Sat | Dec 4, 2021

Face-to-face ban threatens SBAs – principal

Yallahs High School head says suspension a setback for teachers, students

Published:Thursday | April 15, 2021 | 12:14 AMShanna Monteith/Gleaner Writer

Principal of Yallahs High School in St Thomas, Mark Malabver, is raising concerns over the Government’s recent decision to continue the suspension of face-to-face classes.

In an update to the Disaster Risk Management Act, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, on Tuesday, extended the restriction on in-person teaching in primary and secondary schools until May 4, including students who are sitting exit examinations.

Malabver said the restrictions have placed the education system into a full-blown crisis.

The principal said that efforts to have students complete their School Based Assessments (SBAs) on time would be undermined.

“The challenge that high schools are having is that the deadline for submission of SBAs to reach CXC is May 15, which means that many schools would have set a deadline by the end of this month to the first week of May, to give a little lee time in order to do administrative component,” said Malabver.

“The decision to extend in the way they have extended the suspension of face-to-face classes is undermining the ability of teachers and students to complete these SBAs within the specific deadline that has been given.”


Malabver added that students, especially those who are sitting practical exams, should be allowed the same exemptions as churches that can now accommodate up to 30 attendees per service.

The headmaster also said that suspension of in-class learning would put additional stress on teachers, who, according him, are already burned out.

“It is also causing great anxiety among teachers. The teachers are already being given baskets to carry water given the fact that we are unable to reach a good chunk of the students virtually,” he said.

While his colleagues in the parish admit they have reservations, they are not opposed to the measures.

Head of staff at Seaforth High School, Calbert Thomas, said that he is more concerned about the health of his teachers.

“Based on what is happening, I don’t have an issue. While we as administrators are concerned about [the readiness of] students going into exams, what is being put in place is mainly for safety, especially for teachers who are at the age of being at risk, so I think we just have to wait until everything is normalised,” Thomas told The Gleaner.

Jamaica Teachers’ Association President Jasford Gabriel agreed that the health and wellness of stakeholders was a priority at this time.

Gabriel said that the Barbados-based Caribbean Examinations Council, which administers external exams, ought to be more flexible in facilitating students.

“SBAs, for example, which are most affected by lack of face-to-face engagement, our proposal is for further extension to be granted to schools for submission so we can have less students having to defer to next calendar year,” said Gabriel.