MONTEGO BAY, St James —President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) Owen Speid says the nation’s teachers are afraid of re-entering the classroom to facilitate students sitting the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) exit exams in July.
“The teachers are scared to death over the fact that they think that going back to school on the 8th of June is really premature and dangerous,” said the JTA head, making reference to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister with oversight responsibility for the education portfolio, Karl Samuda, had stated that face-to-face classes are to resume between June 8 and July 3 to facilitate revision.
Despite resistance, CXC had insisted that the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) exams will begin on July 27.
The JTA president argued that while his association had opposed the July sitting from day one, the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools accepted the date.
“We think that it was irresponsible of the secondary schools’ principals association and the Ministry of Education, in fact, we thought that the secondary schools’ association created the mess and the Ministry of Education wallowed in it to come up with a decision to hold this sitting in July,” asserted Speid, who suggested that September would be a better date.
Speaking with the Jamaica Observer following a central executive meeting of the over 25,000 member-strong association on Friday, Speid argued that “a component of good leadership is to be empathetic towards the people who you lead and to look at things that would affect them as a result of decisions taken”.
He said the decision made is insensitive to the welfare of the students, and teachers, “because to put them out there, many of whom take public transportation to get to and from school, and to put them out there like that, is like lamb to the slaughter.”
The JTA head is also questioning if there will be a limit to the number of people gathered in an examination centre at a time when the Government currently has in place a no-gathering of more than 20 people in any one place.
Speid is also questioning if any due diligence was done by the principals, and the ministry in the form of an audit to find out how many students and teachers had underlying health conditions that would render them susceptible to the disease.
Aditionally, he wants to know if consideration was given to teachers with young children at home, at a time when daycare centres are closed.
The JTA head said he is waiting to hear the position of the National Parent-Teacher Association on the matter.
The Government ordered schools closed on March 13 — three days after the country recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19, as part of efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
As of Friday, May 22, Jamaica had 544 confirmed cases of the coronavirus with nine deaths and 191 recoveries.
“With all those restrictions that are out there in the place, we move from one [case] and we are now at 544. So, can you imagine sending out teenagers out there loosely, 40,000 of them and how many thousands of teachers?” he asked.
Questioning what would happen should there be an outbreak at an examination centre, the JTA president argued that while it is important to sit the exam, the sitting should be delayed.
“The ideal thing is to sit the exam, but give it some more time, and if we can’t sit it because of COVID persisting, then all we have to do is move to some other option and that could include using the SBA (School-Based Assessment) and give them [students] a score,” suggested Speid.
Jamaica accounts for approximately 49 per cent of the students from the Caribbean who will be sitting the exam, while Trinidad and Tobago accounts for 20 per cent.
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