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SBA hurdles in virtual classrooms concern principals

Published:Tuesday | March 30, 2021 | 1:02 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


Some principals in rural Jamaica say their students are now facing serious challenges in completing their school-based assessments (SBA) for their Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams because of the suspension of face-to-face classes.

Lavern Stewart, principal of Anchovy High School in St James, says some of her students, especially those whose SBAs require in-person supervision and those without Internet service at their homes, are finding it extra challenging.

“The major issue that we are facing is the fact that a number of our students were not quite finished with their SBAs, which is that part of the exam that speaks to what the child is able to do outside of the [written] exam. The nature of some of the SBAs is that they have to be specifically doing the work hands-on, and because we reduced the numbers that we took in at school on a daily basis, we were not able to go as fast as we would have wanted,” Stewart told The Gleaner.

“We also still have some students who do not have Internet access based on their locality. For example, some of them are in deep-rural Westmoreland and other similar areas, and so they are without Internet now, but I still have teachers who try to get to these students via WhatsApp,” Stewart added.

Keith Wellington, principal of the St Elizabeth Technical High School in Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth, said the sudden suspension of in-person classes due to rising COVID-19 cases forced his institution to overhaul its timetable again ahead of the upcoming Easter break.

“To be told 12 hours beforehand that there will be no school tomorrow morning would have a negative impact in terms of the arrangement the schools have in place for submission and completion of SBAs and preparation for final exams. For us, we would have been going on for an additional week, so because of that announcement, our students would have missed a week of face-to-face classes,” Wellington explained.

Meanwhile, Linvern Wright, president of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools (JAPSS), has acknowledged that the current restriction poses challenges for teachers preparing students for external examinations.

“The restriction is expected and understandable in my mind, but I know it is going to be difficult, especially for teachers who had been working with students on SBAs and for those persons doing examinations, in addition to other persons who have to deal with tough concepts that they would have issues dealing with online. But it is not something that is in our control,” said Wright, the principal of the Trelawny-based William Knibb Memorial High School.