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Councillor for Cedros Shankar Teelucksingh donates SEA stationery packages to an official of Icacos Government Primary School ahead of the July 1 SEA exams.

Some school children in the southwestern peninsula are finding it difficult to get transportation to reach their respective venues for exams. With the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examinations less than a week away, parents want the Ministry of Education to make special provisions to transport the affected pupils.

One parent, Patsy Sieudhan said she was worried sick about her daughter’s upcoming exams.

“I am trying to get transport for her but the driver is charging us $40 a day to take her to school. Because of COVID, the taxis are not working here. Those that work do so in Point Fortin so they leave here at 7 am to go to Point,” Sieudhan.

“I want the ministry to help us. It’s difficult for us. I sell fig and zaboca from my garden right now so I am hoping that I will sell enough so that I will have money to hire the car to take her to school,” she said.

Saying she was expecting great things from her daughter who attends a school in Cedros, Sieudhan added, “She is an outstanding student. She studies a lot and she is excited about exams. She is 16 years old and I do not want her to miss her exams,”

In an interview with Guardian Media, Cedros councillor Shankar Teelucksingh said Sieudhan’s plight was being faced by many other parents.

He said transportation has been a problem previously but it was exacerbated by COVID-19. “All transportation services are suspended because of COVID. Some maxi drivers have not been paid and based on what is happening, they too are struggling but some are willing to make special arrangements,” he said.

He noted that many children have not been able to access online schooling because their parents were unable to pay their internet and electricity bills.

“We are having an overwhelming response from our Help T&T Homework Centre which was set up at Mc Donald Trace and Southern Main Road, Cedros, to help students with printing packages and keeping abreast of their schoolwork,” he said.

Since the term started, Teelucksingh said records have shown that printing and other resources were extended over 20,000 times to assist pupils and teachers with printing material.

Computers have also been made available for children to do research.

“Students from Palo Seco, Erin, Cedros, Icacos and Point Fortin access the service. It is free and teachers come to print test sheets, packages and other items, he added.

On Friday Teelucksingh distributed 120 packages of stationery for pupils who will write SEA on July 1.

The students are from various schools including Granville RC, Coromandel Anglican, Cedros Government, Cedros Anglican, Lochmaben RC and Icacos Government Primary School.

Education Minister: This is an opportunity for community-based support

Contacted for comment, Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said if the ministry embarks on such an initiative, it would involve the entire country, not isolated geographic areas, as the offer to assist with transport would have to be made equally.

“In my experience as a representative, though, I have seen families, community groups, businesses, NGOs, even churches from time to time come together, sometimes based on advocacy, to help affected community members,” she said.

The minister could not say whether this has been explored in these cases.

“But it is an opportunity for that type of community-based support. I certainly am looking into my constituency and will provide support where necessary,” she added.