in," Malabver expressed.

The principal was referring to the ministry’s intuitive which began in January to allocate some 15,000 laptops procured by e-Learning Jamaica to secondary students in grades 10 to 13 on the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education. 

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